The COVID-19 pandemic is the single largest event in contemporary history for global mobility restriction, with the majority of the world population experiencing various forms of ‘lockdown’. This phenomenon incurred increased teleworking and time spent at home, fewer trips to shops, closure of retail outlets selling non-essential goods, and near-disappearance of leisure and recreational activities. This paper presents a novel method for an economy-wide estimate of the emissions reductions caused by the restriction of movement. Using a global multi-regional macro-economic model complemented by Google Community Mobility Reports (CMR) and national transport data, we cover 129 individual countries and quantify direct and indirect global emissions reductions of greenhouse gases (GHG; 1,173 Mt), PM2.5 (0.23 Mt), SO2 (1.57 Mt) and NOx (3.69 Mt). A statistically significant correlation is observed between cross-country emission reductions and the stringency of mobility restriction policies. Due to the aggregated nature of the CMRs we develop different scenarios linked to consumption, work, and lifestyle aspects. Global reductions are in the order of 1-3% (GHG), 1-2% (PM2.5), 0.5-2.8% (SO2), and 3-4% (NOx). Our results can help support crucial decision-making in the post-COVID world, with quantified information on how direct and indirect consequences of mobility changes benefit the environment.

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D'Amico, B., Pomponi, F., Li, M., Malik, A., Lenzen, M., Fountas, G., Akizu-Gardoki, O., Luque Anguita, M. & Sun, Y. 2020, 'A Novel Method for Estimating Emissions Reductions Caused by the Restriction of Mobility: The Case of the COVID-19 Pandemic', Environmental Science and Technology Letters, 8(1), pp. 46-52. https://doi.org/10.1021/acs.estlett.0c00764

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Last updated: 17 June 2022
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