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The Cost of COVID Carbon Reduction: $3,200-$5,400 a Ton
The Rhodium Group has repackaged its annual assessment of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions to focus on the largest source of uncertainty in the current outlook for the country's emissions: COVID-19's impact on the economy.
It has been over 100 years since the US has confronted a pandemic of this magnitude, so there are few historical precedents for understanding what to expect over the coming years. There are four main components of uncertainty: 1) the epidemiological outcomes of COVID-19 and its spread; 2) how states, companies, and communities respond to the epidemiological risks through lockdowns or restrictions on activity; 3) the resulting impact to the US economy; and 4) the response of federal and state governments to shore up the economy through stimulus and recovery measures.
The report explores scenarios for the first three of those components, and promises a future report to include scenarios for the fourth.
Included in the key findings included in the report, Rhodium Group reports an 18% decline in emissions from March 15 to June 15 in 2020 compared to the previous year. "We find the potential for a persistent effect on GHG emission trends—with reductions of 6-12% this year relative to pre-COVID projections, and 2-12% by 2030, depending on the depth and duration of the crisis and the pace of recovery (a V, W, or L-shaped recovery)," reads the report.
Those emission reductions have come at tremendous cost, however, as a reflection of the economic downturn that the world is suffering as a consequence of the pandemic. "Near-term emission reductions driven by COVID-19 also come at an enormous economic cost—$3,200-5,400 per ton of CO2 reduced, on average this year," according to the report.
The report also includes information about how it's possible for clean energy and climate investments to lead the economic recovery and lower carbon emissions, without the terrible economic costs that have precipitated these trends in 2020.