COVID-19 and air pollution caused by travel

COVID-19 has had an immense impact on our lives – understatement of the year! Aside the tragedy of so many deaths though it has also brought into focus the fragility of man’s relationship with our planet and reinforced the issue of climate change as one of our greatest challenges.

COVID-19 has highlighted the impact we have on air quality and the environment in which we live. Due to the lockdown in many parts of the world people have ceased using transport to a level that is unprecedented ever in our history. With the majority of airlines grounded and commuting by car, bus and train dramatically reduced carbon emissions have plummeted. Whilst no significant scientific results have been attained yet there is considerable evidence that this reduction in human travel has improved air quality both locally (ie in towns and cities) and on a global scale.

In a recent survey based on an International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) economic assessment there is a prediction that there will be 38% decrease in airlines’ carbon dioxide emissions in 2020. This has been calculated to equate to a fall of around 350 million tonnes from aviation alone in 2020 versus 2019 – that is equivalent to approximately the UK’s entire CO2 emissions in one year.

Restricted mobility has made individuals and businesses rethink the necessity of face to face. Agreed social distancing has not been through choice but it has certainly proved that in many instances the need to move half the population twice a day to and from work is perhaps not as essential as previously thought. The traditional meeting and team interaction will always be a vital part of life but it does raise the question of whether we need to do it every day. Imagine if 50% of the office worked from home two days a week once the COVID-19 restrictions are lifted and the positive impact that would have on pollution. Many experts are already saying that air travel will be a completely different experience too but time will tell on that one.

No matter what happens in the coming months and years the environment and climate protection will be very much front and centre of the global agenda.

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