In Spring 2020, COVID-19 led to an unprecedented halt in public and economic life across the globe. In an otherwise tragic time, this provides a unique natural experiment to investigate the environmental impact of such a (temporary) “de-globalization”.
In this article published in the scientific journal Environmental Research Letters, E4S researchers and co-authors estimate the medium-run impact of a battery of COVID- 19 related lockdown measures on air quality across 162 countries. They find that domestic and international lockdown measures overall led to a substantial decline in air pollution, that persists in the medium-run, even as lockdowns are lifted.
There is however substantial heterogeneity across different types of lockdown measures, different countries, and different sources of pollution. Some country trajectories are much more appealing (with fewer COVID-19 casualties, less economic downturn and bigger pollution reductions) than others. These results have important policy implications and highlight the potential to “build back better” a sustainable economy where pollution can be curbed in a less economically costly way than during the COVID-19 pandemic.