As China battles one of the most serious virus epidemics of the century, the impacts on the country’s energy demand and emissions are only beginning to be felt. Electricity demand and industrial output remain far below their usual levels across a range of indicators, many of which are at their lowest two-week average in several years. 

These include:
Coal use at power stations reporting daily data at a four-year low.
Oil refinery operating rates in Shandong province at the lowest level since 2015. Output of key steel product lines at the lowest level for five years.
Levels of NO2 air pollution over China down 36% on the same period last year. Domestic flights are down up to 70% compared to last month.

All told, the measures to contain coronavirus have resulted in reductions of 15% to 40% in output across key industrial sectors. This is likely to have wiped out a quarter or more of the country’s CO2 emissions over the past two weeks, the period when activity would normally have resumed after the Chinese new-year holiday.

Over the same period in 2019, China released around 400m tonnes of CO2 (MtCO2), meaning the virus could have cut global emissions by 100MtCO2 to date. The key question is whether the impacts are sustained, or if they will be offset – or even reversed – by the government response to the crisis.

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