Self-restraint measures taken to curb the novel coronavirus are believed to have paused greenhouse gas emissions in the skies over Tokyo between January and April, according to a recent report by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.
Based on JAXA’s earth observation satellites, which monitored carbon dioxide enhancement changes over major urban areas, the agency concluded the level of emissions during the period was smaller than in the same period in previous years.
In April 2016, carbon dioxide emissions over Tokyo exceeded 8 parts per million, but this year they fell below 3 ppm, the report said.
JAXA’s satellites have been monitoring changes in the environment and socioeconomic activities related to COVID-19. The report was released Thursday on its website.
A rise in greenhouse gas emissions has been a headache for Japan, which under the 2015 Paris climate accord pledged to slash its carbon dioxide emissions by 26 percent from 2013 levels by 2030. Its plans for decarbonization were significantly set back following the Fukushima nuclear crisis in March 2011, which increased the use of fossil fuels.
Japan’s greenhouse gas emissions fell by 3.6 percent to a record low in March 2019, according to government figures, but emissions from hydrofluorocarbons — commonly used in air conditioners as a coolant — have been on the rise.
According to JAXA, carbon dioxide values above Tokyo were similar to levels in previous years in January and February. But in March and April, they were lower than the previous year’s levels for the same period.
JAXA suspects the drop may be linked to self-restraint measures and the temporary curtailing of economic activity aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19.
Global carbon dioxide emissions jumped to an all-time high of 407.8 ppm in 2018, according to a World Meteorological Organization report based on data collected from 54 countries.
JAXA’s data have also shown a downward trajectory in other areas around the world. Data for February showed lower figures in China and Europe compared with data from 2019. Beijing and Shanghai also saw a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions from February through April.
In March, a similar decrease was also observed in the United States partly due to the 80-day lockdown imposed in New York City.
Observation data for Japan, the Asia Pacific, the United States, Europe and other regions have also shown reduced aircraft operations and a reduction in cars in parking lots in the vicinity of airports this year. The satellite monitors have also recorded a decrease since the end of 2019 in incoming containers and vehicles at the container terminals of two major ports in Nagoya and Toyohashi, Aichi Prefecture, which handle large volumes of cargo.