Working from home captures a glance of narrowing emissions for a possible healthier planet

Carbon emissions are falling at a historic rate. Renewable energy sources in Europe and America are on a movement to outproduce coal this year for the first time on record. A clear and cleaner path forward exists.

Words by Louis Oliver


uring the COVID-19 pandemic, large numbers of people started working from home. This has great implications on the oil industry and fewer commuters were mobilised. Electricity prices in Twitter said its employees could continue working from home indefinitely.

An analysis from IEA showed that if everybody able to work from home worldwide were to do so for just one day a week, it would save around 1% of global oil consumption for road passenger transport per year. Taking into account the increase this would bring in energy use by households, the overall impact on global CO2 emissions would be an annual decline of twenty for million tonnes (Mt) – equivalent to the bulk of Greater London’s annual CO2 emissions.

While governments have been putting in place sustainable alternatives ways of commuting while the streets remain empty, there is no guarantee that automobile use will stay below the previous numbers in the immediate aftermath of lockdowns. Urged by known health risks, the shift away from public transport could continue as the need for mobility returns to routine, commencing a significant rebound in oil consumption.

The consequence of working from home on transport differs extensively depending on the region and the time of year. In the United States, the average one-way commute by car is around eighteen kilometres, and over three-quarters of car commuters travel alone, according to the US Census Bureau. In Europe, the average one-way car commute is fifteen kilometres, and in China, it is eight kilometres, with significant variations between urban and rural commutes. Differences in fuel efficiency also matter as the average car in the United States consumes around forty-five per cent more fuel than the average in Europe for a trip of the same length.

The short term gains received from the current lockdown are unclear on how it'll last in the long-term. However, permanent home working could lead to people living farther from their place of work, potentially offsetting the demand reductions in energy for commuting