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Emissions data shows impact of Covid-19 lockdowns on air quality

The government plans to incentivise cleaner transport and reduce vehicle emissions on Gibraltar’s busy roads. Photo by Johnny Bugeja

Statistics on 2020 emissions published by the Gibraltar Government this week illustrate the sharp drop in emissions during the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown.

In 2020 Gibraltar’s total “manageable emissions” – which exclude shipping in British waters - decreased by 12% compared to 2019, and were down by 28% compared to 2015 when emissions peaked.

Emissions from road transport in Gibraltar decreased by 51% in 2020 compared to 2019, due to less fuel being imported into Gibraltar and “likely a result of the Covid-19 pandemic”, the Gibraltar Government said.

Emissions from aviation decreased by 55% in 2020 compared to the preceding year as a result of reduced flights.

“Again, this is likely a result of the pandemic in 2020,” No.6 Convent Place said.

Emissions from waste decreased by 9% compared to 2019 - and by 12% since 2015 - due to a decrease in total waste arisings sent to landfill.

Emissions from industrial processes and product use increased by 1% year-on-year in 2020 and by 4% since 2015, following trends in UK data that used as a proxy for Gibraltar’s emissions from product use.

“These headline figures are encouraging and suggest that Gibraltar is on track to meet its climate commitments,” the Minister for the Environment and Climate Change, Dr John Cortes, said.

“However, we must remember that these represent the pandemic year when many of our usual activities were curtailed.”

“When the 2021 inventory is ready we will be able to see more clearly how much of this reduction is real and how much was an artefact of the Covid-19 pandemic.”

“Judging by the separate air quality trends we published recently, while it is likely that emissions in 2021 will be up on 2020, I suspect that they will still be below previous years.”

“I do hope so, as the community is much more aware and committed than ever to progressing on these environmental matters.”

The data is published in Gibraltar’s community-scale greenhouse gas (GHG) inventory for the 2020 calendar year, the latest available.

This covers all the main emission sources in Gibraltar, including emissions from electricity consumption, road transport, aviation and the treatment of solid waste and wastewater.

Certain sources, such as international shipping, are excluded “due to the very large impact on overall totals and the lack of potential local influence”, the Government said.

The data relates to what are considered Gibraltar’s “manageable emissions”.

Almost half of Gibraltar’s emissions in 2020 came from transport (44.6%), with these emissions dominated by local boats (28.2%) and significant contributions from road transport (11.4%)

Aviation accounted for only 5% of total emissions.

The other half of the emissions came primarily from stationary energy (44.4%), with waste and industrial processes and product use making smaller contributions of 7.1% and 3.9% of total emissions respectively.

Emissions from electricity generation decreased by 13% in 2019 compared to the preceding year, and by 35% since 2015.

“This is due to the introduction of natural gas - rather than gas oil only - as a fuel for North Mole Power Station,” No.6 said.

“The amount of electricity produced/consumed has remained fairly static.”

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