Global carbon emissions are projected to fall by 8 percent this year, the largest decline in emissions ever recorded, according to a report released by the International Energy Agency (IEA) on April 30 (New York Times). Despite historic plunges in energy demand, the renewable energy sector has slightly increased output this year – low-carbon sources are projected to provide 40% of global electricity generation (Bloomberg). Since existing wind turbines, solar panels, and other renewable sources cost little to operate, they tend to get priority on electric grids and operate close to full capacity, even as fossil fuel sources shut down (New York Times). 

The IEA report notes that after past declines, emissions have typically returned to previous levels. “The only way to sustainably reduce emissions is not through painful lockdowns, but by putting the right energy and climate policies in place,” said Fatih Birol, Executive Director of the IEA (New York Times). Birol wants governments to not only support expansion of renewable energy, but also offer subsidies for promising low-carbon technologies such as lithium ion batteries and hydrogen (Reuters).

Oil and gas companies have also noted a potential shift in the energy industry. On April 30, Ben van Beurden, the head of the oil and gas company Royal Dutch Shell, said Shell planned to shield its low-carbon Integrated Gas and New Energies division from the worst of its spending cuts. “We still believe that there is an energy transition underway which may even pick up speed in the recovery phase of this crisis and we want to be well positioned for it,” van Beurden said (Reuters).