The impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on climate change and air quality: four country case studies

Pouya Samani, Carlos García-Velásquez, Perine Fleury, Yvonne van der Meer*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Non-technical summary To decrease the negative impacts of the coronavirus outbreak on human health, governments have implemented wide-ranging control measures. Moreover, they were urged to tackle a new challenge in energy policies to supply a new form of demand derived from new lifestyles of citizens and different energy consumption patterns. This article investigates the impacts of these changes on climate change and human health (due to air pollution) as a challenge for both citizens and governments in four countries: Colombia, France, the Netherlands, and Portugal. Technical summary The emergence of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has been associated with global challenges in both energy supply and demand. Numerous articles have discussed the potential benefits of COVID-19 for our planet to mitigate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and air pollutants. By bringing the emissions from the energy production together with the air quality indicators, this article studies the impact on climate change and human health due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the consequent changes in energy policies of governments as well as lifestyles in different societies. This study shows that in spite of having a reduction, the GHG emissions might go back to previous or higher levels if governments do not see this pandemic as an opportunity to promote the use of renewable energies, which are becoming cheaper than non-renewables. Additionally, lower energy demand and less anthropogenic activities do not necessarily result in lower GHG emissions from energy production. Our results highlight the need for revising the policies and decisions of both governments and citizens, as temporary reductions in the levels of energy demand and air pollutants can easily be counterbalanced by adverse effects, known as the 'rebound effect.' Social media summary How did the changes in energy consumption and production due to COVID-19 affect climate change and human health in different countries?

Original languageEnglish
Article number9
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages15
JournalGlobal Sustainability
Issue numbere9
Publication statusPublished - 27 Jan 2021


  • Energy
  • NO2
  • O-3
  • policies
  • politics and governance
  • pollution and waste management

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