In 2020 The Clean Technology Centre undertook a research project on Environmental impacts (positive and negative) flowing from COVID-19 and related measures for the for the EPA State of the Environment Report 2020.
While the study focused primarily on the environmental effects, CTC have also included related effects such as changes in consumption, which have knock-on environmental impacts.
The study period was for all of March and April 2020, which includes both the initial restrictions imposed on March 12th (closures of schools, workplaces, etc.), and the eventual lock-down on March 27th 2020. Where data are available, May 2020 has been included as well.
While CTC endeavoured to be as accurate as possible, the report should be regarded as a ‘first look’ at the effects of the pandemic. In some cases, the information gathered was qualitative, rather than quantitative – where hard data are not yet available. In time, each of the different environmental areas will be duly systematically quantified as part of the normal environmental assessment processes.
The following are the key thematic areas covered:
- Climate and greenhouse gas emissions
- Air quality
- Resource use
- Nature & wild places
- Environment, health & wellbeing and community engagement
- Media coverage of environmental aspects of COVID-19 measures
Compilation and analysis of data and information are detailed under each of these sections, as appropriate in the final report.
Some stand-out pieces of data include the following:
Greenhouse gas emissions, pollution and noise
- Petrol consumption, down 50%
- Diesel consumption, down 35%
- Electricity usage, down 6%
- Electricity GHG emissions, down 7%
- Natural Gas GHG emissions, down 6%
- Overall Ireland GHG emissions, down 2.5%
- Domestic Heating Oil Purchases, doubled
- Traffic volumes, down 68%; Noise down
- Traffic air pollution: NO2 down 39% Dublin, down 30% Cork; PM5 down 30% Dublin, down 9% Cork
- Environmental noise and odour complaints: up
- International arrivals and departures: April, down 99%, May down 98%
Waste and Resource Use
- Domestic brown bins, up 32%
- Glass bottle intake, up 46%
- Household waste, up 26% overall
- Domestic skip use, up
- Commercial waste, down 54%
- Construction waste, down 65%
- Illegal dumping: anecdotally up, related complaints up
- Healthcare risk waste from HSE hospitals, up 24%
- Domestic water use, up 20%
- Non-domestic water use, down
- Food retail sales, up 16-17%
- Overall retail sales, down 32%
- Imports, down 21%
- Online retail sales, break records, 15.5% of total retail
Nature and People
- Time outside: More people spending time outside, 93% of people walking
- Engagement with local wildlife: up 70%
- Pollinators: Reduces management of green spaces allowing wild flowers to bloom, great for pollinators.