Saving the world from your couch: The heterogeneous medium-run benefits of COVID-19 lockdowns on air pollution

This is a Preprint and has not been peer reviewed. The published version of this Preprint is available: This is version 1 of this Preprint.


Download Preprint


Jean Philippe Bonardi, Quentin Gallea, Dimitrija Kalanoski, Rafael Lalive, Raahil Madhok, Frederik Noack, Dominic Rohner, Tommaso Sonno


In Spring 2020, COVID-19 led to an unprecedented halt in public and economic life across the globe. In an otherwise tragic time, this provides a unique natural experiment to investigate the environmental impact of such a (temporary) ``de-globalization". Here, we estimate the medium-run impact of a battery of COVID-19 related lockdown measures on air quality across 162 countries, going beyond the existing short-run estimates from a limited number of countries. In doing so, we leverage a new dataset categorizing lockdown measures and tracking their implementation and release, extending to August 31st 2020. We find that domestic and international lockdown measures overall led to a decline in PM2.5 pollution by 45 percent and 35 percent, respectively. This substantial impact persists in the medium-run, even as lockdowns are lifted. There is substantial heterogeneity across different types of lockdown measures, different countries, and different sources of pollution. We show that some country trajectories are much more appealing (with fewer COVID-19 casualties, less economic downturn and bigger pollution reductions) than others. Our results have important policy implications and highlight the potential to "build back better" a sustainable economy where pollution can be curbed in a less economically costly way than during the COVID-19 pandemic.



Physical Sciences and Mathematics, Social and Behavioral Sciences


COVID-19, Pollution, Globalization


Published: 2020-12-12 14:05

Last Updated: 2020-12-12 22:05


CC BY Attribution 4.0 International

Additional Metadata

Conflict of interest statement:

Data Availability (Reason not available):
Data available upon request after publication in refereed journal

Add a Comment

You must log in to post a comment.


There are no comments or no comments have been made public for this article.