In a comment on the post “A 733% growth of something insignificant is still tiny” commenter Kevin Marshall (ManicBeanCounter) shared his thoughts on another graphics of the PBL on the trend of emission until 2012. He later wrote a post on his blog in which he said that the collapse of the Soviet Union has contributed the most to reduction in emissions. I didn’t had a look at that particular infographic yet and was a bit surprised by this statement.
I ended up counting all the increases and decreases per country and it came to this:
||Other non Annex I
|Other Annex I
|Other Annex II
Several things stand out. All the developing countries increased their emissions from 1990 until 2012. No surprise here. On the other side, half of the developed countries had an increase in emissions and half a decrease. That was a bit of a surprise, in a way I expected more decreases in the developed countries.
Another thing that stands out is the difference between the developed countries and the developing countries. A reduction of 1,170 Mtonne against an increase of 11,511 Mtonne. That is huge. A gain that is dwarfed by a huge increase. Also, the developing countries are not done yet. On the contrary, there are even others that are longing for more energy.
And yes, it is indeed true that the emission reduction former Soviet Union was the main reason of the reduction of the developed countries. If we add the emission reduction from the Russian Federation (666 Mtonne) and the Ukraine (446 Mtonne), then we get 1,112 Mtonne. Which is 95% of the emission reduction of all the developed countries together!
This massive reduction could not have much to do with the growth of renewable energy. The share of renewable energy in both countries is almost non existing and particularly the Russian Federation has still huge reserves of fossil fuels. More, the emissions in the Russian Federation in fact started increasing back at the end of the 1990s.
Why then the reduction of the emissions? If you look at the emissions since 1970, we see a sharp decrease starting in 1991. So indeed, the emission reduction is very likely to be caused by the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.
On the other side, this means of course that the reduction of the other developed countries is really tiny: 58 Mtonne less in 2012 compared to the 1990. I didn’t really expected that. If we then know that some of the production of the developed countries just moved to the developing countries (therefor reducing emissions in the developed countries), then that reduction was really, really tiny and there maybe even wasn’t an emission reduction after all.
It was very likely the post-Soviet industrial meltdown that was responsible for almost all of the progress in reducing carbon emissions that the developed countries are able to claim. It is quite ironic that those countries that contributed by far the most to emission reduction are now being criticized heavily for having hardly any official climate strategy. It should embarrass those countries that took key steps in slowing climate change with renewable energy and carbon taxation, yet just barely reduced their emissions themselves.