As the last G20 country to ratify the Paris Agreement, Turkey started a new stage in its contribution to finding the solution for climate change when it ratified the agreement nearly a year ago. The approval speeded up the country’s efforts in preparing action plans against the global issue.
In 2015, members of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change reached an agreement to fight climate change and achieve a sustainable low-carbon future at the COP21 which was organized in Paris, France. After the country signed the deal in 2016 along with more than 170 countries, but it shortly stopped implementing it, together with Iran, Yemen, and Libya.
The main reason for this is that – under the Paris Agreement rules - Turkey is considered as a developed country, which it does not agree with, since it puts more pressure on the region, considering the huge financial burden in implementing the climate change commitments detailed in the deal. According to the UNFCCC, Turkey is an Annex I party country, which means that it is industrialized and must put more effort in financially support developing countries in reducing their emissions. Despite these, they are ratifying the agreement as developing countries and want to benefit from financial aid, that would give them more time in reducing emissions. About the country’s ratification as a developing country, Ümit Şahin, the leader of the Climate Change Cluster at Istanbul Policy Centre said that “The Paris Agreement did not allow for any such conditions to be imposed on it. That means the statement is essentially symbolic.”
The Paris Agreement requires countries to reduce global warming to 2°C, preferably 1.5 °C and half their emissions by 2030 as well as to achieve net zero emissions by 2050. A method to achieve it is – fully or partly – switching to renewable energy and reducing fossil fuel usage. The Agreement also calls for building resilience, decrease vulnerability to the harmful effects of climate change and for promoting regional and international cooperation. One other aspect of the agreement is to create a climate fund with donations from member states and reach a total of $100 billion annually to help developing countries in their struggle against climate change. It works on a five-year cycle of increasingly ambitious climate actions, and by 2024, countries must report transparently on the actions they are planning to take. Despite Turkey ratified the agreement a year ago, it have not updated the Nationally Determined Contributions in the agreement, which refer to actions that each country will take to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions to reach the Paris goals.
Despite the controversy, the Turkish government has announced its intention to achieve a national "net zero target" by 2053. This goal needs strict and implemented actions of nationally determined contributions for transformation of the power sector and industrial sectors, since these are responsible for most of Turkey’s greenhouse gas emissions. Achieving this goal also recognizes the opportunities seen by the climate-neutral economy and society. The current high energy prices in the European Union highlight the risks of unilateral dependence on fossil fuels, which could ultimately result in high energy bills for the industrial sector. This in turn will affect economic competition between companies, energy poverty, unemployment, and living standards.
Turkey’s investment in the fight against the issue was evident in the state's actions, since after the European Commission announced the European Green Deal in 2019, Turkey set its own Green Deal action plan. According to officials, since the agreement was signed, the country gathered pace in adaptation to goals for reducing emissions and put green transformation in its medium-term growth plans. Turkey was also the country with the second biggest number of delegates sent to COP26 to Glasgow in 2021 with over 375 delegates, only exceeded by Brazil.
In February 2021, there has been a climate council in Konya and decisions made at the council were made public this June. From energy to transportation to agriculture, forestry, and technology, advisory decisions were made in all fields. Turkey is working to boost its renewable energy investments, including wind and water energy along with green hydrogen application, which the country has a high potential in. Along with these, the share of renewables has increased from 53.6% to 54.3% along the last year. The country is also aiming to reduce consumption, encouraging people to buy and consume less, so that they produce less energy and use fewer resources.
Despite Turkey has promising regulations regarding the environment, putting them into practice might be problematic. Ankara must start to implement green energy and industrial policies to further reduce its emissions since the country must realize its responsibilities as a G20 country and provide greater support to developing countries on their green energy transition. It also should reduce its dependence on fossil fuels and increase its investment in clean energy sources.