At COP 27, the EU is slightly raising its climate targets. COP 27, a world climate conference, brought together in Sharm El-Sheikh (Egypt), from November 6 to 18, 2022, a hundred heads of state and government, including Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Murat Kurum, the Turkish Minister of Environment, Urban Planning and Climate Change.

Following the ratification of the Paris Climate Agreement in October 2021, Turkey joined the objectives set by the text, namely to drastically reduce its carbon footprint until it reaches neutrality by 2050.

Turkey’s climate action plan

In 2021, the term « climate » was added to the name of the ministry in charge of the environment and urban planning, thus becoming: « ministry of the Environment, Urbanism and Climate Change ». According to the words of its minister, Murat Kurum, Turkey would represent an exemplary country in terms of sustainable development and the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Indeed, a so-called « climate law » will be submitted to the vote of the Turkish Parliament in January or February 2023; the latter provides the conditions for the development of a sustainable economy in Turkey, and of « green production », including the entire citizen sphere in the fight against global warming. Thus, the country seeks to achieve these objectives without compromising economic growth, and this without harming the various sectors of activity (agriculture, industry, etc.).

Mr. Kurum also spoke at the Forum on the environment organized by the Anadolu agency (governmental press agency), which was held on October 20 in Istanbul. The objective of this forum was to « restructure the discourse of the media on the environment and climate crises », and in particular, to « form a new media language on the subject », according to the words of the Agency itself. This forum was held shortly before the start of COP 27, during which Turkey had to present its climate action plan, also called « Nationally Determined Contributions » (NDC). The Turkish minister said that Turkey is currently carrying out its biggest climate mobilization project ever considered so far, namely the « zero waste » project, a project initiated by first lady Emine Erdoğan in 2017.

This plan aims to reduce the pollution produced by the country by adapting waste management in accordance with the principles of sustainable development, until reaching a recycling rate of 60% by 2030. According to the first lady, if this project has so far enabled the sorting of 33.8 million tons of recyclable waste, it was also extended to marine litter in 2019. This initiative by Turkey for the environment has been welcomed by the United Nations Secretary General, Antonio Guterres , who also signed with Emine Erdoğan, in September 2022, a “zero waste declaration of goodwill”, in order to extend the project internationally.

This is how the wives of the leaders of the member countries of the Organization of Turkic States joined together to support the project during the summit held on November 11, 2022 in Samarkand, Uzbekistan.

Turkish ambitions whose credibility is in question

If Turkey’s climate ambitions are clearly claimed, the country will still have to make many efforts to achieve its energy transition, and achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.

A report published in March 2021 by the International Energy Agency (IEA), relating to Turkey’s energy situation, indicates that 37.2% of electricity still came from coal-fired power plants in 2019.

In order to achieve the objectives set by the Paris Agreement, Turkey would have to put in place a multi-sectoral decarbonization policy (in the fields of energy, transport, industry in particular), and abandon fossil fuels, especially coal. So says Ümit Şahin, a climate scientist and researcher at the Istanbul Policy Center of Sabancı University. Based on one of his reports entitled « Roadmap for the decarbonization of Turkey: neutrality in 2050 », the researcher asserts that the use of coal in energy production should be phased out by 2035, and stopped now construction of new coal-fired power plants. Thus, Turkey should at least triple the installation of factories producing renewable energies on its territory, bet on the train as a means of transporting its goods and, on an individual scale, set itself the objective of increasing electric car sales by at least 20% by 2030, for example. According to the researcher, Turkey already has the necessary means to achieve these objectives, whether in terms of expertise, economics or technology, but it is up to political decision-makers to give priority to funding.

For Ümit Şahin, the climate debt of the « Northern » countries towards the « South » developing countries represents the main issue of COP 27. Indeed, he recalls the responsibility of the most polluting countries in triggering negative externalities from which these countries suffer, such as drought and other natural disasters, severely damaging crops and resulting in a critical lack of food.

In a speech delivered in plenary session on Tuesday, November 15 during COP 27, Minister Murat Kurum announced, in his declaration of national contribution, the intention of his country to raise its objectives by 2030, increasing its emissions reduction target from 21% to 41%. However, a number of international NGOs doubt that these promises are realistic.

Güven Sak, director of Turkey’s Economic Policy Research Foundation (TEVAP), believes that the climate action plan presented by Turkey will correspond, by 2030, to a 32% increase in its carbon footprint , due to the fact that no commitment has been made regarding the cessation of the use of coal and the elimination of existing factories. Thus, the economist did not hesitate to express himself via his twitter account on November 15, in order to criticize the likelihood of the objective of carbon neutrality by 2050, which according to him, is similar « to a dream ».

However, Turkey has expressed its desire to host COP 31 on its soil in 2026.

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