Turkey’s dubious commitment to Paris Climate Agreement

The Turkish parliament ratified the Paris climate agreement on October 06, 2021, making it the last G20 country to do so, after holding off for years due to what it saw as injustices in its responsibilities as part of the agreement. On October 06, 2021, 353 members of Turkey’s parliament ratified the agreement unanimously.

Turkey has been a signatory to the Paris agreement since April 2016. But Ankara had not ratified the deal, arguing that it should not be considered a developed country as part of the agreement, which gives it more responsibility, as Turkey is historically responsible for a very small share of carbon emission. Announcing that Turkey would ratify the deal at the United Nations General Assembly in September, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said countries that have a “historical responsibility” for climate change should make the most effort. Erdogan’s stand till now was, “Whoever made the most damage to nature, our air, our water, our soil, the earth; whoever savagely exploited natural resources needs to make the largest contribution to the fight against climate change”.

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change currently lists Turkey in the Annex I group, described as industrialized countries. A statement approved by parliament said Turkey was ratifying the deal as a developing country and would implement it as long as it did not “harm its right to economic and social development.” Turkey has also sent a proposal to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Secretariat in Bonn to have its name removed from the Annex I list. The proposal is on the provisional agenda for the COP26 Climate Change Conference to be held in Glasgow from October 31 to November 12, 2021.

If Turkey is removed from the Annex I list of countries, it would be able to benefit from investment, insurance and technology transfer that can be provided as part of the agreement. The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) MP Jale Nur Sullu said it still unclear what the result of ratifying the deal as a developing country would be without the status change being approved at the climate conference.

The Paris agreement aims to limit the global average temperature rise to “well below” 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and “make efforts” to limit it to 1.5 degrees Celsius. The 1.1-degree Celsius warming already recorded has been enough to unleash disastrous weather, including the recent fires in Turkey, Greece and the United States. Some of the worst wildfires in Turkey’s history killed eight people and devastated tens of thousands of hectares of forest in the southwest Turkey in July August 2021. The fires were followed closely by floods in the north Black Sea region, that killed at least 77 people.
In October 2021, the dams that supply water to Istanbul have dried up. The two dams that provide water to Turkey’s largest city, Istanbul, each have less than 10% water supply, according to data provided by the Istanbul Water and Sewerage Administration (ISKI).

Turkey has also been experiencing an intensifying drought since 2019. 2020 was the driest year in five years, and conditions in 2021 only worsened – the 2021 summer saw historic wildfires in the country’s south, and intense drought and dwindling water levels throughout the country. At the beginning of 2021, Istanbul’s water storage levels were already at their lowest levels in 15 years – at that point, according to ISKI data, each dam had well over 70% capacity. Now, as this data shows, they are emptier than they have been in recent history. The entire Marmara region is in a state of extreme drought. According to Prof. Lokman Hakan Tecer, the dean of Tekirdag Namik Kemal University, the region has experienced 46% less rainfall than it normally would this year. This drought has been experienced in several western Turkish cities, including Edirne and Kirklareli.

Officially, Turkey is a party to Climate Change Agreement, but in practice Turkey is not a party. The reason for this is that it does not see it as a climate deal; it is using it as a financial opportunity. It is known that there is a $3 billion loan negotiation behind the Paris Agreement. Exactly a week after the breaking of this news, the details of the first installment arrived. On September 28, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) approved the ‘Green Economy Financing Facility (GEFF)’ project, which will provide Turkey with over €500m in funding.

The parliamentary commission is rapidly set up, Erdogan is on his way to New York, a draft of the report comes out, and when he returns, a decision for the 500 million Euros is issued on the day he refers the Paris Agreement to the parliament. It is being promoted in Turkey that with the help of the Paris Agreement, Turkey’s climate policies will change, certain violations would be prevented and that a new era will start. But history tells that it won’t be true. Kyoto Protocol is the proof.

Turkey passed the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), in its Parliament in 2003 and joined the deal as the 189th party on May 24, 2004. The Kyoto Protocol was approved by the Turkish Parliament on February 5, 2009, and Turkey became a party on August 26, 2009. The UNFCCC was agreed in Rio in 1992 and the Kyoto Protocol in 1997. Thus, Turkey kept them both waiting for 12 years.

When Turkey became a party to UNFCCC, the first thing it did was to boost coal production through royalties. Imported coal plants boosted and Coal mines mushroomed like crazy. Thus, this system gave birth to brands such as Yildirim Holding, which bought the biggest container port in South America, and Soma Komur Isletmeleri (Soma Coal Enterprises), which is infamous for death of 301 persons in mine accident in Soma.

What did Turkey do when it became a party to the Kyoto ProtocolP? It started the electricity generation model through royalties. Thus, it has invented a model as, “Climate Change Model with Royalties.” Alongside these, it privatized coal power plants. It has launched all climate-changing projects like the Third Bridge and the Third Airport.

With these two agreements, the country’s climate went upside down. The consequences of these policies will be better understood if we summarize them. Turkey, which joined the UNFCCC in 2004 and Kyoto Protocol in 2009, imported 422 million tons of coal from 2004 to 2019, produced one billion tons of coal, paid $612 billion for coal, oil and gas imports. It used half a billion tons of asphalt and consumed 812 million tons of cement. The number of cars increased from 4.6 million in 2004 to 13 million in 2019. It released 6.5 billion tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, making 2020 the third warmest year and a record-breaking year also in the number of extreme climate incidents in Turkey.
Therefore, Turkey, which produced 20 million tons of wheat in 2019 alone, consumed 41.7 million tons of asphalt and 45.4 million tons of cement in the same year, which led to the production of 422 million tons of construction materials alongside them, destroying nature at a fast pace. It burned 42.8 million tons of oil, 45 billion sm³ gas, 125.9 million tons of coal, releasing 399.3 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Turkey paid $41.2 billion from the public money for their importation.

Turkey has always seen the climate as money. It has followed a policy of more or less, “Let me change the climate and get paid for it.” In 2011, development banks spent 90 per cent of their climate funds on, the hydro-electric power plants (HEPPs). Certain groups in Turkey protested that “Climate funds should not be spent on HEPP projects.” Later, Turkey secured a $300 million loan through its Turkish Residential Energy Efficiency Financing Facility (TuREEFF). Even the air conditioning units benefited from these loans. Turkey Sustainable Energy Financing Facility (TurSEFF) provided 666m Euros in financing. Turkey Mid-Size Sustainable Energy Financing Facility (MidSEFF) provided 1.2 billion Euros. About 17 HES projects benefited from some 274 million Euros of these loans. Nobody knows what good this financing has done, but Turkey has been provided with close to $3 billion in finances, and it has increased its emissions by 60 percent in 2019 compared to 2004.

Hopefully, Turkey will be a party to the Paris Agreement. Thus, it will have a $3 billion loan. The money that should be allocated for prevention of climate change will be channeled to the Kanal Istanbul project. More funds will be raised through price increases. The untold story of the Paris Agreement may be considered a drama. It has money and loans, asphalt, concrete, coal-oil-gas, even air conditioning units and hydroelectric power plants. But you cannot find the trace of people or the climate conservation.