Turkey and its double standards in the climate negotiations

1cliveAs we are moving closer to the possibility of an international climate agreement at COP21 in Paris this December, many countries still seem to be playing a dangerous game of dress ups. Perhaps one of the best examples is Turkey, a country that so far seems to support the long-term goal of the climate agreement in every statement, yet the country is third on the list of countries with largest planed coal investments for the future.

At the UNFCCC climate change negotiations in Bonn this October we heard a lot of disagreeing about the text of the international agreement on climate that countries are meant to sign this December at the COP21 in Paris. Finance, as always was the issue, and how much of it should go to mitigation, adaptation and ofcourse the lack of mention on finance for loss and damage.

Perhaps a bigger issue than what was said are the things that were not mentioned at all. Although most countries agree that the long term goal of the climate agreement should be decarbonization, not all countries are keen on giving themselves specific tasks and deadlines on reaching this goal.

Silent throughout the negotiations, at the closing plenary session in Bonn, Turkey’s envoy gave a remarkable speech about the importance of trust in the negotiations and the future of the Planet.

“Trust should continue in the negotiations…We need to save the Earth for future generations”- said Turkey’s envoy

Turkey however is planning to quadruple the number of coal-fired power plants from the 22 currently operational to 80 new coal powered plants making it the country with the world’s third-largest investment in the fossil fuel industry. And with the health costs from the impacts of existing coal power plants already costing the country 3.6 billion EUR annually, one should wonder just how much Turkey truly cares about the future generations or the Earth?!

The Gezi Park protests began when a group of young people chose to defend the park and the last remaining trees in the center of Istanbul from being destroyed to build a shopping mall in its place. 11 people were killed and more than 8,000 were injured in the most violent protests the country has ever seen. Most of the protesters were young people representing the future generations of this Planet.

The spotlight is on because just this year Turkey assumed the presidency over the G20 group and promised to fight global inequality and bridge the gap between developed economies and undeveloped countries. In the upcoming G20 leaders summit this November in Antalya, Turkey is expected to set an example and lead the way to phasing out fossil fuels ahead of COP21.

Things are not looking very promising as at this moment a very large airport is being constructed in Istanbul, and the chosen location is an old forest that is now being cleared one tree at a time. And while countries are aiming to stay above 30% reduction of GHG emissions in their INDCs, Turkey has pledged to cut only 21% and is leaving its INDCs open to changes according with changing circumstances.

With 22 coal plants, another 80 on the way and 70% of GHG emissions in the country coming from the country’s energy sector, at the UNFCCC Bonn negotiations this October I had only one question for the Turkish delegate: “Are we thinking about moving away from coal?!”

“We are thinking of differentiated sources of energy”- she replied shortly

In previous research scientist agreed that staying bellow 2°C is the safe limit, but the latest UNFCCC report analyzing the submitted INDCs, says even if all countries meet their INDC commitments we are headed for 2.7°C rise in global temperatures. This ofcourse would mean increasing frequency of heat waves or windstorms and floods, which is bad news for developing countries still trying to repair the damage from last disasters, but also bad news for the rest of the world, since as we learned from heat waves across the globe this summer, no one is immune to extreme weather.


Originally published for Oximity


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