Turkey trying to fool the world on climate change

Turkey trying to fool the world on climate change

Previous G-20 summits were obsessed with growth. Then they said, “Growth is not enough; it has to be sustainable.” And then the current Turkish Presidency of the G-20 asked: “Growth is important and sustainable growth even more important. But growth for who?”

Now the G-20 leaders that will come to Antalya next month will discuss how to secure that growth is not limited to few but includes all. The Turkish presidency has added, therefore, “inclusiveness” to the motto of G-20.

Isn’t it ironic that it comes from a government that has forgotten this concept for the past five years?

Look at the former leader of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) who, as the current president of the country, needs to be the most inclusive of all. Yet screen his public speeches and you will see that he champions the use of “they” to demonize the opposition parties, in clear breach of the constitution that dictates the president be equidistant to all.

One may say he is the one preventing the ruling party to get back to its original settings. Indeed, it was not like that at the beginning. Ask any women NGO; they will tell how legal amendments that improved women’s rights were enacted in the parliament following work by the government that included all the stakeholders.

Nowadays there is nothing inclusive about the government. The decision-making process is done behind closed doors. There is no transparency, no monitoring and thus no accountability. 

Most probably, Turkey champions backpedalling on democratic governance when compared to other emerging markets.

Take the issue of climate change. An important summit at the level of the heads of state will be held in Paris in December in renewed efforts to reach an agreement on how governments will take measures to slow down the detrimental effects of greenhouse gas emissions.

Oct. 1 was the deadline for each country to give the U.N. its intended nationally determined contribution called the INDC in short. This is basically a non-binding commitment about how governments intend to decrease their gas emissions.

Have we heard any discussion about it in Turkey? No. Why? Because the INDC was prepared behind closed doors. A coordination commission was formed in the Environment Ministry with the participation of representatives from other relevant ministries. In a scandalous discrimination, they only included Turkish Industrialists’ and Businessmen’s Association (TÜSİAD), Independent Industrialists’ and Businessmen’s Association (MÜSİAD) and Turkish Union of Chambers and Commodities Exchanges (TOBB) as representatives of civil society. 

That has not been the case with other countries with whom Turkey can be considered in the same category. 

Take Chile as an example. They have included more than 300 stakeholders in the process of preparing their INDC according to Ethemcan Turhan, an expert at the Istanbul Policy Center (IPC). In order to have truly inclusive process, Chile provided funds to certain NGOs, arguing that they might not have the means to voice their views in comparison with big business for instance. And at the last stage, they had public consultation that lasted three months, said Turhan. 

One could still be grateful that at least Turkey has decided to give its INDC, even if it was the last day before the deadline. Rumor has it that the government did not even have the intention to give an INDC, which would have been scandalous.

But then again the INDC is a scandal itself. Turkey has pledged 21 percent mitigation by 2030 according to a reference scenario. But this scenario is problematic since it is based on a yearly 5 percent growth, and even a higher one after 2017, which we all know is unrealistic. 

Based on those growth levels, they project to have 1.175 million tons of gas emissions by 2030 and pledged to decrease it to 929 million tons, which is equal to 21 percent mitigation.

Ümit Şahin, another expert at the IPC, says even if we were to accept 5 percent yearly growth, it means one million tons of gas emission and pledging a decrease to 929 million tons is equal to 7 percent. 

“This is playing with numbers. If you keep your official future projections unrealistically high, then what you end up with is not mitigation but a sort of pledge for augmentation,” said Şahin in an interview with the Open Radio. 

In an analysis prepared by Professor Erinç Yeldan and Ebru Voyvoda for IPC and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), a growth rate based on the more realistic 3 percent will put Turkey’s greenhouse gas emissions at 852 million tons (less than what it pledged as emission mitigation).

Yet if Turkey were to be genuine in its contribution to emission mitigation, it needs to decrease its levels to 340 million tons by 2030. According to the analysis, Turkey can reach that level; in other words, it can have 40 percent mitigation if it were to introduce certain measures.

It would be naive to expect an AKP majority in the parliament to endorse these measures to reach those targets. One wants to remain hopeful that a coalition government will have a more realistic approach on climate change.