Does Istanbul have an action plan for climate change?
The sun is out now and we have forgotten about the flood disaster that took place on Tuesday in Istanbul.
These types of flood disasters are the new norm in the world, according to Ümit Şahin, the Istanbul Policy Centre Climate Studies Coordinator.
So, rhetoric in the media that goes “a disaster that was seen once in 32 years” is wrong. This is a rhetoric that has nothing to do with climate change.
It is also possible to explain the new norm in the world as such—excessive precipitation and severe drought after extreme heat.
How will a megacity like Istanbul then accommodate this “new norm”?
Considering that the cities where 54 percent of the world population lives are responsible for 70 percent of the global greenhouse gas emissions, how can Istanbul fulfil its responsibility to stop this dangerous trend?
The Istanbul Policy Centre, which works under the umbrella of Sabancı University, has revealed the “Green Economic Policies for Climate” report last month, providing some clues about this responsibility.
“What kind of city? What kind of energy system? What kind of soil usage?” are the types of questions answered by the report.
Missed opportunity for transformation
There are lots of lessons that Istanbul should learn while in the grip of a brutal urban transformation.
An urban transformation that gives priority to smart, energy efficient passive buildings is among the suggested solutions of the report. This however, is an opportunity Istanbul has missed.
More recycling and less urban waste is another suggestion, as is encouragement of cycling as a mode of transportation.
“We need to increase agricultural areas inside the cities,” says Ümit Şahin, one of the six authors of the report. “This is a must both so that water has a place to go and also for the city to feed itself,” he explains.
A widening trend around the world is food products that do not travel long to reach the consumer.
I have seen shops in Barcelona where products from the fields around the city were sold.
At this point, I want to salute those who have fought to maintain the orchards around Istanbul. Remember the small group of people that struggled to protect the 1,500-year-old Yedikule gardens?
What is a passive building?
Floods or air pollution, both affects us all from the youngest to the oldest. I asked Şahin about passive buildings. They are five or ten percent more expensive but with design and technology they reduce 90 percent of the internal heating and cooling. I wonder which of the houses in the wild urban transformation that is taking place in Kadıköy is a passive building. According to Şahin, passive buildings have become compulsory in Brussels since 2015.
It is rather naïve to compare Istanbul with cities like Barcelona or Brussels but as flooding is now the new norm; I wonder if the Greater Municipality of Istanbul has an action plan for climate change?