Walking to the future on the wrong path

Walking to the future on the wrong path

Turkey, extremely dependent on fossil fuels such as coal in energy production, is at a very important junction. Either it will increase its dependence and become trapped in high-carbon energy infrastructure or it will focus on renewable resources for a sustainable energy future. 

The share of coal mining in Turkey’s total production is less than 1 percent. Its contribution to employment is low. Despite this, incentives have poured into this sector in recent years. These incentives are not granted to increase growth rate or decrease unemployment. When this is so, then one wonders why this insistence on coal.

This is the only feature of economic growth policy Turkey has adopted in the 2000s and this barren road is full of dilemmas. 

Sectors that contributed the most to economic growth in the 2000s were related to construction. They created more demand for energy-intensive sectors, such as iron-steel and cement, causing an increase in energy imports. 

In the $84.6 billion foreign trade deficit in 2014, energy imports were topping the list at $53.8 billion. Despite the huge loss of life in coal mine accidents in Soma and Ermenek, because of pressure from the sector, the regulation for better working conditions in mines was postponed until 2020. 

The reason economy has intensified in sectors that have a high demand on energy and create high pollution, generating products with low added-value, is because these products are regarded as more attractive by the private sector.

Actually, if the government had adopted a different growth policy, then our country could have competed in world markets, not with labor and natural resources but with products of more added-value and a higher share of R&D (research and development), thus difficult for other countries to imitate. Thus, we would not be massacring nature and causing enormous amounts of work-related deaths but instead growing with a humanitarian mentality. And maybe most importantly, we would not have contributed so much to climate change. 

Coal, as the energy resource that causes the most greenhouse gas emissions, is the primary reason for climate change. 

Knowing this, we have increased our coal thermic power stations capacity by 77 percent compared to 2004. Turkey takes fourth place as the country with the highest number of new coal stations being built. In addition to the existing stations, it has planned to build more than 70 new coal thermal power plants. These new power plants will cause 400 million ton greenhouse gas emissions annually.   

If we continue on this road, we will be obliged to import much coal and will never be able to free ourselves from foreign dependency, while the world is proceeding in exactly the opposite direction. 

Some 23 scientists have issued a declaration titled, “Turkey should say ‘stop’ to coal,” calling the government and the public to eliminate coal as an energy option.  

Scientist Ümit Şahin said it was not a surprise that no such decision was reached at the G-20 Summit, adding, “Only until a couple of years ago, those suggesting that fossil fuels, primarily coal, should not be excavated and that significant portions of the reserves should be left underground were seen as a handful of radical ecologists. But today, the opinion that only way to fight climate change is to totally abandon the usage of fossil fuels is gaining strength. Scientists are heard more. I am sure we will have gone a much longer way in a couple of years.”