Turkey urgently needs ‘green revolution’

Turkey urgently needs ‘green revolution’

Unfortunately, Turkey is marking World Environment Day amid multiple environmental crises impacting its seas, waters, forests, air and agricultural lands.

Especially the mucilage invading the Marmara Sea has recently become one of the grave environmental concerns, threatening life underwater and above the sea. According to experts, the discharge of industrial and domestic wastes into the sea, the dumping of billions of tons of excavation soil into the sea, and the failure to take timely measures led to the mucilage invasion in the Marmara Sea. They also warn that it can further spread to the Black Sea and the Aegean in case no efficient action is taken.

The Environment and Urbanization Ministry announced that an urgent workshop would be organized this weekend to create an action map to fight the mucilage problem, just around a month after the first reports about the invasion were revealed.

Turkey’s forests and natural beauties are also under threat of mining, quarrying and power plants. For those who don’t know, the Turkish Parliament has a panel especially established to inquire about the impacts of global warming. At a meeting last week, officials from the TEMA, a foundation for reforestation and the protection of natural habitats as well as combating erosion, have outlined how serious the problem was.

They reported that 17,900 mining licenses were issued in 2015, 2016 and 2017 for the areas covering the forest area, and as a result, 146,000 hectares of forest cover was lost.

Desertification is the biggest environmental problem of Turkey, they stressed, citing the irreversible destruction of the country’s natural habitat at the hands of insatiable capitalist drives.

TEMA President Deniz Ataç listed three main reasons because of which environmental degradation cannot be prevented: Inability to produce necessary policies, deficiencies regarding legal acquis and lack of proper implementation. The fact that Turkish politics do not put environmental issues at the center of political priorities has caused those reasons to become structural.

However, there is bad news for those politicians. One of the important consequences of the pandemic was that people started to see better the relationship between health and the environment and the importance of preserving nature. Urban and rural classes are increasingly expressing their discomfort about the disruption of nature due to aggressive economic and industrial activities and are demanding a cleaner nature and environmentally friendly country.

Almost all scientists warn that Turkey will be among the countries most affected by global warming in the coming decades. Increasing drought, decrease in clean water resources and shrinkage of agricultural lands are among the effects already seen.

Turkey has not yet ratified the 2015 Paris Climate Convention for well-known reasons. It rejects to be listed among the developed nations as this status brings financial and political burdens. But it’s also known that the Paris Convention has decreased the burden falling on the shoulders of individual nations and that Turkey’s ratification will not bring additional cost.

In a recent statement, Environment and Urbanization Minister Mehmet Kurum admitted that Turkey was not a party to the convention but was still fulfilling its responsibility in the global fight against climate change. The point is that the fight for a better and greener world requires global cooperation, as unilateral efforts may fail. With only a few months to go for the global climate summit, it’s time for Turkey to reconsider its position vis-à-vis the convention.

Consequently, Turkey should also be aware that its failure to accommodate the European Union’s Green Deal will result in great economic losses and trade disadvantages. At the same time, the EU’s Green Deal could bring opportunities if Turkey moves fast for a full green transformation of its economy and industry.

Of course, a mental transformation is required in order to do all this. It should be understood that the economy can grow by protecting and enriching the environment, not by destroying it. This may require larger investments in renewable resources, but we only have one world and one country to live in.

Turkey, with its entire people, politics and civil society, should launch a green revolution before it gets too late.

Serkan Demirtaş,