Turkey ‘faces bandwagon effect on climate change’

Turkey ‘faces bandwagon effect on climate change’

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Turkey ‘faces bandwagon effect on climate change’ Turkey cannot continue to pursue polluting energy policies when so much of the world is focusing on reducing global temperatures by pursuing renewable energy, according to the projects manager of the CDP in Turkey, a non-profit organization working with companies and cities on climate change.

“While the whole world is going toward a trend for 100 percent renewable energy, Turkey needs to join this trend. Turkey is now facing a bandwagon effect; it needs to start moving fast,” said Mirhan Köroğlu Göğüş.

What do you think will be the implications of the outcome of the Paris summit on Turkey?

Until now, Turkey has tried to emphasize its special conditions. One of the reasons for this was its aim to secure financial assistance through climate funds. But as it continues to remain in the category of developed country, it did not get what it wanted.

As far as commitments are concerned, while the Paris agreement is binding, the annexes where we find the intended nationally determined contributions (INDC) are not binding. In other words, it is at the discretion of each country to fulfill the commitment it made in its own INDC. There is an agreement to keep global warming at 2 degrees and, in fact, to target 1.5 degrees. That’s very important as far as Turkey is concerned because Turkey is a country that is largely dependent on fossil fuels. While the whole world is going toward a trend for 100 percent renewable energy, Turkey needs to join this trend. Turkey is now facing a bandwagon effect; it needs to start moving fast.

But it looks like Turkey cannot be legally forced to adopt a more ambitious climate change policy. Are we talking more about political pressure?

The United Nations adopted new sustainable development goals last September, and climate change is one of them. That really set the frame for the Paris talks. On the other hand, for the first time, the concept of human rights, which was previously not referred to in the agreements, was mentioned in the Paris agreement, and NGOs were very influential in that sense.

In addition, while INDCs are not legally binding, countries are asked to review their INDCs in a transparent way every five years, and with a view to improving their targets.

Another dimension I should mention is the NAZCA platform established last year within the Lima-Paris action agenda (LPAA), which registers commitments to climate action by non-state actors like companies and cities.

These non-state actors are very active. The number of commitments has reached 10,000. Municipalities, for instance, are becoming increasingly aware and are taking action. There is a bottom-up movement.

There is a new trend, for example. The private sector has been coming forward by displaying their climate change policies through [things like] the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI). But they were asked to go a step further and influence the making of the Paris agreement.

There is a coalition called We Mean Business. Of more than 350 companies that pledged support for climate change policies, six are from Turkey.

You are talking about international currents; what makes you say these will be influential on the government?

Obviously, each country is responsible for their own implementation. But there is general pressure. Countries are asked to review their targets every five years. The agreement will enter into force in 2020, so there is still time for Turkey.
Turkey’s INDC is not ambitious at all. It is a decrease from an increase. It was not found credible. The international community is not convinced that Turkey is expending enough efforts in this regard. Turkey can’t fool anyone.

While everyone is talking about renewable resources, Turkey’s INDC says it will have to use all its investments until the end for very controversial hydro-electric power plants (HES). While everyone is talking about solar energy, Turkey’s commitments to solar energy were even lower than its previous commitments. Turkey’s stance, as demonstrated by its INDC, was in stark contrast to the others, and everyone is aware of it. There has been meticulous work about the INDCs; each country’s INDC was scrutinized, and even the target of 2 degrees will not be met with the current INDCs.

So you are arguing that Turkey’s position goes so much against the tide that it won’t be able to maintain its current position?

No, it won’t. Let’s set aside the international agreement or the political pressure. How will Turkey’s companies continue to work in this developing trend? The whole world is directing investments toward clean energy. At a time when the International Energy Agency says 82 percent of fossil fuels need to stay underground, Turkey is planning new investments in coal; this needs to stop.

 But I really feel Turkey has become aware of the current trends in the world; it sees that there is now an environment where everyone is prone to transformation. China, the biggest greenhouse gas emitter, is talking about a behavioral change. But if Turkey continues as it has, it will pass Europe, America and China.
Perhaps de-carbonization has not made it into the agreement, but all the international investors in the private sector will want the companies in their portfolio to decrease their carbon emissions. Companies in Turkey will need to mitigate their carbon emissions so that they can attract investment.  

To what degree is the private sector in Turkey aware of the current changes?

The big ones are aware that trade will be based on carbon pricing. How can Turkey continue to trade if it remains behind? As the private sector will come under pressure, companies will be unwilling to invest in resources based on fossil fuels. That’s why the private sector is also putting pressure on the government, and the government is trying to listen to the private sector. I believe Turkey wants to act, but it wants to benefit from financial and technological assistance. 

But what Turkey can do is contribute to the green fund. Currently, Turkey is not contributing to the green fund. That will also show that it has the intention to change its policies. In exchange, Turkey’s special conditions could be accepted, meaning it will then become possible for Turkey to benefit from assistance.

Do I understand correctly: Turkey is saying, “I need to grow fast and I therefore need cheap energy; so for some time I will have to go on polluting the world.” What you are saying is that it cannot go on like that because it will remain one of the very few to do so, no?

Turkey will not get away with this current position. Everybody is investing in renewables, but Turkey insists on investing seriously in fossil fuel resources. But soon Turkey will realize that it will have to revise its policies. Turkey cannot afford to continue maintaining a position that runs counter to all other countries. Leaving aside the position of big countries like America and China, when Turkey looks at other similar countries, it will see that it stands in a totally contrasting position.

And in addition, Turkey has the sun and the wind; so there is not much justification it can offer. While we were in Paris, the construction in Turkey of the nuclear plant by Russia was stopped. All of these are ringing alarm bells. Technology [in green energy] is going to become cheaper with further investment. Solar energy could cost the same as [traditional resources] in the near future because investments are directed toward renewables. Why should Turkey remain behind?

So it sounds like the Paris talks sounded the alarm bells for Turkey.

Alarm bells were already ringing for Turkey. It is really lagging behind in making this transformation. There will be resistence [from Turkey], but there is going to be a lot of pressure on Turkey. Turkey’s growth will slow down if it continues like it is. But I really believe the Turkish government is seeing this change and that Paris is going to be a turning point for Turkey’s polices. It is going to trigger change.

Who is Mirhan Köroğlu Göğüş?

Turkey ‘faces bandwagon effect on climate change’

Mirhan Köroğlu Göğüş is the projects coordinator of the Sabanci University Corporate Governance Forum (SU CGFT) and the projects manager of the CDP in Turkey. She is responsible for managing the “Climate Change” and “Water” programs of the CDP, which is an international, non-profit organization providing the only global system for companies and cities to measure, disclose, manage and share vital environmental information. She is helping leading companies in Turkey manage and disclose their climate change and water related impacts. 
She has studied both political science and international relations. After graduation she worked on EU affairs for several years with the European Stability Initiative and EurActiv. She also worked in DG External Policies in the European Parliament in Brussels. 

She received her Masters of Science (MSc.) degree from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) in European political economy.