ISTANBUL – Addressing the United Nations General Assembly in New York on Tuesday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his government seek to ratify the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement next month.
“Turkey is not indifferent to any problem, crisis or global call, and will also do its part in climate change and environmental protection,” Erdogan said. said Tuesday.
The announcement comes five years after Ankara signed the agreement that declares a country’s intention to cut carbon emissions in a bid to curb global climate change. But Turkey has delayed its ratification to challenge its classification as a “developed economy” in the conventions of the agreement.
In recent years, the Turkish government had requested the designation of developing countries, as China and Saudi Arabia, which provides access to international funding for emission reduction efforts. Yet following a series of ecological disasters this year, conservationists say the pressure increased the Erdogan administration to take concrete steps to slow climate change.
“This development is of crucial importance for the role that Turkey will finally play in the fight against the climate crisis,” Emine Ozkan, co-spokesperson for the Turkish Green Party, told Al-Monitor.
She added: “Problems such as the floods and forest fires that we have suffered this year, the economic crisis that we have been through … are putting pressure on the government from all angles.”
Currently, Turkey is one of six signatory countries, including Eritrea, Iran, Iraq, Libya and Yemen, which have yet to ratify the agreement. Erdogan said a proposal would be presented to the Turkish parliament next month, where his Justice and Development Party and coalition allies hold a majority vote. He added that lawmakers would seek to ratify the deal before the start of the next United Nations Climate Change Conference on October 31 in Glasgow, Scotland.
Calls for tougher environmental policies have mushroomed in Turkey after the nation witnessed some of the most serious wildfires in its history this summer, along with Greece and Italy. Fires in the southwestern regions of Turkey have killed eight people and burned tens of thousands of hectares of forests.
The fires were followed by flooding in the Black Sea region in August, which killed at least 77 people. Although climate change does not directly cause natural disasters, a large majority of climatologists say that higher global temperatures can fuel or worsen environmental events, which can lead to greater damage due to changing weather conditions. .
In addition to recent fires and floods, parts of central Anatolia continue to suffer prolonged periods of drought who have seen water levels in some lakes drop dramatically, in part due to intensive use of water by the agricultural sector.
Combined with alarming images this spring of a sea glanders epidemic In the country’s Marmara Sea, environmental issues and climate change have taken on greater prominence among Turkish citizens, some of whom are calling for new policies to mitigate further environmental damage.
A Transatlantic Trends Survey conducted earlier this year found that 83% of those polled in Turkey said their government should do more to slow climate change. Meanwhile, around 95% of young Turks said climate change was one of the biggest dangers facing their country, according to a recent report. British Council report.
“People are looking for concrete actions, not polishing actions,” Onder Algedik, a mechanical engineer and independent climate consultant, told Al-Monitor.
Algedik said that in addition to ratifying the Paris agreement, the Turkish government should “urgently” shut down coal-fired power plants, stop subsidizing investments in fossil fuels and redirect funds to move projects forward. energy efficiency as part of a plan to achieve net zero emissions by 2050..
Along with the decrease in carbon emissions, Ozkan said the Turkish government should also reassess some town planning policies that she said resulted in greater property damage in the floods last month.
Ersin Tek, executive director of Greenpeace Mediterranean, said pressure from the European Union may have played a role in Erdogan’s decision to move to the Paris agreement.
Tek also said that recent government statements have indicated that Ankara may soon gain financial support from international entities to support efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
“The world has passed the discussion deadline,” Tek added. “We literally have no time to waste.”