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Türkiye’s Green Transformation Vision Takes Shape

Located in the Mediterranean basin, Türkiye is one of the countries most affected by the adverse consequences of climate change. As efforts to curb emissions have topped the global agenda, Ankara’s vision for a green transformation of the country is also taking shape.

The U.N. Climate Change Conference in Dubai – the largest-ever of its kind, with some 97,000 participants – was held during the weekend as countries are far from meeting the 2015 Paris Agreement’s goal of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) and emissions continue to rise.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has called for an equal distribution of financial and technology resources to help with climate protection efforts during the conference and announced that Türkiye intends to increase the proportion of renewable energy to 69% by 2053 and achieve the net zero emissions target by the same year. Ankara also offered to host the 31st United Nations Climate Change Conference, to be held in 2026.

Although Türkiye 2021 became the last country among the Group of 20 (G-20) major economies to ratify the Paris Climate Accords, committing itself to meet the net zero emissions target by 2053, the country has since then engaged in several steps to address the issue. It renamed its relevant ministry to “Ministry of Environment, Urbanization and Climate Change,” in a sign to show the emphasis put on the climate. Türkiye also signed an agreement with the World Bank, France, Germany, the U.N., the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) to support Ankara’s climate policies.

Mounting wildfires, floods, drought and increasing temperatures are already showing themselves as climate disasters in a display of alarm for the country. On the other side, addressing the issue also became more urgent in terms of global relations and trade. The EU, for example, has adopted the Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM) to bring in climate tariffs on imports, which will have an effect on Türkiye’s trade with the bloc.

Türkiye has started to take action on a multilateral scale. A climate law is expected to be approved by Parliament in the upcoming period; a National Strategy Document will be prepared by 2024 for the gradual reduction of hydrofluorocarbon emissions; work is ongoing for an Emissions Trading System and decarbonization road maps for the vital steel, aluminum, cement and fertilizer industries have been finalized.

One of the most renowned projects has been the “zero waste” program led by first lady Emine Erdoğan and launched in 2017. As a result of the project, 35% of waste was recycled, and an income of TL 96 billion was obtained. Today, it has become a global Turkish brand, with the U.N. declaring March 30 as International Day of Zero Waste. The rate of recycling is expected to reach 60% in 2035.

Togg, Türkiye’s recently introduced electric car, also constitutes a part of the country’s green transformation endeavors. In terms of sustainable transportation, the country aims to reduce the share of road freight transportation from 72% to 57% while increasing the share of railway freight transportation from 5% to 22% by 2053. Sustainable and smart transportation, green navigation and ports and developing railway freight while decreasing emissions are points of focus. Türkiye’s first national electric train began operating this year. A project for carbon-free airports has also been launched and will be implemented in further airports. Within the scope of the Airports Council International’s (ACI) Airport Carbon Accreditation (ACA) program, 50 Turkish airports have received certificates, considering 557 airports in 90 countries are involved.

The Energy Ministry has also set its goals for climate, aiming to reduce emissions by 100 million tons within the scope of the Second Energy Efficiency Action Plan covering the years 2024-2030. The share of renewable energy reached 55%, ranking Türkiye fifth in Europe and 12th in the world in terms of sustainable energy solutions.

According to a report of the Istanbul Policy Center of Sabancı University, it is predicted that Türkiye will be able to provide 91% of its electricity production from renewable sources in 2050 and the share of electric vehicles in the passenger vehicle market may increase to 66% with the acceleration of clean energy transformation in the transportation sector. The report also calculated that Türkiye can decommission all its lignite coal power plants by 2035 and all its coal power plants, including imported coal power plants, before 2040.

Climate capital, green finance

While projects for waste treatment, renewables and energy efficiency are essential, a parallel strategy has to be implemented to render fossil fuels unattractive. Here, carbon pricing comes into play by placing a fee on carbon emissions and thus encouraging lower pollution. Experts agree that, initially, carbon pricing can affect the economy and raise energy prices; however, in the long-term, the benefits outweigh the disadvantages, while the revenue gained from the carbon taxing can, in turn, be used to spend on and invest in new green projects.

A green transition of a country is not an easy task and will require the cooperation of the government, private sector, academia and technological sector. The country’s financial sector can increase its role in green transition and mobilize capital for climate action.

States alone will be insufficient in addressing the steps needed and adjustments for a green transition. The Turkish government is already dealing with the repercussions of regional conflicts in the Middle East, the burden of millions of refugees, a twin earthquake shattering 11 provinces and an economic crisis as well as high inflation.

Türkiye has already begun discussions with the World Bank, which has committed to support the scale-up plan with financial and technical assistance, partnering with the ministry and key private sector actors.

Ankara has to position and brand itself as a destination for green investment. Investors have to be attracted through incentives, clear regulations and policies. Considering Türkiye has a huge potential in this regard, investors’ risks are highly likely to pay off.

As International Energy Agency (IAE) Executive Director Fatih Birol put it, clean energy transitions offer “new industrial opportunities and jobs, greater energy security, cleaner air, universal energy access and a safer climate for everyone.”

Yet challenges are multiple, green finance still mainly focuses on less risky and proven sectors. Firstly, investment has to go beyond proven technologies such as electric vehicles and solar and wind energy. Investors have to be convinced to take bolder steps. Secondly, clean energy spending is also not distributed evenly on the international stage. Thirdly, financial systems must be overhauled to attract capital, inflation must be controlled and frameworks must be clearly stated.

According to the IEA, the world economy invests around $1.4 trillion yearly in clean energy and infrastructure. More is needed.

Source: Daily Sabah