With an economy that has almost tripled in size over the past twenty years, Turkey hopes to continue their economic expansion and become one of the world’s 10 largest economies by the year 2023. Turkey has also been focused on expanding their energy supply to support this growing economy. With these national goals in mind, many environmentalists around the world are concerned as to how Turkey’s leaders will address climate change during this strategic period.
Welcome to Turkey
Turkey geographically and culturally straddles Europe and Asia. While Istanbul sits in Europe and is this continent’s third largest city, 95% of the rest of Turkey is located in Asia. Originally founded in 1923, modern-day Turkey grew out of the remnants of the Ottoman Empire. After decades of one-party rule, the country embraced multi-party politics in 1950.
Turkey’s free-market economy is becoming increasingly dominated by its industry and service sectors, whereas its agricultural sector has become less prominent. These changes have arisen as a result of Turkey privatizing many of its formerly state-run industries, some of which include the banking, transport, and communication industries. In recent years, there has been a significant rise of entrepreneurialism in Turkey, thereby driving the economy in completely new directions.
Environmental Issues of Turkey
As with most developed nations, Turkey has had to pay an environmental price for its industrialization.
Air pollution is a significant problem across Turkey, particularly in the country’s urban centers. According to the European Environment Agency (EEA), more than 97% of Turkey’s urban population is exposed to unsafe amounts of particulate matter pollution. Furthermore, data acquired from Turkey’s Ministry of Environment and Urbanization in 2017 found that the air pollution values in almost every province of this nation were between 151 and 200. Several provinces actually had air pollution values that exceeded 300, thereby implying that these areas exhibited hazardous levels of air pollution. To clarify the significance of these values, good air quality values are considered to be between 0 and 50.
Turkey’s carbon emissions have also risen significantly over the past three decades. As the world’s 20th largest emitter of greenhouse gases (GHGs), In 2016, Turkey’s total GHG emissions increased by 4.4% to reach 496.1 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. The main industries contributing to this rise in GHG emissions includes industrial processes and product use, agricultural activities and waste which accounted for 72.8%, 12.6% and 3.3% of these emissions, respectively.
Visibly bad air pollution in downtown Istanbul, Turkey. Image Credit: Faraways/Shutterstock.com
Turkey has a rich biodiversity within its borders, with three of the world’s 34 biodiversity hotspots present within these areas of Turkey. Unfortunately, Turkey has only protected 0.2% of its land area and 0.11% of its marine environment. Therefore, the organisms and plants inhabiting these areas are extremely vulnerable to the effects of both climate change and the country's limited water resources. The water resources Turkey does have are not dispersed evenly across the country. Because of this, effective and integrated control over water resources is crucial for Turkey.
In addition to poor air quality and emissions, overfishing and water pollution have led to a significant decline in fisheries. The production of anchovies, one of the most prevalent commercial fish in Turkey, fell by 28% in 2012, according to the Turkish Statistical Institute.
Environmental Policies of Turkey
A major Turkish policy that includes elements of environmental protection is the country’s Tenth Development Plan (2014-2018). At the core of the plan is sustainable development and increasing development of Turkey’s renewable energy sector, particularly for wind and geothermal power. Turkey’s Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC), which was submitted to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) in 2015 stated targets for both solar and capacity to reach 10 GW and 16 GW, respectively, by 2030.
While Turkey exhibits a promising future in the use and development of renewable energy sources, this nation has put a large emphasis on utilizing domestic coal to support their internal economic expansion and reduce the need to import oil and gas. Currently, Turkey generates 28% of its electricity from coal; however, environmentalists predict that Turkey’s wind, solar and hydropower energy sources have the potential to meet the nation’s energy needs for the same cost of its planned coal expansion while simultaneously reducing the risk of increased emissions and air pollution that is commonly associated with coal use. In April 2017, Turkey’s Energy and Natural Resources Minister Berat Albayrak claimed that the nation aims to promote the production and use of clean coal within their nation’s local coal industries.
Turkey - Meeting Growing Energy Needs with Renewable Energy. World Bank / YouTube
In an effort to advance its accession process into the European Union, Turkey has made efforts towards establishing emission controls, increase their use of renewable energies and promote the overall energy efficiency of this nation. In terms of regulating air quality and industrial pollution, Turkey has made considerable progress; however, further effort into fully implementing this legislation must still occur.
In an effort to improve the threats on Turkey’s biodiversity, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization and the Global Environment Facility have been working with the Turkish government to improve their conservation and sustainable management plans. More specifically, this project aims to establish novel management practices that will protect steppe ecosystems by educating area managers and further establish regulatory policies as needed.
Clean Technology in Turkey
Over the past decade, various factors within the international energy markets have compelled Turkey to reexamine how it generates and consumes electricity. The result of this global analysis was the creation of a national development plan that supports investment in the country’s renewable energy sector. In 2016, two major projects described by the Renewable Energy Resource Area regulations have aimed to increase Turkey’s wind energy production by 17%. By 2023, Turkey aims to generate 30% of its total electricity from renewable energy sources.
Turkey's push to embrace renewable energy has been backed by the Clean Technology Fund (CTF), a billion-dollar program designed to give middle-income countries the resources to innovate and develop clean technology. Turkey was the first country to benefit from the fund.
Turkey: Environmental Issues, Policies and Clean Technology
Once thick with lush trees, this hillside has been devastated by the effects of deforestation in Turkey. gallimaufry / Shutterstock.com
Wind power makes up roughly 2% of Turkey's energy sources, but there is big potential for this to be hugely increased. Tolga TEZCAN / Shutterstock.com
A Clean Future?
With the help of the CTF, Turkey appears to be leveraging investments as a springboard towards a clean future.
Data shows that Turkey has sufficient access to wind, water, and sunlight in order to research the potential of renewable energy. With an exception to hydropower, Turkey’s renewable electricity production currently accounts for 8% of the country’s overall energy production.
Furthermore, Turkey's Electricity Market and Security of Supply Strategy sets up an overall target of renewable energy supplying a minimum of 30 percent of overall energy produced by 2023. Of this renewable energy mix, wind power is projected to climb up to 20 GW.
With all of this potential and the funds flowing in, Turkey appears to be poised for a clean technology revolution; maybe not tomorrow or within the next couple of years, but definitely in the coming decades.
Sources and Further Reading
This article was updated on 7th March, 2019