Turkey has this week ratified the Kyoto Protocol, following an overwhelming vote in the national parliament.
The decision fulfils a promise first revealed by Turkish President Abdullah Gül at WWF’s international conference in Bodrum, Turkey, in May 2008. A month later, Turkey signed the protocol, becoming the 178th nation to do so, but it required ratification to come into effect.
WWF and other environmental NGOs and civil society organizations had long pressed for the decision over government fears it would impede development. Turkey’s ratification leaves only the United States and Kazakhstan as the only significant large nations still in the Kyoto cold.
Also a probable factor in the decision has been pressure for Turkey to close the gap between its environmental standards and those of Europe.
“Everyone should embrace this protocol,” said Veysel Eroğlu, Turkey's Minister of Environment and Forest, while addressing the parliament after the vote. He added that the government was taking necessary precautions for a better environment in the country.
Being late in participating the Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and ratifying the Kyoto Protocol, Turkey misses the possibility of becoming a “party” to the protocol and benefiting from its financial tools. Meanwhile, ratifying the Protocol does not imply putting significant amount of additional burden on Turkey until 2012. Turkey was not a party to UNFCCC in 1992 when the Kyoto Protocol was being negotiated. Turkey was not in the Annex B of the Protocol, which includes 39 developed countries that are obliged to reduce their emissions to 1990 levels between 2008-2012.
“We welcome the decision taken by the Turkish Government, though it was rather late,” said Dr Filiz Demirayak, CEO of WWF-Turkey.
“Turkey ranks the first in terms of its rate of emission increase and has to take considerable steps under current circumstances and future predictions.
“We should consider Kyoto and the post-Kyoto process as an opportunity to improve the quality of life for our people, rather than a barrier against development. It is also important for us to reduce its ecological footprint and take steps on the road to sustainable develepment."
Dr Demirayak also proposed that “a voluntary commitment of keeping the emission rate at its current level at least until 2012 would be meaningful under the framework of ratifying the protocol and this achievement would be stimulating meeting new targets which would be set in 2012 Copenhagen process”.