No more delay for carbon-emitting thermal power plants in Turkey

Published 03.12.2019 19:04
Updated 20.12.2019 02:07
A thermal power plant in the western Black Sea province of Zonguldak. DHA Photo
A thermal power plant in the western Black Sea province of Zonguldak. (DHA Photo)

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan vetoed legislation that would put off the installation of industrial filters on thermal power plants, citing environmental concerns and public health

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan vetoed a law that would have delayed the installation of filters on thermal power plants on Monday on the grounds that it would be environmentally hazardous.

Prior to his departure for the NATO summit in London, the president said at a news conference that the companies that had previously asked for a delay in the installation of filters at thermal plants have not fulfilled their obligations despite being granted multiple extensions.

“It is not possible for us to put off the installations until the end of 2022 because we have to consider public health,” Erdoğan said. The president also underlined that firms that jeopardize the health of the public will no longer be able to operate thermal power plants and new rounds of auctions could be held.

A Parliament member of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party), Mehmet Muş, said Tuesday that the offer to delay the installation of cleaning filters for the thermal plants will be excluded from the bill.

"Our president did not find the regulation appropriate and vetoed it," Ömer Çelik, spokesman for the AK Party, told a news conference on Monday during a meeting of the party's central executive committee in the capital Ankara.

Çelik said a law approved by Parliament last month postponed the obligation to install filters on 15 thermal power plants that would have caused air pollution for two and a half more years and that the regulation had been awaiting the president's approval.

Noting that the energy sector is of great importance and that the government is seeking to protect and improve the sector's assets, Çelik added that Erdoğan found it unnecessary to give another two and half years to the plant owners, who had not installed filters in seven years.

He added that the president did not find it likely that the air filters would be installed during the time extension after the plants had already failed to do so multiple times. Çelik noted that Erdoğan made this decision due to the priority he gives to environmental issues and the prevention of pollution.

No more pollution from plants

"It is encouraging that our country's air, water and soil will no longer be polluted by these (thermal) plants," Baran Bozoğlu, head of Turkey's Chamber of Environmental Engineers, said in a statement late Monday.

Thanking Erdoğan for his very important and positive step, Bozoğlu said politicians listen to environmental groups, professional chambers, academics and the press, who inform of them on the issue on a scientific basis. "The creation of a common mind on issues affecting the whole of society and nature is essential for the establishment of the right to live in a healthy environment," he said. He highlighted that facilities should be suspended if they fail to invest in protecting the environment and do not comply with environmental regulations.

Paris Agreement

During the news conference Tuesday, Erdoğan also pointed out the Paris climate accord process. “The negotiators of the agreement have come up with numerous offers to Turkey, but it is not possible to accept them unless they recognize the needs and demands of the country,” the president said, recalling that the U.S. has still not signed the agreement.

Turkey signed the Paris deal on April 22, 2016, but has not ratified it yet. As of today, 186 countries out of 195 signatories have already ratified and joined the agreement. The Paris Agreement aims to mobilize all nations around a common cause to combat climate change and adapt to its effects by reducing carbon emissions and keeping a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius.

The deal categorizes countries as “developed” and “developing,” obliging the developed countries to financially support the efforts of the latter to build clean, climate-resilient futures.

The reason why Turkey has not yet ratified the agreement is due to its categorization as a developed country with the obligation to provide financial resources to assist developing countries in implementing the objectives of the climate convention. Turkey argues that it is still an industry-reliant developing country and needs financial assistance to take the necessary steps.

Under the guidance of the Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources, Turkey has taken significant steps to reduce carbon emissions in electricity generation as the country expanded the share of renewable resources in power generation.

Last year, coal – which was still the main source of electricity generation – accounted for 37.3% of the total production. Electricity generation from natural gas and hydroelectric power totaled 29.8% and 19.8%, respectively. Wind power plants generated 6.6% of Turkey’s electricity, while solar power provided 2.6%. Geothermal power plants also produced 2.5% of the electricity last year, and the remaining amount was met by various other energy resources.

Electricity generation recorded a 2.2% rise in 2018 compared to the previous year and reached 303.9 billion kilowatt hours (kWh).

In 2006, Turkey generated 74% of its electricity from thermal power. Over the years, the country expanded the share of natural gas in power generation with limited development in renewable resources. In 2009 and 2013, for instance, natural gas cycling plants respectively generated 50% and 43% of Turkey’s electricity. However, in the last couple of years, renewables, including hydroelectric power plants, solar and wind plants, accounted for more than 20% of the country's total electricity generation.

Global carbon emissions

While nations around the world are struggling to reduce carbon emissions to reach the 2 degrees Celsius goal set by the Paris Agreement, they are far from complying with the emissions quotas.

The world's two largest economies, the U.S. and China, account for the highest emissions as they are responsible for more than 40% of the global emissions. Before the Industrial Revolution, levels of atmospheric carbon were around 280 parts per million (ppm). By 2013, that level had breached the 400ppm mark for the first time.

According to recent data released by the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the country’s aggregate carbon dioxide emissions in 2018 rose to 5.27 billion metric tons, 2.7% more than its 2017 level.

The primary reasons for the increase were higher natural gas-related emissions resulting from extreme summer and winter weather and growth in transportation-related petroleum emissions, linked to a strong economy.

There are huge disparities between the world’s top 15 carbon emissions generating countries. China creates almost double the emissions of the second-place U.S., which is in turn responsible for more than twice the level of third-place India.

In 2010, Turkey published its Climate Change Strategy up to 2020. The strategy outlines the country’s vision to address climate change and its ambition to transition to a low carbon economy, targeting 30% renewable electricity for 2023 and aiming to cut carbon emissions from electricity by 7% by 2030.

Turkey’s 2018 energy efficiency action plan aims to cut primary energy consumption by 24 metric tons by 2023.

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