The majority of Turkish people want foreign investment in renewable energy resources, according to a survey conducted in April by E3G, an independent climate change think tank that aims to accelerate the global transition to a low-carbon economy.
The survey, entitled "Clean Energy, not Coal: Citizens' views of Foreign Investment," highlights that government energy policies and foreign investment packages, which currently favor coal, are at odds with citizen preferences for clean energy.
The survey, considered the first multicountry survey of public opinion on foreign investment in Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) countries, was conducted prior to the second Belt and Road International Cooperation Forum in Beijing April 25-27 in six BRI countries: Turkey, Vietnam, South Africa, Indonesia, Philippines and Pakistan from April 9-17.
E3G, which specializes in climate diplomacy, climate risk, energy policy and climate finance, was ranked the fifth most influential environmental think tank in the world for the third consecutive year in 2018, according to the Go to Think Tank Index. The think tank commissioned YouGov to poll 1,000 people in each country.
In Turkey, 475 women and 525 men of various ages responded. Of these respondents, 92 percent favored foreign investment in renewable energy resources, showing the second highest ranking after Vietnam at 95 percent.
Solar shone as the most favorable energy resource in Turkey, similar to five other BRI countries. A large majority of Turkish citizens (83 percent) said they would give priority to solar for the government to encourage investment, while 76 percent would highly prioritize wind energy.
Renewable energy resources are seen as better investment options for 86 percent of Turkish citizens for long-term development, while 62 percent said renewables are better in decreasing water and air pollution, and 57 percent said renewables would mitigate climate change.
Turkish people find coal investments unfavorable; 57 percent of the respondents said coal should not be given any priority in terms of investment, while 56 percent said that coal investments are related to both water and air pollution.
Turkey's renewable capacity will increase by 14 gigawatts (GW) and reach 53 GW by the year 2023, an International Energy Agency (IEA) report on renewable energy revealed in October 2018. The IEA report forecasts a 5.1 GW rise in Turkish solar power capacity and a 4.4 GW jump in wind power. Turkey's hydroelectric power capacity, the report predicts, will also increase by 3.12 GW.
The renewable energy sector has seen significant growth over the last 15 years, with an intensified performance from 2013 to 2018, during which onshore wind and solar power plants increased exponentially. Wind power capacity alone reached 7,000 MW in 2018 and a major portion of this capacity, 5,700 MW, started operating in the period of 2013 to 2018. Solar power capacity also reached 5,000 MW last year.
2nd forum offers opportunity to end coal
The poll results in other countries also show that citizens have strong preferences for clean energy as opposed to coal. The six countries polled are among the top 10 locations for proposed coal power plant construction globally other than China.
"This polling provides clear evidence that the citizens of the BRI countries prefer clean energy investment over coal. China should now work with governments, business and investors at the upcoming Belt and Road Forum to make sure these demands are met," Nick Mabey, chief executive of E3G, said.
The upcoming BRI Forum in Beijing provides an opportunity to signal an end to international support for coal investment, he said.
"Citizens across the member countries know that coal will only continue to exacerbate air pollution, climate change and corruption issues," Mabey noted.
China has taken a strong stance in tackling climate change and has developed a series of laws, regulations and policies to promote reductions in China's emissions," said Dr. Yang Fuqiang, the National Resources Defense Council senior adviser on Climate and Energy of the China Program at the National Resources Defense Council center in New York.
He said in terms of green development, a series of policy incentives and guidelines are needed to encourage Chinese companies to comply with environmental protection standards and to reduce CO2 emissions. "At the same time, China and countries along the Belt and Road must build consensus on green development if they wish to tackle climate change," Fuqiang argued.
He acknowledged that Turkey, which has rich renewable resources and is already actively investing in renewable energy at the local and national level, has its own environmental protection and climate change goals that China supports and encourages.
However, he proposed greater cooperation between China and Turkey in renewable energy as "both China and Turkey regard renewable energy as the main source of energy for the future."
He drew attention to China's relatively advanced renewable energy technology, its low production costs and its various renewable energy policies, all of which could contribute to China's cooperation with Turkey.
"Currently, China can support renewable energy equipment manufacturing in Turkey and can introduce Chinese technology through joint ventures. China can also invest in renewable energy project development in Turkey. Both sides should also examine how best to conduct research in policy areas. Given in-depth cooperation in technology, business models, investments and policies, there is great potential for energy conservation and environmental protection," Fuqiang concluded.
According to a previous report by Anadolu Agency (AA), the Far Eastern country has invested $600 million in Turkey's renewable energy sector and investments in this sector are expected to soar in the upcoming period.