In the past week, the world witnessed the emancipation of the new climate leader, Turkey.
At the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan declared that Turkey is moving ahead and will ratify the Paris climate agreement with an eye on the country's 2053 vision within the scope of its Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC).
This statement was one of the historical moments of the most recent UNGA, and just a few days after, President Erdoğan strengthened Turkey's determination regarding its climate change efforts at the Cabinet briefing.
When Turkey was deemed an Annex II country in status, which also might be interpreted as "developed country" status, in the Berlin Conference of the Parties in 1992 of United Nations Framework Convention of Climate Change (UNFCCC), where country classifications were made, it found itself in a difficult position.
As a result of intense negotiations, in 2001, Turkey was removed from the list of Annex II countries, which are in charge of granting financial aid to other countries, and became a party to the UNFCCC in 2004.
Turkey's special circumstances were recognized in 2010, which was interpreted as Turkey being different from the other countries on the same list. Moreover, it was reaffirmed that Turkey did not have an obligation to provide financing or technology transfers but was still obliged to continue emission reduction. However, Turkey was not a party to the UNFCCC adopted in 1992 when the Kyoto Protocol was negotiated, and it was not included in the protocol's Annex B, so the country was not obliged to reduce its greenhouse emissions to 1990 levels between 2008 and 2012.
In the negotiations of the Paris Agreement, Turkey put its utmost effort into fixing its place under the convention and draft a text of the agreement. The Turkish delegation managed to embed a paragraph in one of the draft decisions. However, it was deleted just before the adoption of the agreement.
For six years after the adoption of the agreement, despite unkept promises, Turkey had been trying hard to correct the unfair situation and made an enormous effort to convince other countries to reach a consensus on its demands for a fair position.
As the only non-party to the agreement among all G-20 members and sixth in the world was not easy for Turkey. The country's demands were absolutely legitimate, but it was left alone to defend its claims. Nevertheless, Turkey is a pioneer when it comes to taking effective climate action.
Turkey has taken significant steps to combat climate change with its own efforts within its national circumstances.
In the "Combating Climate Change Summit" on Feb. 17, 2021 under the auspices of first lady Emine Erdoğan, Turkey determined its priority areas in combating climate change with the final declaration.
Turkey is preparing a "Climate Law," which includes policies, targets and regulations for climate change, updating the national climate change strategy and action plan for 2050, and will implement an emission trading system that rewards facilities that invest in cleaner production technologies.
With the regional climate change action plans, Turkey aligned its seven regions in terms of climate change policy and is making legislative and technical arrangements to prepare local climate change action plans on the municipal level.
Within the scope of the Zero Waste Project, Turkey will increase the recovery rate of waste to 60% by 2035.
Turkey also will increase the rate of treated and reused wastewater, which is currently 2.5%, to 5% by 2023 and to 15% by 2030.
Today, Turkey is the leading producer of renewable energy out of the countries in its region.
In 2020, 98% of the installed power coming online was from renewable energy projects. Approximately 52% of the country's installed power in electricity generation is currently provided by renewable energy sources.
By 2030, Turkey will increase its electricity generation from solar energy to 10 gigawatts (GW) and from wind energy to 16 GW.
Turkey has been monitoring emissions from energy-intensive industries since 2015. The emissions from 700 facilities have been monitored and it has been found they correspond to approximately 51% of our country's total greenhouse gas emissions.
Turkey will reduce the fossil fuels used in buildings by 25% by 2023 and will ensure that all buildings have energy identity certificates by 2030.
Turkey will establish the National Climate Change Platform and initiate the establishment of the National Climate Change Research Center.
With the National Gardens project, Turkey aims to rapidly increase green areas and “sink capacity.”
In the meantime, Turkey is expanding its protected areas with the ecological corridors project, creating wide green belts and corridors which will be protected like the country's forests.
In 2015, Turkey submitted its Intended Nationally Determined Contribution. A reduction in greenhouse gases of up to 21% is anticipated under the business-as-usual mitigation scenario by 2030.
All these efforts clearly show that even though Turkey was redundant to the agreement, its efforts have been real and sincere.
Turkey had been going through difficult times due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the sea-snot problem, wildfires and recent floods.
This summer, every day was a challenge. One day we found ourselves faced with heavy flooding in the northern regions of Turkey, the next we headed to the south coast to fight wildfires. Yet, mother nature has given us hope: now every sprout that emerges in the areas burned by fire is a miracle. Turkey did a great job in terms of crisis management and overcame all these major unfortunate events.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's (IPCC) latest report also warned us about the welfare of the Mediterranean. Science is clearly telling us that there are many more serious climate change-induced environmental crises to come in the very near future.
Under the Turkish Grand National Assembly (TBMM), a research commission was established devoted to climate change issues. This commission works with every actor involved in fighting climate change, namely the government, academia and scientists. This was the first but most important step toward the final decision.
At the 76th session of UNGA, Erdoğan sent significant messages to the world. Climate change has become one of Turkey's foremost agenda items. Climate change is a crisis and we are not ready for its consequences. Our nature is in peril and historically responsible countries have to remedy it. Turkey is commencing the ratification process for the Paris Agreement with her 2053 vision, in the frame of its Intended Nationally Determined Contribution. Turkey also is going to make fighting climate change its mission.
Yesterday's Cabinet briefing was also a landmark moment for Turkey. Now we are on the edge of a new era. Turkey is leading the battle against climate change by setting ambitious mid and long-term targets. This leadership covers not only respecting the most vulnerable countries but also encouraging major emitters to take immediate action for the sake of the world. Green transformation and revolution are ahead of us, and we are looking forward to making this planet a better place for future generations.
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