Ankara has accelerated progress to mitigate negative effects of climate change as activists in Turkey say a new era in policy has begun after it ratified the Paris Agreement.
Turkey’s second-largest lake, and major tourist attraction, Lake Tuz has entirely receded this year due to climate change.
Lake Tuz (Salt Lake) straddles Turkey’s provinces of Ankara, Konya and Aksaray and it is one of the world’s largest hypersaline lakes.
It is home to several bird species, particularly flamingos, and also provides more than half of Turkey’s salt.
Lakes and marshlands make up approximately 11.4 percent of Turkey’s surface area, but scientists estimate that as much as 60 percent of the country’s 300 natural lakes have dried up over the past 50 years.
Lake Tuz in particular has shrunk by 30 percent since the 1930s due to climate-change induced droughts, and experts warn that it is on the brink of extinction.
Professor Muazzez Celik Karakaya from Konya Technical University told Hurriyet Daily News that if measures aren’t taken soon, the lake could completely disappear in up to 30 years.
Lake Tuz has not been the only victim of climate change. This year alone Turkey battled wildfires in the southern coast, heavy flooding in the northern regions, and a mucilage layer covering the Sea of Marmara.
Turkey is highly vulnerable to climate change due to its geographical features, according to the United Nations Development Programme.
In wake of these ecological disasters, what new initiatives has Turkey been doing to tackle the impacts of climate change?
Ratification of Paris climate agreement
The Turkish parliament unanimously ratified the Paris agreement, an international treaty on climate change, which seeks to limit greenhouse gas emissions in the world.
Discussions in Turkey on participation in the Paris Accord took years over its framework and responsibilities.
The United Nations and climate activists welcomed Turkey's ratification.
Formation of a Climate Council
Turkey renamed its Environment and Urbanisation Ministry as the Environment, Urbanisation and Climate Change Ministry in order to highlight its focus on climate change efforts.
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan made the announcement after a cabinet meeting in Ankara on October 11, and shortly after the minister Murat Kurum, announced the formation of a climate council.
Kurum said the council will “build a roadmap” towards tackling climate change with consultations from public and private sector representatives, universities, and youth and environmental organisations.
The minister also said future goals include establishing a Climate Change and Coordination Board, a Climate Change Research Center and a Presidency of Climate Change.
The council is expected to meet in January 2022.
Climate bill in the works
Turkey recently announced its goal to achieve net-zero emissions by 2053, as part of the country’s new “Fight Against Climate Change Declaration.”
Kurum said Turkey is working on a “climate law” which will update current policies, targets and regulations for 2050, including implementation of an emission trading system that rewards facilities that invest in cleaner production technologies.
The minister also highlighted Turkey’s new goals for renewable energy, planning to increase electricity generation from solar energy by 10 gigawatts and wind energy by 16 gigawatts by 2030.
“We will implement a system that supports climate-friendly investments and rewards facilities investing in clean production technologies. More incentives and measures will be introduced for energy producers and industrial firms to switch to climate-friendly production. By 2023, usage of fossil fuels in buildings will be reduced by 25 percent,” he said.
Turkey’s climate plan submitted to the UN Secretariat in 2015, known as the Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC), currently aims to reduce its greenhouse emissions by 21 percent by 2030.
Nation-wide climate projects
Turkey is set to receive $3.1 billion from the Green Climate Fund, established to support climate actions in developing nations, according to President Erdogan who made the announcement on Wednesday.
He said Turkey signed a memorandum of understanding to meet clean energy goals set out in the Paris climate accord, and in return receive funds for long-term financial support for public and private-sector projects related to climate change.
One such project Turkey is currently working on is examining the effects of climate change on ecosystems in currently protected areas, starting with the Gokova Special Environmental Protection Area in the southwestern province of Mugla.
Turkey’s Ministry of Environment and Urbanization said the nation-wide project will assess the vulnerability of this currently protected area and put in place resilience actions to combat the effects of climate change, such as ecosystem and habitat restorations.
Another project in the works is the Zero Waste Project launched in 2017 by First lady Emine Erdogan, that aims to increase Turkey’s recycling rate to 60 percent by 2035.
“In 2050, we will completely end the practice of disposal of waste by storing it first. In the next two years, we will increase the rate of recycled wastewater to 5 percent, and to 15 percent by 2030,” said Kurum.
These new initiatives come ahead of the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference, the COP26, which will take place in Glasgow from October 31 to November 12.