Biden summit and Turkey's dim future with Erdoğan

Turkey’s AKP-MHP government is busy wasting the future of its 84 million people as it focuses on saving the day on the party’s own behalf. No, the subject is not their reckless sale of the central bank’s  $128 billion foreign exchange reserves that will take more than a decade to replace.  The focus of this article is the major global "Climate Agreement," which will mark the legacy of the Biden administration.

Global warming is perhaps the most important problem today and in the near future, especially given the G20’s contribution to it. Turkey too plays an important role and is among the countries that will suffer the most from global warming in the fields of agriculture and tourism.  Changes in precipitation and temperature patterns, increasing floods and droughts, falling crop and animal yields, emerging pests, increasing need for pesticides and fertilisers, and deteriorating soils are important problems facing Turkey along with climate change.

The United States aims to reduce its carbon emissions below 2005 levels by the end of the next decade, to half of the current levels. That was the surprise ambitious announcement made on the first day of President Biden's global leaders' summit on the environment. If the US really mobilises  world leaders and succeeds, it will have far-reaching consequences, not only in America, but on a global scale. Putting climate change at the heart of the U.S. strategy to recover the coronavirus hit economy via  $5 trillion (25 percent of GDP) incentives along with a very successful vaccination program, the country will start its huge green focused infrastructure investments starting from June.   

Biden's promise of a more egalitarian, sustainable and greener America includes clear and ambitious climate goals such as decarbonising electricity generation, an interim target of zero emissions from the energy sector by 2035, and 100 per cent clean energy and net zero carbon emissions by 2050. By 2030, the amount of energy generated from offshore wind turbines, which amounts to 8.4 per cent of the total, will be doubled.

In addition to promises to create new efficiency standards for devices and buildings, the US is also promising to increase its electric grid capacity to make it easier for more electric vehicles as it moves away from fossil fuels. A significant portion of the funding for this plan will be provided through tax increases on corporate American companies and a carbon tax in particular.

Similar preparations have been made on the EU side for years. The plan to manage climate change is integrated into  the Paris Agreement that has been approved by 191 countries out of 197 countries around the world since it was launched in 2016. Since Ursula von der Leyen became President of the EU Commission, the bloc has become more serious about pressuring countries with strong trade ties to comply with carbon emissions standards. 

The European Green Deal is a new growth strategy aimed at transforming Europe into a resource-efficient and competitive economy, especially during the recovery after the pandemic; the main axis on which all EU policies and investments will be determined, from transport to taxation, food to farming, industry to infrastructure.  In fact, investments through the Green Deal are planned to exceed €1 trillion  over the next five years.

Turkey is one of the first signatories to the Paris Agreement, but the only G20 member and still one of six countries in the world that have yet to ratify the agreement, including Eritrea, Iraq, Iran, Libya and Yemen. The Paris Agreement is a legally binding international agreement on climate change adopted at COP21 in Paris in December 2015 and entered into force in November 2016. It aims to limit global warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius and preferably 1.5 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels.

The parties to the agreement offer commitments to fight climate change with nationally determined contributions (NDC). The countries aim to achieve climate neutral greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

The reason Turkey has not ratified the Paris Agreement is that it is classified as a "developed country" and cannot benefit from financial support granted to "developing countries" such as South Korea, Argentina, Brazil, China, Chile, Mexico and Saudi Arabia. This is not an insurmountable obstacle and it should not  block the Agreement’s ratification by Turkey.

Today, strategies for the transition to a low carbon economy shape not only industries, but also the politics of countries. In February, a petition launched by 37 Turkish NGOs for Turkey to ratify the Paris Agreement was submitted to the Parliament, but there was no positive response. Turkey is losing time by sticking only to its argument that it is in the wrong category and failing to take its place in the world while its climate goals redefine international relations.

Because Turkey  has not ratified the Paris Agreement, it is not part of the group of countries that define the framework of politics, trade and the economy of the future. It is unable to attract the funds needed to achieve sustainable growth in the current economic difficulties. The country lags behind and is bound with the AKP’s existing strategies creating poor quality growth that fuels macroeconomic imbalances.

Addressing the leaders of the world's 40 major economies at the Climate Summit, President Erdogan therefore has little to say beyond describing the National Gardens and reforestation efforts. So far, he has not understood that EU funds for producing green energy will gradually be diminished.

If the government does not ratify the Paris Climate Agreement, Turkey will fail to issue  a substantial number of Green Bonds and will not be able to attract much-needed investment to mitigate the effects of climate change.

In the near future, countries that do not commit to reducing carbon emissions, make no progress towards achieving this and fail to create green transformation will increasingly lose competitiveness in global trade.

By delaying the ratification of this agreement, the AKP government not only fails to make Turkey one of the countries with a say in the international arena, but also deprives it of its share of global trade and global investments, preventing both Turkey's growth and the solution of important macroeconomic problems such as unemployment, inflation and the current account deficit.





The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Ahval.

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