Turkey and global warming

07 May 2006

Before the next heat waves hit the country, Turkey is speeding up its efforts for the prevention of global warming.

Within the scope of the project for the preparation of the Initial National Communications (INC) of Turkey on Climate Change, which will reveal the measures taken so far by Turkey for the implementation of UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), numerous awareness-raising meetings were held for different public segments during February and March. The Preparation of the INC of Turkey project is jointly conducted by the Turkish Ministry of Environment and Forestry, the UNDP and the Global Environment Facility (GEF).

The latest of these meetings, held in Ankara on 23 March 2006, addressed civil society organisations (NGOs). In the forum entitled Climate Change and Civil Society Organisations, all concerned NGOs came together and shared information about their activities on the subject. The purpose of the forum was to direct NGO activities towards the same goal and to create synergy and cooperation between NGOs, related research institutions and governmental organs.

The causes of climate change, its effects and possible outcomes; Turkeys contribution to global climate change and its commitments to UNFCCC as a Party country ; adaptation projects to tackle the challenges of global warming; and alternative energy resources were among the topics discussed during the forum, followed by NGOs presentations of their activities, their concerns, and expectations from the government.

The forum was chaired by Deputy Undersecretary of the Ministry of Environment and Forestry (MEF) Prof. Mustafa Öztürk. Environment Management Deputy Director of MEF Fevzi Isbilir, Prof. Nüzhet Dalfes of Istanbul Technical University, Çukurova Universitys Project Coordinator for TUBITAKs ICCAP (Impact of Climate Changes on Agricultural Production System in Arid Areas) Project Prof. Riza Kanber, Environment and Sustainable Development Programme Coordinator of UNDP Turkey Dr. Katalin Zaim, Initial National Communications of Turkey on Climate Change/GEF Project Coordinator Dr. Günay Apak, and Assoc. Prof. Filiz Karaosmanoglu of Istanbul Technical University attended the forum as speakers.

Deputy Undersecretary of MEF Prof. Mustafa Öztürk said, Turkey is among those countries which will be most affected by climate changes. Although in many provinces of Turkey the sulphur dioxide emission is much lower compared to EU countries, particle pollution resulting from greenhouse gases is high. Nearly 50% of all waste produced in Turkey are collected regularly and systemmatically, but the methane gas (a type of greenhouse gas) accumulating in dumping grounds is not recycled, hence resulting in energy loss. The rest of the waste produced is haphazardly disposed of, without any control, and the methane emitting from these waste materials mixes into the atmosphere.

Environment Management Deputy Director of MEF Fevzi Isbilir talked about the distribution of fossil fuel emissions in the world, stating that in 1995 the developed countries accounted for the majority of fossil fuel-based greenhouse gas emission into the atmosphere with 73%, but projections for the year 2035 indicate that the percentage will be equally shared by 50% between the developed and the developing counties by then. Isbilir said, Turkey contributed a tiny 0.7% to the worldwide energy-based carbondioxide emission in 2001.

At the end of the forum, the participants unanimously agreed on the necessity of taking preventive measures against climate change in Turkey, by producing more local data in this area and sharing them with international sources.

Within the scope of activities in the area of climate change, a training seminar was conducted with the support of international experts during 6-10 March, for all related institutions, including the State Institute of Statistics, to enhance their capacities in the Uncertainty Management of Greenhouse Gas Emission Inventory.

During March 2-3, a workshop was held on the Relationship between Climate Change and Land Use and the Impacts of Climate Change, Vulnurability and Adaptation. Researchers, and authorities of the State Meteorological Services and Ministry of Environment and Forestry Directorate of Research and Development contributed to the organisation of the workshop in which 70 people participated, including representatives from several NGOs and related governmental bodies. The workshop focused on the assesment of the impacts of climate change and the adaptation process, and on determining the areas where project activities should be carried out.

During the National Energy Efficiency Week in February, Dr. Günay Apak presented the UNDP-supported activities realized in Turkey in the area of Climate Change and the management of the GEF project at the Energy Efficiency Conference held in February 23-24, 2006. As part of the weekly events, UNDP Turkey set up a stand to share its ongoing activities with the public.

Within the framework of the efforts to prepare Turkeys initial greenhouse gas emission inventory, a Greenhouse Gas Inventory Training programme was organized in February 7-9 with the support of the European Environment Agency, from which 27 authorized experts benefited. During the training, the participants gained significant experience in emission calculation and the emission factor selection techniques appropriate for Turkey.

Another training programme on Effective Communication was held in February 2-3, attended by 26 participants from various ministries, which focused on the interdisciplinary methods of effective communication and information sharing in the area of climate change.

All of these activities have been carried out within the framework of the project supported by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) with a fund of 405,000 US Dollars and jointly implemented by the Turkish Government and UNDP. (For more information on GEF, please see www.thegef.org) The project studies the probable impacts of climate change and prepares Turkeys greenhouse gas emission inventory, as well as assessing the countrys projected greenhouse gas emission figures until the year 2020. Within the scope of the project, alternative energy scenarios and preventive measures to reduce gas emission will be evaluated. The project currently prepares Turkeys Initial National Communications on Climate Change with the assistance of mostly local experts, and conducts public awareness-raising campaigns.

International efforts in the area of Climate Change

The Earths climate has altered several times during certain periods in the history of its evolution, due to natural causes. These alterations which were previously considered normal, are now seen as the detrimental result of human activity, and today the global climate change has become a source of threat for the whole world. Scientists now talk about a new type of climate change which they expect to create a huge impact on human life and the ecosystem.

More and more amounts of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases accumulate in the atmosphere, due to the consumption of fossil fuels, energy production, deforestry, industrialization and other man-made causes. Increasing greenhouse gases cover our planet like a blanket and prevent the escape of energy from the earth and the atmosphere, thus causing a dangerous over-heating which threatens natural climatic cycles.

The first evidences of the negative impact of human activity on the climate were discovered during the First World Climate Conference held in 1979. Alongside the increased sensitivity of the public opinion on environmental issues during the 1980s, international governments have also become more aware of the issues concerning the climate. United Nations General Assembly adopted a decision in 1988 to call for the conservation of the global climate for the welfare of present and future generations. In the same year, the administrative organs of the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) founded the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to research, study and evaluate scientific data in this area.

At the Second World Climate Conference, IPCC called for a treaty on a global scale on climate change and in March 21st, 1994 the UNFCCC (UN Framework Convention on Climate Change) was adopted. UNFCCCs aim is to prevent further damage caused by man-made greenhouse gas emission on the climatic system which has reached dangerous proportions and confine it to a certain level. 188 countries and the European Union have signed the Convention since the date of its ratification . Turkey joined the UNFCCC as the 189th member country at a rather late date of 24 May, 2004.