REC supports Turkey's climate change challenges

Success at the national level proves inspiring for other REC country offices

March 21, 2009 | By Yunus Arikan
Photo: istock

Since Turkey's accession to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 2004, the country has taken promising steps in joining the global effort to meet the challenges posed by anthropogenic climate change.

In early 2007, the Turkish Ministry of Environment and Forestry submitted the country's first greenhouse gas inventory and national communication to the UNFCCC Secretariat, a report that was a result of a collaborative effort of many governmental institutions and stakeholders, and which also involved technical assistance from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and financial support from the Global Environmental Facility (GEF). Recalling the international community's 2001 recognition that Turkey's position is different from those of other Annex-I parties to the UNFCCC, the country — based on greenhouse gas emissions of approximately 300 million tonnes in 2004 — ranks as an 'advanced developing country.' In other words, Turkey's status is comparable to those of other non-EU developing countries within the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

Extreme climatic events and the latest International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports have resulted in nationwide public awareness of environmental issues, a development that led to the March 1, 2007 establishment of a Parliamentary Research Commission in the Turkish Grand National Assembly. The commission was given three months to provide key recommendations for decision makers, and the body's findings are expected to help provide significant input as Turkey develops a climate change strategy, but will also play an important role as the country starts to consider options regarding the Kyoto Protocol.

Environmental NGOs are also trying to become more active in the process. A petition demanding Turkey's ratification of the Kyoto Protocol was signed by more than 150,000 citizens in less than six weeks — much faster than expected, and a clear indication of public concern about the issue, as thousands of Turkish citizens gathered to express voluble support. Also, as part of a global campaign to raise environmental awareness, Turkish citizens can look forward to the Istanbul appearance of former US vice president Al Gore, in addition to a 'Live Earth' concert in July.

Active as a 'focal point'

Named in May 2005 by the Turkish Ministry of Environment and Forestry as a "national focal point" on education, training and public awareness, REC Turkey has been active as one of the leading institutions in facilitating the exchange of information and capacity building of various stakeholders, and thus participating in the climate change decision-making process at both national and international levels. Within this framework, REC Turkey has developed some key publications, hosted stakeholder workshops in major Turkish cities, and organised technical training courses for key negotiators of leading government, research and business institutions.

REC Turkey has also facilitated the establishment of direct contacts between Turkish NGOs and international NGO constituencies, as well as their participation at official UNFCC Conference of Parties (COP) meetings.

REC Turkey's in-depth technical information capacity and non-partisan position has led to the organisation's recognition as the first non-governmental actor to deliver a presentation to the Parliamentary Research Commission.

Based on its successful support in providing national capacity for implementation of the UNFCCC, REC Turkey is also becoming a trusted partner in the formulation of national policies and strategies related to the first and post-2012 commitment periods of the Kyoto Protocol. Because Turkey is the only Annex-I Party to the UNFCCC that is not listed in the protocol's Annex-B — meaning that Turkey is not required to have a quantified emission limitation or reduction target in the first commitment period — many negotiators have commented that Turkey could play a critical role in broadening commitments to Non-Annex-I and/or Non-Annex-B parties.

REC Turkey's success at the national level has also inspired more active involvement of other REC country offices in their national processes. REC Turkey's experience has also provided valuable insight for the REC's Climate Change Program.

"There are two main points that define the success of REC Turkey's Climate Change Program," said REC Turkey Director Sibel Sezer, "[These are] facilitation of access to information, and establishment of knowledge-based, trustworthy partnerships to fulfil international commitments. We are glad that the model is providing fruitful outcomes and being extended."

The REC is currently negotiating with the UNFCCC Secretariat to become a regional focal point in CEE for the purposes of Article 6 of the UNFCCC, within the scope of the extended New Delhi Work Programme for the period after 2007.