Turkey ratifies Paris climate agreement; last G-20 country to do so

An activist attends the Global Climate Strike in Istanbul, Turkey, on Sept 24, 2021. PHOTO: REUTERS

ISTANBUL (REUTERS) - Turkey's parliament ratified the Paris climate agreement on Wednesday (Oct 6), making it the last Group of 20 country to do so, after holding off for years due to what it saw as injustices in its responsibilities as part of the agreement.

Turkey has been a signatory to the Paris agreement since April 2016. But Ankara had not ratified the deal, arguing that it should not be considered a developed country as part of the agreement, which gives it more responsibility, as Turkey is historically responsible for a very small share of carbon emissions.

Announcing that Turkey would ratify the deal at the United Nations General Assembly last month, President Tayyip Erdogan said countries that have a "historical responsibility" for climate change should make the most effort.

"Whoever made the most damage to nature, our air, our water, our soil, the earth; whoever savagely exploited natural resources needs to make the largest contribution to the fight against climate change," he said.

On Wednesday, 353 members of Turkey's parliament ratified the agreement unanimously.

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) currently lists Turkey in the Annex I group, described as industrialised countries.

A statement approved by parliament said Turkey was ratifying the deal as a developing country and would implement it as long as it did not "harm its right to economic and social development." Turkey has also sent a proposal to UNFCCC Secretariat in Bonn, Germany, to have its name removed from the Annex I list.

The proposal is on the provisional agenda for the COP26 Climate Change Conference to be held in Glasgow from Oct 31 to Nov 12.

If Turkey is removed from the Annex I list of countries, it would be able to benefit from investment, insurance and technology transfer that can be provided as part of the agreement.

Fires and floods

Speaking in parliament, main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) parliamentarian Jale Nur Sullu said it was unclear what the result of ratifying the deal as a developing country would be without the status change being approved at the climate conference.

The Paris agreement aims to limit the global average temperature rise to "well below" 2 deg C above pre-industrial levels and "make efforts" to limit it to 1.5 deg C.

The 1.1 deg C warming already recorded has been enough to unleash disastrous weather, including the recent fires in Turkey, Greece and the United States.

Some of the worst wildfires in Turkey's history killed eight people and devastated tens of thousands of hectares of forest in the south-west this summer. The fires were followed closely by floods that killed at least 77 people in the north.

Sera Kadigil Sutlu, member of the Workers' Party of Turkey, questioned whether the government would abandon industrial projects criticised as harmful to the environment after the agreement is ratified.

"Will you ban metallic mining in the Black Sea (region), for example? Will you turn back on ridiculous projects like Kanal Istanbul?... I know you won't," she said.

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