Can Turkey Break the Copenhagen Deadlock?


Turkey is being suggested as a "bridge between East and West" on climate change too. Photo of the Bosphorus Bridge spanning Europe and Asia by Jennifer Hattam.

As a city that literally straddles Europe and Asia, Istanbul -- and, by extension, Turkey -- has been endlessly described as a "bridge" between East and West. But the manager of a international program on cities and global warming has actually managed to put a new spin on that old cliché -- by suggesting that Turkey could bridge the gap between developed and developing countries on climate change.Like Mexico and South Korea, Turkey is a member of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) group of industrialized nations, but falls into an in-between category of countries that do not have to make emission-reduction commitments under the Kyoto Protocol until 2012. But unlike those other two nations, Turkey, which ratified the agreement in February, has not yet set a voluntary target for itself.

Rift Over Responsibility for Cutting Emissions
By doing so, Yunus Arıkan, the manager of the ICLEI - Local Governments for Sustainability's Cities Climate Center in Bonn, Germany, told the Turkish newspaper Today's Zaman, "Turkey can lead the definition of a new group of countries that would have responsibilities that are less binding than those for developed countries but more ambitious than major emitters" such as Brazil, China, and India.

The rift over who will bear responsibility for cutting emissions -- and by how much -- has been a major stumbling block in international negotiations over climate change and is threatening to scuttle the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP-15) meetings next month in Copenhagen.

'A Lack of Trust Between Developed and Developing Countries'
"Currently, there is a lack of trust between developed and developing countries.... Developing countries will continue to say that they cannot bear the burden if the developed world does not take more responsibility," Arıkan told Today's Zaman. "Turkey can show the leadership that can narrow this gap."

Though Turkey's per-capita annual emissions are still relatively low -- 4.5 tons compared to 11 tons in Denmark and 23.5 tons in the United States -- they are rapidly increasing as the country grows and modernizes. Arıkan believes that Turkish officials should take a "proactive" stance about how the country wants to be classified in any follow-up agreement to Kyoto, and begin working toward reducing emissions in an economically feasible way.

Shifting to a Low-Carbon Economy
"Turkey has renewable energy resources such as wind, sun, bio-mass, and hydro energy. There is a huge efficiency potential in Turkey as well," Arıkan said. "If these resources can be mobilized in collaboration with the rest of the world, it will be easier for Turkey to shift to a low-carbon economy."

Such a shift, along with China's "extensive and often dramatic efforts" to do similarly, would do more than reduce Turkey's own impact on global warming, Arıkan believes. It would also create a viable model for other emerging economies, helping forge a middle way for such countries to contribute to a solution without bearing an unfair burden.

"When I was proposing that Turkey be a party to the Kyoto Protocol without a reduction commitment four years ago, everybody at home and abroad was laughing at me," said Arıkan, who lobbied for ratification as the senior project manager for the Turkey office of the Regional Environmental Center for Central and Eastern Europe (REC). "Once again, I hear similar responses when I say that Turkey is the key to ending the Copenhagen deadlock, but there is not a better proposal at the table, neither for Turkey nor for the world." Via: "Yunus Arıkan: Turkey can be key to opening Copenhagen deadlock," Today's Zaman
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Did Rich Countries Leave Bangkok Climate Talks in Stalemate?
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Tags: Developing Nations | Global Climate Change | Turkey