ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkey on Wednesday ratified the Paris climate accord, joining the global fight against climate change weeks before the start of a key summit in Glasgow, Scotland.
Legislators present in parliament unanimously approved the agreement.
Though Turkey was among the first countries to sign the Paris Agreement in 2016, it held off ratifying it as it sought to be reclassified as a developing instead of developed country to avoid harsher emission reduction targets and benefit from financial support. It was among six countries, which include Iran, Iraq, Eritrea, Libya and Yemen to not ratify it.
The approval comes ahead the climate summit, known as Cop26, which begins on Oct. 31 and aims to encourage nations to take stronger action to curb climate change.
It also comes on the heels of a series of natural disasters and extreme weather events that have hit the country and have been largely blamed on climate change, including drought, the worst wildfires in its history and deadly floods. Climate experts have warned that the Mediterranean basin, that includes Turkey, faces the risk of severe drought and desertification.
Opposition parties hailed Wednesday's ratification as a “late but historic step,” but warned that Turkey now had to take action to reduce emissions.
“We have a long to-do list ahead of us,” said Sadi Durmaz of the opposition nationalist IYI Party. “An ambitious greenhouse gas emission reduction target by 2030 should be set.”
Climate experts also welcomed the development “as the start of a new era.”
“While a new carbon-free order is being established, Turkey could not have been left out of this new order,” said Ozlem Katisoz, Climate and Energy Policy Coordinator for Turkey at Climate Action Network.
“The first step toward rapid emission reductions by 2030 should be to stop building new coal power plants and to begin a plan to shut down the existing coal capacity,” she said.
The Paris Agreement’s stated goal is to limit global warming to well below 2, preferably to 1.5 degrees Celsius, compared to pre-industrial levels. The world has already warmed 1.2 degrees Celsius since that time.
Under the agreement, nations are expected to set greenhouse gas emission-reducing actions, depending on their economic status.
Turkey’s intended nationally determined contribution was a reduction of 21% by 2030 from a projected emission of 1,175 million tons to 929 million tons. In 2012, total CO2 emissions in Turkey were around 440 million tons with the energy sector releasing 70.2% of those emissions.
Ankara has said Turkey’s greenhouse gas emissions are lower than European Union and OECD averages and is responsible for 0.7% of global emissions. It has also said the country has financial and technological constraints in combating climate change, and wants access to funds and technology to reach targets.
Turkey relies on imported fuel and natural gas along with coal-burning and hydroelectric power plants for its energy needs. However, it has ample opportunities to tap renewable energy resources, environmental groups say.
In July, wildfires devastated swathes of forest land along Turkey’s southern coast, killing eight people and forcing thousands to flee. As firefighters continued to battle blazes, parts of the country’s northern Black Sea coast were hit by floods that killed 82 people.
Earlier this year, a layer of sea mucilage covered the Sea of Marmara, threatening marine life. Meanwhile, hundreds of infant and mature flamingoes were found dead at the drought-hit Tuz Lake, a breeding spot for the birds.
The government has acknowledged that climate change is a leading reason for these disasters but has done little to protect the environment, allowing deforestation for infrastructure and mining, while pushing for urbanization across the country.
Bilginsoy reported from Istanbul.
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