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Climate negotiator Rende: Turkey ready to do its part on climate change

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Issue date: 
8 January 2012
Publisher Name: 
Sundays Zaman
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Turkey is emerging in the UN as a country that is working for the common good of the world with regard to climate change and one that is interested in a positive agenda, Turkey’s climate change chief negotiator Mithat Rende has said in an interview with Sunday’s Zaman.

As he summed up Turkey’s efforts within the UN to help reduce the adverse effects of climate change, he highlighted the country’s role as a contributor to a new and legally binding agreement that would finally mobilize all parties signatory to it to take measures towards “saving the earth.”

Speaking after the approval in Durban, South Africa, of a roadmap for a post--2012 climate change regime, Rende expressed hope that efforts would soon result in a document that would be legally binding on all parties to it. As a result, he hopes that the foreseeable adverse effects of climate change might be kept to a minimum, before it is too late. “Turkey knows the danger of the approaching change in our climate and is taking solid measures to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions [GHG],” Rende said as he declared that Turkey was among the countries which took climate change “very seriously,” due to it being situated in a highly vulnerable zone.

Although predictions point to a possible meltdown in the world ecosystem if anthropogenic interference with the world’s climate is not reduced immediately, Rende is optimistic that all parties would be legally bound by the new document to keep the average increase in global temperature below 2°C, after which the results of climate change might prove too catastrophic for the continuation of human existence on the planet.

“Turkey, through its own means and domestic resources, has reduced its GHG emissions by 20 percent since 1990,” Rende said of Turkey’s progress on the road to drastic reduction in the emissions of GHG, concentrations of which in the atmosphere are believed to be the main trigger of temperature increase on earth. On the other hand, Rende noted, Turkey has also invested $2 billion in forestry over the past few years, and the positive effects of that are not included in the country’s GHG reduction statistics. Although Turkey has only opened a few chapters in its EU accession process, climate is one of those few. This is a sign that the country is quite concerned with what the world might face in a matter of only a few decades.

The Durban meeting in November was the most recent addition to a long series of meetings held annually under the title of Conferences of the Parties (COP), which convenes as part of The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC or FCCC), an environmental treaty that was brought to life in 1992. “Climate change has evolved to the level of a global threat, with manmade causes and with results that will affect the whole of humanity,” Rende explained the start of the process back in 1992, which drew the world’s attention after the Kyoto Protocol fell short of creating the desired effects due to gaps in participation. “The reason why the Kyoto agreements were not sufficient in tackling climate change was because the total emissions of the countries that made a commitment to the protocol were causing only 32 percent of the total damage,” Rende said, concluding that although Kyoto was well intended, “it would not do the job” without the participation of major emitters.

“A system that does not include the big emitters, mainly the US and China, naturally does not work, which brought us to the critical point where we need a common document that is legally binding on all parties to it, but that also recognizes differences in the responsibilities of countries,” Rende further elaborated on the new agreement that is scheduled to be finalized by the end of 2015 and put into effect by 2020. “The responsibilities of different countries are not the same: The duties that fall on, for instance, the US and Turkey should not be the same,” he said in the hope that the differentiated approach of the new system would succeed, since it would place varying obligations on each country according to its respective capabilities, meaning that what a big emitter has to do to uphold its obligations would not be the same as a smaller, or poorer, country.

“Climate negotiations have for too long been a battle between developed and developing countries, since the rich are the biggest emitters and also have a historical responsibility,” Rende said, clarifying that the new system would take into account details pertaining to each country, with some countries having been emitting GHGs since the 1850s, while others only for the last few decades. Developed countries will also be responsible for providing financial and technical support to developing countries in order to contribute to their “resilience,” since a low carbon economy would also mean that they will further fall behind competition in the global markets.

Climate change process will define development paradigm of 21st century

As countries implement measures to reduce their emission levels, they will also have to change the way they produce energy, as well as the way they use it, since a low-carbon economy will be the main goal of climate conscious countries, Rende explained. He also raised an issue regarding the potential of GHG reduction in drastically decreasing a country’s ability to compete in the global marketplace. “The moment you spell low carbon economy, it is also the moment you have think about developing a new energy policy, a sustainable development policy and new approaches in the way you handle forestry, agriculture and transportation,” he added, claiming that tackling climate change will also define the development paradigm of the new century.

Given the fact that a low carbon economy, although pricy for developing nations, would be beneficial for the world in every possible way, Rende suggested that all countries must be bound by the new system and that “wild” capitalism needs to be slowed down. “Producing fast and producing cheap are the main goals of the global powers, but the new system will make the polluter pay -- which means that there is a cost to the pollution that you create and that will inevitably end up raising the price of your goods,” he added.

However, Rende also voiced concern over the fact that many countries which subscribed to Kyoto were beginning to withdraw from the protocol before the start of its second term of commitment, due to begin in January 2013, in protest of the fact that major emitters are already absent from the agreement. “Canada, Russia and Japan have said they will break their commitment to Kyoto next year, which means that the 32 percent reduction Kyoto was able to maintain will now fall even lower,” he said. However, he expressed hope that countries might individually work to keep their emissions low, much like Turkey, also a non-Kyoto country. “We were hoping that emission reduction would remain stable under Kyoto until 2020, but now all hopes have been deferred to that date when the new agreement will take effect,” Rende continued, expressing frustration that “such a burning matter” would have to wait until 2020. EU countries, on the other hand, have said that they would still abide by Kyoto for the next eight years.

The chief climate negotiator also noted that the EU was the most contributive element in the process, since European countries are in danger if the expected rise in sea levels occurs in 2050. This would result in the loss of all deltas, making food the rarest commodity on earth and diminishing energy security. “Many countries will be left under water if the sea level rises by one meter, and others will simply be rendered uninhabitable in many corners of the world,” Rende said, giving a glimpse of the major disaster scenarios predicted by experts unless immediate action is taken to prevent climate change.


Extpub | by Dr. Radut