Climate Change

29 Sep 2021

Turkey to Ratify Paris Climate Agreement

29 Sep 2021  by   

Turkey will take steps to ratify its commitments under the 2016 Paris climate agreement. This could reduce the country's demand for fossil fuels in the long term, but is unlikely to have any short-term impact.

President Tayyip Erdogan said the agreement will be presented to parliament next month, and the approval process will be completed before the UN Cop 26 conference in Glasgow in November. The process should be smooth, as Erdogan's AKP party and its ally MHP have a majority in parliament.

No details of the climate goals were disclosed, but Erdogan said: "Whoever has done the most damage to nature, to our atmosphere, our water, our soil and the earth, and whoever has wildly exploited natural resources, should also make the greatest contribution to the fight against climate change" — which might imply that the country is not planning to set itself an ambitious target.

Attempts to reduce Turkish emissions will face structural and financial obstacles, with gas and coal-fired generation heavily embedded in the power mix.

Turkey has 8.9GW of imported coal-fired capacity, with most of this launched after 2010 and in the early stages of its economic lifespan. Another imported coal-fired generation unit, the 1.3GW Hunutlu plant, is due to start operations later this year.

Little alternative to thermal for base load

Turkey's economy has continued to grow swiftly, so the country not only needs to replace existing thermal generation plants with renewable resources, but must also build new capacity.

Turkey's transmission system operator (TSO) sees power capacity rising by nearly 31.8GW in 2022-31 to 127.7GW.

Imported coal accounted for 17-20pc of Turkey's annual power generation in 2017-20, with generation from imported coal, lignite and natural gas making up around 60pc of the mix.

The majority of the country's imported-coal-fired plants are expected to reach the end of their economic lifespan by around 2050, which could be chosen as a target date for a carbon-neutral economy. But it remains to be seen which power source the country will invest in to secure its base-load power needs for the subsequent decades.

The 4.8GW Akkuyu nuclear plant, due on line in 2023, will help meet rising power demand in the short term. But the country is not expected to retire any coal-fired capacity soon because it would jeopardise energy supply security.

Coal-fired plants can run for over 40 years if they are maintained properly, but some participants said Turkish plants would struggle to stay operational beyond 2050 as finding parts and maintenance staff will be challenging as coal-sector investment declines globally.

Changes triggered by EU carbon policies

Turkey's trade and environment ministries are already investigating the implications of the EU's upcoming carbon levy.

The country is expected to take steps towards bringing itself in line with EU environmental policies as the bloc is its largest trade partner. Turkey gained partial access to the EU market after joining the customs union in 1995.

But the transition means higher costs for Turkey, which does not have the same level of economic reserves and also suffers from a chronic trade deficit with the EU. This implies the future of the trade relationship could be strained unless the country is granted a multi-decade transition period and access to EU grants to soften the impact of structural changes that risk pushing a portion of its population into poverty.

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