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Turkey’s ongoing investment in expanding coal power production is in strong contrast to the need for the world to fully decarbonise the power sector by 2050. In addition to the operating 67 units of coal-fired power plants (emitting 72 MtCO2 a year), six units are under construction, and more than 73 units are planned. If all of these units were built, the total emissions from coal would increase annual Turkish emissions by at least 40%
While the stated aim for this coal expansion is improved energy security, water shortages are already casting doubt on the operating efficiency, output and reliability of thermal power plants in this region and these stresses are expected to intensify. The government is also likely to be overestimating future electricity demand by up to 25%.
The ongoing reduction in the costs of renewable energy technology and storage mean that reliable power can be obtained cost-effectively without resorting to coal-powered generation – or its planned nuclear power plants. Combined with the large co-benefits of reduced air pollution from fossil fuel use, as well as projected economic damages from climate change, this raises questions about the impact of the suggested pathway on future economic development in Turkey.
Turkey submitted its Intended National Determined Contribution (INDC) on 30 September 2015, with a greenhouse gas reduction target (including land use, land use change and forestry (LULUCF)) of up to 21% below business as usual (BAU) in 2030 (The Republic of Turkey, 2015). Excluding LULUCF emissions, the target in the INDC is equivalent to a 348% increase from 1990 levels, or a 97% increase from 2012 levels. As of 9 October 2017 Turkey has not yet ratified the Paris Agreement, awaiting confirmation that they will be treated as a developing country and therefore eligible for the Green Climate Fund (Financial Times, 2017).
We rate Turkey’s NDC target “Critically Insufficient”. Turkey’s commitment is not in line with interpretations of a “fair” approach in line with holding warming below 2°C, let alone with the Paris Agreement’s stronger 1.5°C limit. This means that if most other countries followed Turkey’s approach, global warming would exceed 3–4°C.