Türkiye must act on climate for a resilient and prosperous future

Authors: Anna Bjerde and Auguste Kouame*

The alarm bells ring every day: staggering heatwaves in the Antarctic, the coldest place on the planet; life-threatening and crop-destroying heat in India; deadly cyclones and drought emergencies in Africa; severe snowstorms in northern Europe and the United States; and apocalyptic sandstorms in the Middle East.

Here in Türkiye, Istanbul has been lashed by severe snow and wind storms this winter. And, last year, floods killed over 80 people and destroyed hundreds of homes, bridges, and other infrastructure in the Black Sea region. Wildfires, the worst ever in the country, scorched coastal forestland eight times the annual average, killing people and forcing evacuations. An outbreak of sea mucilage (or sea saliva), caused by rising water temperatures and believed to be the biggest in history, damaged the fishing industry and threatened vital shipping lanes. In 2021, Türkiye suffered 107 floods, 66 forest fires, 16 snowstorms and 39 landslides, according to the Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD).

These natural disasters are sober reminders that climate change is a global emergency, requiring urgent action at both national and global levels to combat its mounting threat to people here in Türkiye and around the world.

We are heartened by Türkiye’s strong signal last year to join the global community to protect people and planet. The ratification of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change by Türkiye and its pledge to eliminate carbon emissions by 2053 are a welcome commitment to accelerate action at the national and local level to fight off a global threat. We look forward to details of Türkiye’s commitment to adopt more ambitious  plans to reduce the harmful emissions that cause climate change and adapt to a more resilient and greener future.

At the World Bank Group, we hear the alarm bells and have galvanized into action to support Türkiye and other developing countries to implement strong measures, as detailed in our Climate Change Action Plan. To build a strong analytical base to guide our work, we have launched a pioneering series of country specific reports that are the first to explore the linkages between climate and development to identify priority actions to reduce carbon emissions and build resilience, while supporting economic growth and poverty reduction. The very first of the Country Climate and Development Reports (CCDRs) covers Türkiye, with many others on the way.

The Türkiye CCDR delves deeply into the country’s unique opportunities and trade-offs for aligning its development goals with its recent commitments on climate change. While the whole report is a valuable resource, we think a crucial element is the inclusion of an illustrative strategy that combines mitigation, adaptation, and resilience, and takes into account feasibility, social and people dimensions, costs, and benefits. The strategy prioritizes supporting adaptation in the private sector and ways to enhance the resilience of critical public assets and services, agriculture systems and land use, as well as financial resilience. Such a pathway for Türkiye involves a deep decarbonization of the power sector, energy efficiency and electrification in buildings and transportation, as well as reduction of carbon emissions in industry and agriculture. These are among major changes Türkiye needs to make to reverse course as the world’s 17th largest carbon emitter and to achieve its pledge of carbon neutrality by 2053.

These actions, to boost economy-wide climate resilience and eliminate harmful emissions, will require large investments – an estimated $165 billion until 2040. We estimate that the private sector will pick up half of the cost. And these additional investments are minimal relative to the size of the Turkish economy. But the benefits they can generate are huge – $146 billion in net savings by 2040, according to our calculations. The benefits would come largely from reductions in fuel imports and health benefits from reduced air pollution and contribute to energy security and lower energy expenditures.

Such a major transition will not be easy, especially for the very people that Türkiye needs to protect. Although new ‘green’ jobs will be created, workers in multiple sectors are likely to be impacted by decarbonization, including steel, cement, aluminum, coal, manufacturing, textile, and agri-food. That is why a “Just Transition” program should be an integral part of our work on climate change. For example, this program would support workers and communities that may be adversely affected by the green transition through vocational training geared towards market needs. It would also incentivize entrepreneurship capabilities and adoption of greener technologies and practices by small and medium enterprises as well as promotes inclusive finance and participation by women and youth in the economy.

With the war in Ukraine raging at Türkiye’s doorstep and the ongoing global pandemic, there is a risk that climate change will be sidelined by other pressing needs. But inaction is no longer an option – lives and livelihoods are at stake. Extraordinary times require extraordinary effort – a massive, global effort that will silence the climate alarm bells.

In Türkiye, the World Bank looks forward to continuing engaging with a broad set of stakeholders who need to be part of the country’s green transition, and we stand ready with financing, technical expertise and evidence-based research and analytics in expanding our support to help Türkiye’s people achieve a more resilient and sustainable economy and future.

*Auguste Kouame is the World Bank’s Country Director for Türkiye

Originally published in Turkish in Dünya Gazetesi/ World Bank

Anna Bjerde
Anna Bjerde
Vice President, World Bank