From Paris to Net Zero Emissions Target - A. Erinç Yeldan


Turkey ratified the Paris Agreement on October 7, in the Grand National Assembly of Turkey and officially declared that it would participate in the common fight against climate change.


The so-called Paris Agreement was built on the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions presented at the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP-21) convened in Paris in 2015. (The irresistible appeal of economic jargon is that it is both "nationally determined" and “intentional” as well as “contribution”…). The greenhouse gas emission reduction commitments submitted to the Paris Conference of the Parties were put into effect on 4 November 2016 under the name of the Paris Agreement. Although Turkey signed this agreement, it did not give approval from the Parliament on the grounds that, as a result of a diplomatic error from 1992 before the United Nations, it was considered as a developed country and therefore “it was not possible to access climate funds”.


The fact that this attitude, which has been delayed until now, has isolated and discredited Turkey in the field of international climate diplomacy has been repeatedly emphasized. Moreover, the technical study of the National Contribution Statement submitted by Turkey to the Paris Agreement did not put Turkey under any obligation anyway. To put it more concretely, in the official commitment document presented to the 2015 Paris COP21 Conference, Turkey predicted that greenhouse gas emissions would be reduced by 21% from the increase in 2030 compared to the reference scenario (Business-as-usual). Note that Turkey's official commitment was not to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in absolute terms, but to reduce them from a predictable increase.


Turkey's 21% reduction target from the predictable increase mentioned in the official Intended National Contributions Statement has often been criticized for being based on unrealistic random assumptions and technically inadequate modeling. As a matter of fact, CO2 equivalent emissions, which seem to have increased by 89% historically between 1990 and 2010, are predicted to jump by 126% between 2010 and 2030; Turkey was in a position to argue that it would be as if it had fulfilled its Paris obligations by seeming to reduce by 21% from this increase. The fact that these paths exhibited below lack credibility and that Turkey has not actually made a real commitment to the international climate struggle until today has undoubtedly been one of the most important factors that discredited and distrusted Turkey's efforts.



But let's go back to after Paris 2015. The scientists attending the Paris meeting emphasized that the increase in the surface temperature of our world due to the emission of greenhouse gases should be kept at 2°C (preferably 1.5°C, as will be emphasized more strongly) until the end of the century, otherwise our planet would be irreversibly destroyed.


Environmental scientists calculated that to achieve this goal, global emissions would have to be reduced to 18 billion tons. However, at the very beginning of the Paris meeting, it was seen that the commitments made by the countries were far from this target. However, at the very beginning of the Paris meeting, it was seen that the commitments made by the countries were far from this target. In the projections it presented, the World Energy Agency shared that the total emissions in the world would reach 36 billion tons by 2040, whereas the total emissions had to be reduced to 18 billion tons in order not to exceed the +2°C limit. Reducing the difference of 18 billion tons is the most important problem of the post-Paris climate struggle. These projections are summarized in the figure below.



Perhaps partly based on these findings and warnings, the fight against the international climate crisis is no longer limited to the commitments of the Paris Agreement, but has turned directly to calls for net zero emission targets. The European Green Deal announced by the European Commission in December 2019; In the USA, the New Green Deal calls proposed by Alexandria Cortez and endorsed by the US President Biden are the most important examples so far.


The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) also devoted its 2019 Report to this subject and envisioned the new green order designs as a development and industrialization strategy.


The most striking of these designs was the EU's European Green Deal (EGD) document. Within the framework of this design, it is seen that the EU is preparing to follow a new strategy altogether in order to combat climate change and environmental pollution problems in order to transform industry, agriculture, energy and consumer behavior. In line with the EGD strategy, it is aimed to transform EU member countries into an economic structure with “net zero CO2emissions” until 2050.


For this, the new economic growth strategy is based on re-manufacturing and circular economy, in which polluting sectors are rapidly transformed with renewable energy sources, the use of natural resources is given a more effective place, energy consumption based on fossil fuels is reduced gradually; A model that emphasizes energy efficiency and renewable energy sources is being designed. The application leg of the EGD system has not yet been clearly defined. In fact, for the Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM), one of the most important extensions of the system, to start with a 3-year transition period as of January 1, 2023, and then to be implemented from 2026, covering only five sectors is met with criticism for being too late. For example, the European Roundtable on Climate

Change and Sustainable Transition organization describes delays in carbon regulation at the border with the words “the mountain that labored and brought forth a mouse”. On the other hand, the EU's calls for a European Green Deal have quickly found supporters. In fact, Carbon Action Tracker, which closely recognizes the international carbon footprint, documents that some kind of net zero emission target has been announced in 120 of the 137 countries it monitors.


An important critical approach to EGD is that the EU's net zero target and the most important instrument it uses in general towards decarbonization are based on the Carbon Trading System (CTS), which is also the capitalist market system itself. Established in 2005, CTS currently encompasses approximately 11,000 companies and power plants producing electricity, oil refineries, chemicals, iron & steel, non-metallic products (cement), paper and air transport. These sectors account for 40% of the EU's total greenhouse gas emissions. It is expected that total emissions will be reduced over time and the net zero target will be achieved through the carbon market created with the concept of Limit and Trade.


Larry Lohman, in his statement, in La Nuova Ecologica magazine published in September, emphasizes that the carbon trading system actually ignores the essence of the problem and that the fossil fuel-based energy system and industrial companies throw the problem to future generations thanks to the offsets, marketization games and speculative designs created by this system. Lohman argues that the problem of the CTS climate crisis was intended to be presented as "a market stumbling block that will resolve itself when the right prices are applied," whereas at the core of the problem lies the irresistible profit rage of the capitalist unit system and the fueled consumption pattern.


The biggest obstacle to the realization of the carbon price under competitive conditions is the financial rating agencies, speculators and transnational monopolies that profit from the promotion of fossil fuels. In addition, the search for a speculation area that will take advantage of the extraordinary liquidity that the USA offers to the world money markets through quantitative easing on the one hand, and on the other hand, the annual clean development fund of 100 billion dollars, which is planned to be established within the United Nations, attracts financial speculators. After the internet bubble and real estate and housing bubbles, the international financial network and transnational monopolies await speculative profits from the fluctuations of the market, turning the air we breathe into a commercial commodity under the guise of "fighting climate change". Short-term stray decisions in this direction, on the other hand, drag the environmental pollution problem, which essentially requires a long-term strategic industrialization and energy planning, to an inextricable imbalance.


Indeed, a number of studies conducted by GreenPeace and WWF highlight that the financial system is still responsible for diverting priority in speculation and loan allocation to polluting investment areas. For example, in a UK-based research by Greenpeace and WWF, it is documented that fifteen banks and ten financial investment companies organized in the financial sector in the UK are directly responsible for a total of 805 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions. According to the research, if these twenty-five companies were registered as a country, they would be referred to as the ninth largest polluter in the world.


Another study to confirm this determination can be obtained from the data of the International Energy Agency. As it is known, the CO2 emission released to the atmosphere of our planet in a year reaches approximately 30 billion tons. When we evaluate this result not at the level of countries, but in terms of transnational companies, which are the main actors of the global production chain, we see that only twenty energy producer and distributor monopolies are responsible for 30 percent of this figure. The share of emissions caused by only the first four companies, Chevron, Exxon, BP and Russian Gasprom, in the total reaches 11.5 percent.


Therefore, we need to see that the main subject in the fight against global climate change is the "national economies", but perhaps more decisively, the transnational companies and the international financial system, which direct world trade with commodity chains and direct investments.


Let's conclude with Turkey. As you can see, very important designs, goals and discussions have taken place after the Paris Agreement, which Turkey has approved by the parliament. Until now, Turkey has avoided targeting reductions based on the data that it is responsible for only 1% of the total global emissions. However, the data documents that Turkey is among the leading countries in the world in the rate of increase in greenhouse gas emissions per capita, and with this rate, it has risen to the sixteenth rank in the world's total emissions. In 1990, greenhouse gas emission per capita in Turkey was at the level of 3.82 tons/person. In 2018, it increased to 6.10 tons/person. This means about a double increase.


It is widely believed that the fight against the climate crisis in Turkey will cause loss of income and conflict with the development goals. In fact, this misconception is unfortunately widely expressed at the level of the relevant ministries and bureaucracy. However, many of our studies covering the medium-long time horizon show that if Turkey's steps towards renewable energy sources and green transformation in agriculture and industry are combined with the real pricing of carbon, it can provide an increase of up to 7 percent in national income, and beyond that, geographically regional It predicts that a production pattern can be created in which inequalities are reduced and national security is ensured in energy.