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Paris Climate Agreement: Signed or Implemented? - Başak Bozoğlu

Recently, climate change has increased both its individual and social impact in many areas. From documentaries to columns, from brands to factories, climate change practices are discussed. An almost forgotten debate resurfaced last week. President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced at the United Nations (UN) General Assembly that they plan to submit the Paris Climate Agreement to the Grand National Assembly of Turkey (TBMM) for approval. The first question that comes to mind is whether Turkey signed The Paris Agreement or not put it into practice. Why is such a statement being made now?

First of all, before answering the main question, it is necessary to explain the Paris Agreement and its political implications briefly. The Paris Agreement is a global agreement signed in 2015 under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and entered into force in 2016. 195 countries signed the Paris agreement, but the six signatories did not implement the agreement. Eritrea, Iranian, Libya, Yemen, and Turkey are countries that do not implement the agreement. Among these six countries, Turkey is in the top 20 in carbon-emitting.

The Paris Agreement, for the first time, takes the fight against climate change from an individual, regional or administrative concept and creates a global scope. The fundamental aim is to limit global average temperature rise to 2°C or even pursue to limit 1.5°C because of maintaining environmental diversity and habitats and reduce the hazardous impacts of climate change. The primary way to achieve this goal is to reduce the use of fossil fuels by countries and reach the net-zero by reducing carbon emissions with renewable energy sources. For this purpose, The Paris Agreement's goal is to mitigate the effects of climate change, financial planning in climate change adaptation, and support countries for economic and social transformation requirements while reducing global warming.

Interestingly, United States was the first and only country to withdraw from the agreement among the countries that signed the agreement. Former president of the United States, Donald Trump, announced that he was officially withdrawing from the Paris Agreement in June 2017. According to the rules, the United States must have spent three years in the agreement to exit the agreement, and exit takes effect exactly one year after the official application. Therefore, the USA became the first and only country to withdraw from the 195 countries that signed the agreement in November 2020. The USA ranks second after China in greenhouse gas emissions in the entire world. This move by the USA encouraged other countries that use fossil fuels not to stay in the agreement. Hence, it created many discussions and problems to avoid producing a solution with the Paris Agreement. However, former US president Trump used the expression "killing employment" for the agreement and said that "while enriching foreigners who pollute the environment, Paris Agreement will punish the American right." Trump argues that investing to reduce emissions means more costs for heavy industry, which also means less employment for American citizens. After the presidential elections in the USA, President Biden announced that their administration found the former decision unacceptable and signed the Paris Agreement again in 2021. Biden administration claim that the USA will reduce emissions by 60 percent in 2030 and reduce emissions to 0 by 2050. Moreover, China, the world leader in carbon emissions, has committed to reducing its carbon emissions to zero by 2060.

In 2020, European Commission published a Fossil CO2 emissions of all world countries. In this report, Turkey stood out as the European country that experienced the highest increase in CO2 emissions, increasing 186.6 percent between 1990 and 2020. Although Turkey signed the agreement, it did not have a comprehensive carbon emission reduction plan because it did not implement it. Turkey is the only G20 country that has not ratified the Paris Agreement and has not had nationally determined contribution (NDCs) for the carbon emission problem since 2021. However, the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, in his speech at the UN General Assembly held in New York on September 21, ratified the Paris Climate Agreement and announced that they would become a party to the agreement. President Erdoğan says that "Turkey is taking a historic step on climate change, one of the first and most critical steps of our 2053 vision. It was among the countries that ratified the Paris Climate Agreement in 2015. However, due to the injustices in the provisions, we did not initiate the approval process in Parliament. We decided to approve this agreement in our Parliament." Why Turkey decided to put the agreement into practice now aroused curiosity.

According to experts, Turkey complains about the lack of access to climate funds and sufficient financial resources such as the Green Climate Fund. Turkey is trying to find financial support through the Green Climate Fund by leaving the Annex-1 list covering developed countries. Although it was promised that a total of 100 billion dollars will be transferred annually to developing countries for harmonization actions, starting from 2020, 10 billion dollars have yet been collected in this fund. The Paris agreement evaluates the distinction between countries that will receive or will receive aid in two categories as "developed" and "developing" countries. Although Turkey is a developing country, it cannot benefit from the support provided by the Paris Agreement, as it is in the developed country group in the UNFCCC. Currently, the most considerable development is the strategy of creating a new and additional financial burden with exports to EU countries if the necessary measures are not taken due to the carbon regulations contained in the EU Green Deal. Therefore, Turkey decided to implement the Paris Agreement, as the economic cost of not joining the agreement could be greater than the cost of joining.

Paris Agreement actually is not even an "agreement" in the true sense of the word. It is a non-binding agreement that covers all countries at all levels, both in terms of welfare and level of responsibility in climate change, and aims to reduce local emissions for achieving the global impact of reducing hazardous effects of climate change. For this reason, it is extremely important for countries to announce their plans to reduce their carbon emissions to zero within the scope of the agreement, find financial support, and provide adaptation within the process.


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