Climate change: The biggest threat facing humankind

According to the Stern Report published by British Government, climate change creates serious global threats and actions should be taken globally as soon as possible.

The last report of IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) states that between 1906 and 2005 the temperature of the earth increased 0.74ºC.

Greenhouse Effect
70% of the energy passes through atmosphere during the day. The remaining 30% is either captured or reflected back to the earth by the clouds. These are mostly invisible beams of light which are absorbed by the earth and turns into heat. The heat is then reflected upward again as a type of slow-moving energy called infrared radiation. Some of this heat cannot escape from the atmosphere as it is absorbed by the "greenhouse gases" such as carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane. These gases regulate our climate by trapping heat and holding it in a kind of warm-air blanket that surrounds the planet. This phenomenon is what scientists call the "greenhouse effect."

Greenhouse effect is a natural mechanism that keeps the heat scattered from the earth.
The average temperature on earth is 14ºC (57ºF). In the lack of greenhouse effect this would be -19ºC (-2ºF). The most important greenhouse gases on earth are carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2 O) and chloro fluoro carbon (CFC) which dominate in holding the heat of the atmosphere by 97%. The components of the greenhouse gases –especially CO2 – and their effects on climate have been discussed intensely. The proportion of these gases in the atmosphere has been gradually increasing in the last 250 years, and with a rapid pace in the last fifty years.

Today, the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere is 385 ppm (parts per million).  
Before industrialization, this amount was around 280 ppm. By analyzing a piece of ice from Antarctica, the scientists saw that the CO2 amount has reached its highest rate in the last 650,000 years. This shows how greenhouse effect becomes more effective and the earth gets warmer. The rise on the temperature is higher on the lands compared to the seas so it is more effective on the northern hemisphere. There’s also an increase in the heat waves and hard rains. Ice on the top of the mountains melts away while the level of the oceans rises. These are all natural results of the global warming.

Stern Report states that it is highly possible to have a rate of 550 ppm CO2 in 2035.
At this level, the risk rate of an additional 2°C global warming is 77%. Unless global actions are taken, the greenhouse gas level will triple its current amount at the end of this century. This shows that in the coming decades the risk of an additional 5°C global warming will be about 50%.

Such a change in temperature will also affect the physical geography of the world which will result in a radical change in social demography creating basic differences in the ways of living.

Global steps regarding climate change
With the formation of awareness on environment and that the serious threats of destruction of environment on living life, important steps are taken in the international arena.

The first step of the process was The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), established in 1988 under the auspices of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) for the purpose of assessing “the scientific, technical and socioeconomic information relevant for the understanding of the risk of human-induced climate change.

With the perception that global warming would create serious results and that the warming was mainly created by the activities of humans, countries needed to take actions against global warming with the leadership of UN.

As a second big step, at the Rio Summit “United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)” was opened to signing, and this was especially important for developed countries to start taking serious actions.

The Kyoto Protocol was signed by the UN countries that were together at Kyoto in 1997 and took effect on February 16, 2005. The major feature of the Kyoto Protocol is that it sets binding targets for 37 industrialized countries and the European community for reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. This amount stands to an average of 5% against 1990 levels over the five-year period 2008-2012. This target is the first big step taken within the context of United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Towards 2009 Climate Conference in Copenhagen
On December 7-18, 2009, IPCC will meet together with 192 countries’ representatives. The aim of the conference is to enlarge the coverage of United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and to find solutions to the problems created by the climate change. The developed countries are expected to adhere strictly to the new agreement and to decrease their greenhouse emissions until 2020. The most important issue here is the activities to decrease greenhouse emissions and how to finance them.

The policy of Turkey on global climate change
Since the Rio Summit in 1992, Turkey declared that in principle it supports the idea of decreasing greenhouse emissions. As an OECD member, Turkey would both be included in Annex 1 parties as one of the priority countries to decrease greenhouse emissions and in Annex 2 lists where it would financially and technically support developing countries to decrease their greenhouse emissions. Being on both lists, Turkey hesitated to sign the protocol with the concern that it could slow down its economic development.

Turkey’s point of view on UNFCCC during 1992-1997 periods (from Rio to Kyoto) shows differences compared to the period after 1997.
Until Kyoto Turkey’s general policy was either to be excluded from both of the annexes or to be a party to UNFCCC in case special clauses were taken into account. After 1997, Turkey has started searching for more concrete ways to be a part of UNFCCC with a more moderate approach. In November 2000 at Hague Conference, Turkey declared that it wants to be a party as an Annex 1 country in case it is excluded from Annex 2. Connected to the decision made at Hague Conference, another decision was made in Marrakech and finally Turkey became free of the obligation to give technical and financial support and for the rest of the liabilities, the clauses special to Turkey were recommended.

While taking steps to be a member state of EU, Turkey has passed laws on renewable energy in 2005 and energy efficiency in 2007. In February 2009 the government bill regarding Turkey’s participation in Kyoto protocol was passed in the General Meeting of Turkish Grand National Assembly and in May 2009, the decision of the Council of Ministers was published in the Official Gazette and came in force. Turkey is not obliged to meet the emission targets set for 2008-2012 period.

In 2012-2020 periods, sectors like “transportation, aviation, maritime business, aluminum, petro chemicals” are expected to be included in the Kyoto Protocol. During this period, 20% decrease in greenhouse gas emission is targeted to keep the increase at a certain level. In December 2009 in Copenhagen, the approaches and policies to be adopted after 2012 will be discussed and Turkey will present its Action Plan. This meeting is critically important for the industry and finance sectors in Turkey.

During the preparation process of the Action Plan, TSKB took place proactively. The Bank shared its opinions on new regulations like carbon/environment tax and the new probable restrictions that could take effect on industrial activities with other parties.

Turkey is in its initial stage in preparing emission inventory.
As being a party to Kyoto Protocol, Turkey should make the necessary preparations at political, industrial and corporation levels and prepare its emission inventory. The obligations that Kyoto Protocol brings on the combat against climate change require almost a change in the framework of government. On the other side to prepare a regular and accredited emission inventory is of great importance and to realize this emission recording systems should be established in Turkey.

The areas like energy, transportation and waste management are candidates of a great change.
Turkey is object to take serious steps in areas such as renewable energy, energy efficiency, mass transportation and sustainable waste management in the coming years.

In Turkey, 95% of transportation is done on the highways. Civil air transportation is drastically increased in the last 4-5 years. These are all negative factors on the emission of carbon dioxide and a switch from individual and air transportation to mass transportation like railway is needed. Waste management is a quite serious problem that should be addressed to, organized and regulated by the public and private segments.