Turkey’s remarkable progress this year in addressing environmental issues and climate change have put it firmly on a path towards a green economy.
The country has taken important steps such as banning free plastic bags and declaring Nov. 11 as National Forestation Day as well as sending delegations to climate talks.
The year began with a ban by parliament on the handing out of free plastic bags across Turkey, which led to a 77% drop in their use. Most plastic bags are now sold for 0.25 Turkish lira ($0.05), including 0.15 lira ($0.03) that goes towards environmental projects.
Thanks to the policy change, some 150,000 tons of plastic have been saved and 6,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions have been prevented over the last 11 months, according to recent data from the Environment Ministry.
- ‘Zero Waste Blue’
Having made progress in the Zero Waste Project which she initiated in 2017, first lady Emine Erdogan announced the launch of a new campaign, the Zero Waste Blue program, on June 10 to protect Turkey’s seas and water resources.
The new campaign aimed to collect 50,000 tons of waste, including 30,000 tons plastic, during the summer. By the end of the summer, it was officially announced that more than 57,000 tons of waste had been collected.
The project was also presented by Erdogan at international-level talks and meetings including the 74th session of the UN General Assembly and the G20 leaders’ summit.
- Zero Waste Management Regulation
Turkey's Environment and Urbanization Ministry also announced the Zero Waste Management System regulation with the aim of reducing the volume of non-recyclable waste. But more importantly, its aim is to prevent and reduce waste instead of increasing waste recycling.
According to the regulation, which was published on June 12 in the Official Gazette, public institutions, organizations and provincial governorates with a population of more than 250,000 will be responsible for waste management by 2020.
"Public institutions and organizations will shift to a zero waste management system on June 1, 2020, as will metropolitan district municipalities with populations over 250,000 on Dec. 31, 2020," it said.
As part of the regulation, more than 26,000 institutions and over 2 million people across Turkey have been educated on zero waste, according to the ministry's figures.
- Climate Change Action Plan
Following climate change-related flooding and landslides in the Black Sea province of Trabzon, Environment Minister Murat Kurum, who defines climate change as a "national security problem," announced the 15-article Black Sea Climate Change Action Plan on June 12.
The action plan seeks to prevent casualties and damage caused by climate change-related disasters in the region through a number of ways, including the implementation of early warning systems.
Kurum said additional plans would be prepared separately for Turkey's six remaining regions within six months.
- Changes in 48-year-old fisheries law
On Nov. 6, Turkey also made progress in the fisheries field by implementing several key changes, updating a fisheries law that was in effect since 1971.
Taking into account technological advances, the needs of the sector and scientific, environmental, economic and social factors, the changes to the law aim to stem marine pollution, crack down on poaching and impose heavy penalties.
The changes, which will also bar the introduction of non-native species into Turkish waters, are set to go into effect on Jan. 1.
- National Forestation Day
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared Nov. 11 as National Forestation Day, founding an annual national holiday.
On that day, over 11 million saplings were planted at 11.11 a.m. local time (0811GMT) on the occasion of the Breath for the Future campaign launched by Turkey’s Agriculture and Forestry Ministry.
A group of people in the Black Sea province of Corum also planted 303,150 saplings within an hour, beating Indonesia, which held the world record with 232,647 saplings.
- Decision on thermal power plants
Turkey’s president on Dec. 2 vetoed a law that would have delayed the installation of filters on thermal power plants. The timing of the move was seen as significant, as it was the first day of the UN COP25 Climate Conference in Madrid.
If the omnibus law, approved by parliament on Nov. 21, was not vetoed, 15 coal-fired power plants across the country would have operated 2.5 additional years without filters.
The move was also praised by environmental groups, professional chambers, academics and the press.
By Burak Bir