The majority of Turkish people want foreign investment in renewable energy resources, according to a survey conducted in April by E3G - an independent climate change think tank that aims to accelerate the global transition to a low carbon economy.
The survey, Clean Energy, not Coal: Citizens views of Foreign Investment highlights that government energy policies and foreign investment packages, which currently favor coal, are at odds with citizen preferences for clean energy.
The survey, considered the first multi-country survey of public opinion on foreign investment in Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) countries, was conducted prior to the second Belt and Road International Cooperation Forum in Beijing on April 25-27 in six BRI countries - Turkey, Vietnam, South Africa, Indonesia, Philippines and Pakistan between April 9 and 17, 2019.
E3G, which specializes in climate diplomacy, climate risk, energy policy and climate finance, was ranked the fifth most influential environmental think tank in the world for the third consecutive year in 2018, according to the Go to Think Tank Index. The think tank commissioned YouGov to poll 1,000 countries from each country.
In Turkey's poll, 475 women and 525 men of various ages across the country responded. Of the Turkish respondents, 92% favored foreign investment in renewable energy resources, showing the second highest ranking after Vietnam at 95%.
Solar shone as the most favorable energy resource in Turkey, similar to five other BRI countries. A large majority of Turkish citizens at 83% said they would give priority to solar for the government to encourage investment while 76% would highly prioritize wind energy.
Renewable energy resources are seen as better investment options for 86% of Turkish citizens for long-term development, while 62% said renewables are better in decreasing water and air pollution, and 57% said renewables would mitigate climate change.
Turkish people find coal investments unfavorable - 57% of Turkish respondents said coal should not be given any priority in terms of investment while 56% said that coal investments are related to both water and air pollution.
- 2nd Forum offer opportunity to end coal
The poll results in other countries also show that citizens have strong preferences for clean energy as opposed to coal. The six countries polled are among the top 10 locations for proposed coal power plant construction globally other than China.
"This polling provides clear evidence that the citizens of the BRI countries prefer clean energy investment over coal. China should now work with governments, business and investors at the upcoming Belt and Road Forum to make sure these demands are met," Nick Mabey, chief executive of E3G, said.
The upcoming BRI Forum in Beijing provides an opportunity to signal an end to international support for coal investment, he said.
"Citizens across the member countries know that coal will only continue to exacerbate air pollution, climate change and corruption issues," Mabey underlined.
China has taken a strong stance in tackling climate change, and has developed a series of laws, regulations, and policies to promote reductions in China’s emissions," said Dr. Yang Fuqiang, the National Resources Defense Council senior adviser on Climate and Energy of the China Program at National Resources Defense Council centered in New York.
He said in terms of green development, a series of policy incentives and guidelines are needed to encourage Chinese companies to comply with environmental protection standards and to reduce CO2 emissions.
"At the same time, China and countries along the Belt and Road must build consensus on green development if they wish to tackle climate change," Fuqiang argued.
He acknowledged that Turkey, which has rich renewable resources and is already actively investing in renewable energy at the local and national level, has its own environmental protection and climate change goals that China supports and encourages.
However, he proposed greater cooperation between China and Turkey in renewable energy as "both China and Turkey regard renewable energy as the main source of energy for the future."
He drew attention to China's relatively advanced renewable energy technology, its low production costs and its various renewable energy policies, all of which could contribute to China's cooperation with Turkey.
"Currently, China can support renewable energy equipment manufacturing in Turkey and can introduce Chinese technology through joint ventures. China can also invest in renewable energy project development in Turkey. Both sides should also examine how best to conduct research in policy areas. Given in-depth cooperation in technology, business models, investments, and policies there is great potential for energy conservation and environmental protection," Fuqiang concluded.
By Nuran Erkul Kaya