Environmental country reviews

Launch of the Environment Performance Review of Turkey


Remarks by Angel Gurría, OECD Secretary-General
Ankara, Turkey, 16 December 2008

Minister Eroğlu, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure to be in Ankara to present the OECD Environmental Performance Review of Turkey. The current economic crisis should not sideline our environmental commitments. On the contrary, the crisis is an opportunity to hasten countries’ efforts to bring about a “greener” economic growth.

This report examines the results achieved by Turkey since the previous OECD review, which we carried out in 1999. It evaluates the extent to which the country has met its domestic and international environmental commitments. It addresses the combined efforts of government and civil society; including industry, labour, households and environmental NGOs.

In the past years, Turkey has been one of the fastest growing economies of the OECD. But growth has slowed significantly over the last couple of years and unfortunately Turkey seems to be in for a further slowdown as most other countries. Nevertheless, economic convergence with the rest of the OECD is high on the agenda.

Turkish Minister for the Environment
Veysel Eroğlu (left) and Secretary-General
Angel Gurría present the Environmental Performance Review

But what about environmental convergence? Let’s take a look.

Turkey’s Environmental Achievements

Since 1999, Turkey has made remarkable environmental progress on several fronts:

  • The area of forest and other wooded land has increased to 27.2% of the national territory due to afforestation efforts, which also aim to combat soil erosion. In fact, Turkey is a world leader in this area. The total extent of protected areas has also increased during the review period and now accounts for more than 5% of Turkey’s total area.

  • In maritime safety, Turkey has also made impressive improvements by establishing a high-tech Vessel Traffic Services system for the Turkish Straits, and developing oil spill contingency plans, supported by increased manpower, training and equipment.

  • You have also achieved a strong decoupling of sulfur dioxides (SO2) and carbon monoxide (CO) emissions from economic growth. The use of high-sulfur coal in residential heating has been prohibited, and its substitution by gas has expanded in urban areas. Energy intensity has improved, and air quality concerns have been better integrated into energy policies.

  • And you have given important steps in the path towards sustainable development. Turkey is on its way to transpose the EU environmental legislation. The country also has long-standing and quality environmental planning. Turkey’s pollution abatement and control expenditure has reached 1.25% of GDP. Businesses and NGOs have contributed to address many environmental issues.

These are just a few examples of Turkey’s recent remarkable accomplishments. You will find more in this study.

However, there is no room for complacency. Turkey still needs to address a number of environmental challenges due to unsustainable production and consumption patterns. The overall material intensity of its economy is still amongst the highest in the OECD area; the same applies for the pollution intensities. Efforts to speed up economic and social development do not always take environmental concerns into account, especially at sub-national level. And there are still some environmentally harmful subsidies that continue to promote polluting activities.

The report provides 45 recommendations. Let me mention just a few of them:

Facing the challenges ahead

I will start with the water challenge. Despite priority attention given to water issues in National Development Plans, Turkey still faces a multiple water challenge requiring further determined actions in areas like: adopting a comprehensive water law, balancing demand and supply in water resource management; managing water resources at the river basin level; promoting investment in water supply and waste water infrastructure; adequately pricing water services; ensuring compliance with waste water legislation by industry; and reducing pollution from agriculture.

Water efficiency is a top priority for OECD and we appreciate very much Turkey’s initiative to host the next World Water Forum in Istanbul this coming March. We will be present and very active, to share with all our friends from the water family of the world our latest work, namely our research on the financing of water.

Energy and transport policies
represent an environmental challenge in all countries. Turkey needs to better integrate environmental concerns into these types of policies. For example, by addressing demand management. The country must further improve efficiency in energy and materials use. In doing so, it could capture multiple benefits, such as reducing dependency on imported energy, cutting carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, reducing air pollution and related health costs.

Climate change is also testing Turkish policies. Turkey should further set priority measures to mitigate and adapt to climate change, to adopt a National Climate Change Plan and to set nationally determined voluntary targets for energy use, renewable energy, afforestation and greenhouse gas emissions. It would be a strong signal to the region and to the international community at large if Turkey would take on strong actions or commitments to address climate change in the upcoming post 2012 Agreement.

In spite of Turkey’s impressive afforestation effort, including an increase from 250 to 400 million planted seedlings between 2004 and 2007, some parts of Turkeys’ rich biodiversity are threatened and will face increased pressure in the near future. Turkey needs to adopt and implement its National Biodiversity Strategy, and strengthen the funding and human resources to reach the domestic target of 10% of its territory in protected areas by 2010.

Last but not least, Turkey continues to experience important economic, social and environmental disparities across regions. Programmes supporting economic development of disadvantaged regions, such as the South-eastern Anatolia Project (GAP), should better address environmental and sustainable development objectives. Some regions still lack access to safe water and adequate sanitation. Extending these services would lead to significant benefits, including reduced health expenditure, improved labour productivity and increased well-being of the population.

There are many other constructive recommendations in this Review, like establishing a green tax commission to review the environmental effects of fiscal instruments, identify environmentally harmful subsidies and improve the use of economic instruments such as taxes, charges and emissions trading schemes. But I only have time to give you a small taste of this very interesting study.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

OECD congratulates Turkey for its environmental progress since the previous review in 1999. The balance is positive; your efforts have born important fruit. But this is a long term challenge and there is still a lot of work to be done. Don’t let the crisis reverse the remarkable progress you have achieved. The financial turbulence and the economic slowdown are grave indeed and will demand strong policy action, but this should not make us lose sight of our structural challenges.

Crises are fertile ground for innovation. A delegate to a recent OECD meeting noted that “a crisis is a terrible opportunity to waste”. Indeed it is.

The revision of our financial architecture and the implementation of fiscal stimulus to reactivate our economies open a unique opportunity to place the environment at the centre of our new economic policies. I am talking about eco-nomics, about eco-innovation, about moving towards greener energies and greener economies.

I want to thank you Minister, and through you the many committed and talented officials and experts from your country who have contributed to this review in a spirit of openness and transparency. I am confident that your commitment and effort will turn many of these recommendations into concrete achievements, paving the way for the long-term sustainable development that the Turkish people so much deserve and work for.

Teşekkür ederim.


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