IPC's new report on "Carbon Lock-in in Turkey"

Sabancı University Istanbul Policy Center Climate Change Studies Coordinator and Senior Expert Ümit Şahin Reveals "Carbon Lock-in in Turkey" Report 

Turkey still has considerable opportunities to avoid a deepening carbon lock-in

 

Sabancı University Istanbul Policy Center Climate Change Studies Coordinator and Senior Expert Ümit Şahin revealed the "Carbon Lock-In in Turkey: A Comparative Perspective of Low-Carbon Transition with Germany and Poland" Report. The report argues that Turkey still has significant opportunities to avoid a deepening state of carbon lock-in, and states that "Although Turkey is mostly fossil-dependent in energy consumption, it has advantages resulting from its developing electrical energy generation and transport industries which may be used to its benefit."

 

The Sabancı University Istanbul Policy Center (IPC) continues its efforts in enhancing knowledge about climate change with the concept of "carbon lock-in." The Center's Climate Change Studies Coordinator and Senior Expert Ümit Şahin revealed the "Carbon Lock-In in Turkey: A Comparative Perspective of Low-Carbon Transition with Germany and Poland " Report at an event held in Karaköy Minerva Han. The study compares Turkey, Germany and Poland with respect to their energy policies and attitudes to the global trend towards transition based on the concept of carbon lock-in.  The comparison investigates why Turkey has been unable to switch from a fossil fuel-dependent economy and energy system to low carbon. 

Carbon lock-in: High carbon emissions brought by technological or political factors
The study defines carbon lock-in as "political inertia." Lock-in occurs when there is a structure that prevents decreasing, or even increases, carbon emissions due to technological, economic, political or social factors. 

Speaking at the event, IPC Climate Studies Coordinator Ümit Şahin said,

The contrast between Germany, a pioneer in the transition to a low-carbon energy system despite being a heavily industrial country, and Poland, which is mostly dependent on coal for energy and seems determined to continue this dependency, as well as the comparison of these two countries with Turkey, give us an idea about transition dynamics. All three of these countries have economic systems that are dependent on fossil fuels, and either continue or seek to reduce this dependency." 

Turkey may transition to a low-carbon system through policy changes

Ümit Şahin argued that Turkey still had significant opportunities to avoid a deepening state of carbon lock-in, and stated that "Although Turkey is mostly fossil-dependent in energy consumption, it has advantages resulting from its developing electrical energy generation and transport industries which may be used to its benefit. It is far easier for Turkey to manage a rapid transition to renewable energy in electrical production compared to large and industrialized countries." 

Commenting on the fast growth of the road and construction sectors in Turkey, Ümit Şahin said that policy changes to ensure transition to a low-carbon system could reduce emissions from transport and buildings. Şahin continued: “Turkey still has the chance to skip polluting development and make an ecological leap. Such a political decision may help the country avoid carbon lock-in, which may cause great economic loss in the future. This policy change will also be a good opportunity for businesses to discard risks associated with abandoned assets." 

Ümit Şahin emphasized the following points about the comparison among Germany, Turkey and Poland when discussing policy recommendations to avoid carbon lock-in: 

ENERGY POLICIES IN GERMANY, POLAND AND TURKEY 

The report includes following determinations regarding Turkey’s, Germany’s and Poland’s energy policies: 

•          Germany’s large share in the world economy, its power system, and GHG emissions make its energy transition (Energiewende) extremely significant for international climate and energy policies. Furthermore, the current shift in Germany’s energy structure represents a viable example of transitioning to a low-carbon economy and escaping carbon lock-in. On the other hand, Germany faces many challenges. The continuing high share of coal in electricity production and the difficulties encountered by other sectors such as transportation and heating make it difficult for Germany to reach its targets. 

•          The main objective of Energiewende is to transform German energy policies from a fossil fuel- and nuclear-based system to a low-carbon system based on renewables and energy efficiency. Today, Energiewende has four pillars: phasing out nuclear power by 2022, mitigating climate change, improving energy security, and amending industrial policies targeting competitiveness and growth. 

•          Poland’s energy system and power production is largely dependent on coal -particularly, domestic coal. Despite a 2.7 percent drop in production figures over the last decade, the country is the biggest coal (hard coal and lignite) producer in the European Union, with a total production of 52.3 million tons in 2016. Polish hard coal accounts for 72 percent of all extraction in Europe and boasts of the largest share of fossil fuels for electricity generation after Australia.  

•          Furthermore, it holds sixth place for the lowest share of renewables in electricity generation among IEA member countries. Coal constitutes 79 percent of the country’s energy production and 51 percent of total primary energy supply (TPES). As for the development of renewable energy policies in Poland, this is mainly limited to its involvement in short-term EU policies. The country does not have any other energy transition plan to shift its energy sector from fossil fuels to renewables, including medium- and long-term targets for 2030 or 2050. 

 

•          Turkey’s energy system is dominated by fossil fuels, coal and natural gas in particular. Natural gas accounted for 34 percent, coal for 31 percent, hydropower for 24 percent, wind for 6 percent, geothermal for 2 percent, and other resources for 3 percent of electricity production. The basis of Turkey’s official energy strategy is to reduce energy resource imports. The aim is to reduce natural gas and coal imports used for electricity production and increase the share of domestic coal and particularly water as well as renewable resources such as wind and solar. 

•          However, looking at the increasing and ongoing subsidies provided by the state to fossil fuels, it can be deducted that Turkey does not have a policy to reduce fossil fuels in energy production. Even though coal’s share in electricity production has increased considerably in recent years, there has been no significant increase in the use of domestic 

sources. Turkey intends to increase domestic coal’s share in electricity production as well as the number of new renewable energy plants. It aims at keeping the share of renewable sources (including hydropower) at one-third by 2023. Since currently renewable sources account for approximately 32 percent of electricity production, we can see that Turkey intends to increase renewable energy capacity but does not foresee an increase in renewable’s share in electricity production. 

•          Turkey’s carbon lock-in situation is becoming increasingly tighter. Poland is a country with a long history of carbon lock-in and appears to further aggravate its situation. As for Germany, it embarked on the path to break carbon lock-in but has slowed down and been sidetracked in recent years. Some experts have even commented that Germany is back on a trajectory toward carbon lock-in. Nevertheless, out of the three countries Germany appears to have the best chance to escape from carbon lock-in, while Poland seems to resist. 

•          Turkey’s situation appears to be somewhere in between. Turkey has many opportunities to escape lock-in; however, it does not make the necessary efforts and even adheres to policies that will further aggravate the problem. Therefore, Turkey will probably find itself in a stronger carbon lock-in situation in the coming years.