“Climate? Crisis? Come on!”

Climate? Crisis? Come on!

Climate change is an issue that can generate great concern and cause people who know about it, become aware of it, or gain an understanding of it, to despair. On the other hand, it doesn’t affect those who don’t know about it, who aren’t aware of it, who don’t care about it or don’t believe in it.

The problem is that the situation is actually very clear. In fact, crystal clear — the data prove it. The hottest three years of this century were 2016, 2017 and 2018; the temperature in Greenland is 40 degrees above the seasonal average; in India, the temperature reached 48 degrees in June; 60% of animal species have become extinct in the last 50 years. According to the most recent scientific report (the IPCC “1.5 degrees Report”), if we cannot keep the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees by the end of 2030, we will reach a point where it will no longer be possible to reverse the rise. So, we stand at the edge of disaster. We are no longer talking about climate change or global warming; we now need to call it a climate crisis.

You can, of course, research the topic in detail, if you are interested. But you don’t have to understand the background or look into the reasons for the situation in order to take action. In a nutshell, industrial activity and the consumption habits we have developed over the last 150 years have damaged the earth so much that, according to scientists, if we don’t take action urgently, the sixth mass extinction in human history will occur. Just to be clear, we are not talking about the destruction of the earth itself, but rather the fact that humans and other living creatures will become extinct.

Operating against this background, the İklimİN project is an EU-funded project being implemented in Turkey on behalf of the Ministry of Environment and Urbanisation by a consortium led by WEglobal, the aim of which is to support joint efforts in the field of climate change. The project is the most comprehensive one of its kind in Turkey to address climate change. The project’s Team Leader, Ms Gaye Erka, reports that the project has built significant capacity at local level in Turkey about climate change through training activities conducted in 20 provinces and 37 grant projects undertaken in 27 provinces. She also draws attention to a USD 250 million fund relating to climate change announced by the World Bank last year. She believes that support from other funding sources, such as the European Union, will continue to increase and suggests that both the private sector and civil society organisations should start developing project ideas.

The bottom line is that we all need to take action. Yes, all of us.

At the state and policy level, climate needs to be addressed as a cross-cutting issue in all policies. Directly related issues, such as energy, environment, agriculture, transport and cities should take account of climate change models and include them in their priorities.

As regards the private sector, climate change, environmental impact, disasters and catastrophes should be taken into consideration when the feasibility of investments is being considered. This applies not only to the building and construction sector, but also to other diverse industries, such as food and health, because the effects of climate change impact all industries. For example, the droughts that we are experiencing will hit the food sector (haven’t we already started to feel that?)

The “green funds” now being provided by domestic and international sources represent an opportunity for the private sector. By creating new investment tools and supporting the private sector, banks can increase the awareness of the business world regarding climate issues and contribute to countermeasures. Equally, mitigation of the effects of climate change or adaptation to climate change can bring new opportunities, such as new economic prospects, changing lines of business, new occupations. What is important is to anticipate those opportunities and develop a vision and devise strategies accordingly.

As regards civil society and individuals, we can take action at an individual level but a process of social change should be initiated, with social awareness and collective engagement uniting people everywhere. One of the best examples of this is the campaign to eliminate plastic bags. With the support of the state itself (Zero Waste), we have seen progress toward complete solutions by raising awareness at both policy and public level. By running numerous similar campaigns, we can introduce successful initiatives to mitigate the effects of climate change.

We have talked in general terms about what roles various parties can play but let’s clarify what specifically needs to be done.

To mitigate the effects of climate change, countries have set themselves a target of “net zero emissions” by 2050. To attain this target, reductions will have to be made in the use of fossil fuels, such as coal, petrol and natural gas, and we will have to start using clean/renewable sources of energy. Turkey has the potential to play a key role as an renewable energy leader, given its size and geography, with abundant sun and wind. Energy policies, laws and regulations are required and must be implemented swiftly, if the country is to make better use of these advantages, and, if private sector investment into this sector is to increase, there must be more funding opportunities. In addition, we must recognise that vital new climate- and environment-related jobs and employment opportunities are likely to be generated as renewable energy resources begin to be tapped.

At local level, municipalities should take account of climate change models in infrastructure and urban planning, with each province having a Climate Change Strategic Action Plan. In Turkey, some areas have started to take initiatives to this end and this needs to be replicated across the 81 provinces. Unfortunately, the sorting of waste is not a priority for individuals and municipalities do not have well-established recycling processes. Municipality-CSO partnerships are a must to encourage direct interaction with society; local communities have to be involved in decision-making and the role of city councils should be assessed and strengthened.

In the final analysis, how can we contribute as individuals? We know what needs to be done but we are weak when it comes to action. What we learned in primary school, such as save water, turn off lights when you leave a room, finish your food, don’t litter etc. is more valid than ever, as is the advice of our parents on these subjects. Now we can add some new ‘dos and don’ts’, such as; don’t use plastics; don’t eat (or at least reduce your consumption of) foods of animal origin (it is not good for your wallet, your health or nature in general, and, furthermore, you will contribute to reducing the industrial slaughter of animals); use public transport or walk instead of using your car; fly less (airline transportation is one of the leading sources of emissions); plant trees; resist the drive towards endless consumption.

Instead of climate change, “climate crisis” is the new phrase coined in the last two to three years. The reason is that we have little time left (12 years!) to keep the world as we know it. As a country where human history started 12,000 years ago, in Göbeklitepe, Turkey should make every effort to save humanity…

Mr Levent Erkan, President of the Board of Directors of WEglobal, said the following about climate change and the İklimİN project’s contribution to the subject in Turkey: “The most important common problem in the world is climate change and what we do about it. This is the largest and most impactful project on this subject being implemented in Turkey with EU and Turkish funds, mobilising the general public and key stakeholders to achieve really positive progress. What is making this project such a success are the importance attributed to the issue by the Ministry of Environment, the priority the EU attaches to the subject, the excellent team of consultants we have put together and the effective management of all stakeholders in this important and delicate process.”