By Metehan Oguz
September 18, 2015 at 5:00 am ET
COP21, the 2015 Paris Climate Conference, is less than 70 days away, and discussions among the world’s largest powers have yet to land on a final proposal to guide these talks. Frankly, the world simply cannot afford for the negotiations to fail, and major powers including China, the EU and the United States who are leading these negotiations could learn valuable lessons from smaller countries like Turkey. These are the countries that are more pragmatic; they set more specific and aggressive goals on climate issues, incentivize local producers to kick off renewable energy projects and collaborate with other countries to identify the most effective and efficient solutions. In order to reach a greater global consensus on climate issues and for COP21 to be successful, examples of success need to be highlighted. Those countries driving the negotiations need to learn from those that have already stepped up to the plate.
Turkey’s renewable energy goals, which are part of the country’s Vision 2023, are exactly the kind of initiatives that could be a roadmap for others to follow. Based on a very practical rationale and grounded in circumstances that many other countries also face – rapid economic growth, swift pace of urbanization and increased demand for energy – Turkey made tough choices but incorporated pragmatic energy efficiency goals to push consumers, utilities and planners to think of economic growth and renewable energy as complimentary.
Turkey’s resulting renewable energy plan is strikingly diverse. The plan includes goals to increase the use of hydropower, install power plants to provide increased levels of geothermal and solar energy, and to expand the country’s share of renewable energy. More specifically, Turkey plans to draw 30 percent of the country’s total installed energy capacity from renewable resources, add 34 GW of hydropower, 20 GW of wind power and 5 GW of solar. Additionally, Turkey hopes to have renewable energy meet 10 percent of the nation’s transportation needs by 2023.
There’s no doubt Turkey is making steady progress toward these goals. In the past 10 years, Turkey has doubled the country’s installed renewable energy capacity to 25 GW and plans to increase that to 40 GW in the next decade. Earlier this year, Energy and Natural Resources Minister Taner Yildiz announced that Turkey will increase the use of natural energy resources in hopes of decreasing the nation’s natural gas imports, and that the development of wind power plants has already decreased natural gas imports $850 million compared to 2014.
At the same time, Turkey’s renewable energy plan is not extreme or drastic. It does not seek to end the use of fossil fuels or impose impossible targets on industries. Instead, it seeks to provide exactly the kind of balance that leaders, businesses and environmentalists are looking for as they come to Paris for COP21.
These impressive programs have led to mergers and openings of offices for U.S. companies pursuing projects in the nation. GE is leading a 530 MW project with Turkish MetCap; U.S. energy giant AES purchased an almost 50 percent stake in a joint venture with the Koç Group focused on renewable ventures; and numerous U.S. wind, solar and geothermal project developers have opened offices in Turkey. These developments have been spurred on by Turkish policy on renewables. On the domestic side, energy firms in Turkey are eager to partner with U.S. companies to gain access to American energy equipment and technology as the Turkish economy grows.
COP21 will require global vision. Substantial results will require a global effort and ongoing conversations between nations to bring about the kind of aggregate change and constant progress that will help the world address climate change. Making real progress on climate change will require creating the a framework where programs like Turkey’s – with sensible, pragmatic policies that incentivize domestic and international investment and value both economic growth and environmental stewardship – can flourish. That is why Turkey’s actions on renewable energy are exemplary and should be part of the discussion leading up to the climate change convention in Paris.
Metehan Oguz is on the Turkish Heritage Organization Board of Trustees and is President and CEO of Oguz Consulting.