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COP22, Turkey’s Air Pollution Problem and Energy Policies

The Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) attended COP22, the 22th Conference of Parties, in Marrakesh between 7 - 18 November. Joining the HEAL delegation from Turkey were Dr. Kayihan Pala, from Uludag University and Funda Gacal, from HEAL Turkey, who were able to give essential input and feedback on all major developments during COP22 from a Turkish perspective.

This year’s COP hosted a series of discussions on the adaptation of the Paris Agreement, different funding mechanisms and a revision of INDCs. Despite worrying news about the future of climate negotiations after the US elections in November, the topic of health still shone bright throughout the negotiations. Critical events and projects such as the WHO’s Ministerial Declaration, the Breathe Life campaign, and the launch of the Lancet Countdown all proved once again that environmental health is now a topic that is here to stay.


Energy policies and the problem of air pollution in Turkey

The negotiations at COP22 highlighted the need for action on climate change and environmental health, also in Turkey. Air pollution has long been a major problem in Turkey. At the moment, coal accounts for 27% of the country’s energy sources. Likewise, natural gas accounts for 41% of Turkey’s electricity mix. On the other hand, only 3% of energy production came from wind and solar in 2014.

In addition to these percentages not looking very positive per se, Turkey’s appetite for coal is already reaching new levels. On a global scale, Turkey ranks second in terms of planned new coal plants per capita, ahead of big coal consumers such as China and India. The main reason given for building these new plants is energy security: new coal-fired power plants would break the dependency of Turkey on natural gas. Unfortunately, these new plans also mean climate change and public health policies are at risk.

The European Environment Agency (EEA) warned that 99.7% of the urban population in Turkey are exposed to harmful levels of outdoor air pollution, a figure well above the EU air quality limits set in 2012. Whilst these facts alone are already terrifying, the Right to Clean Air Platform recently reported that the air quality of all 81 cities is well above the WHO’s annual PM 10 limits in 2015. Furthermore, the Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) calculated that air pollution caused by Turkish coal power plants accounts for 2,986 premature deaths per year.

In a time where it is still unclear whether Turkey will sign the Paris Agreement, some hopeful messages from the Turkish region can luckily be shared as well.


Health as a Winning Argument

Health is increasingly a leading argument to demand sustainable, clean, and healthy energy in Turkey. Health played a key role in Bursa, where health professionals and locals alike objected to the DOSAB coal power plants. Success stories can also be found in the Cukurova region and in Iskenderun Bay, where people filed law suits against plans for 17 new coal power plants. Valuable observations and in-depth knowledge on the Turkish DOSAB coal power plant were shared by Dr. Kayihan Pala from Uludag University, a member of HEAL COP22 delegation.


Caption: HEAL at COP22

HEAL delegation followed closely the WHO’s Ministerial Meeting, where the “Health, Environment and Climate Change Declaration” was announced and signed by several health ministries and we will ask the Turkish Ministry of Health to sign the document too.

More recently, HEAL Turkey has been accepted as an observer to the Turkish Climate Network, a network of 14 Turkish NGOs working on climate and energy policies.

Originally posted on 19 December 2016

About HEAL

The Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) is a leading European not-for-profit organisation addressing how the environment affects health in the European Union (EU). We demonstrate how policy changes can help protect health and enhance people’s quality of life. Read more »

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HEAL has over 70 member organisations, representing health professionals, not-for-profit health insurers, doctors, nurses, cancer and asthma groups, citizens, women’s groups, youth groups, environmental NGOs, scientists and public health institutes. Members include international and Europe-wide organisations, as well as national and local groups. Read more »

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