Akbelen deforestation exposes Turkey's contradictions: Coal expansion vs. Climate commitments

Akbelen deforestation exposes Turkey's contradictions: Coal expansion vs. Climate commitments
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The deforestation in Ankara for the sake of a coal-fired power plant raises concerns about Turkey's energy priorities and its struggle to align with global climate agreements.

By Osman Cakli

The ongoing deforestation in Mugla's Akbelen forest for a new coal-fired thermal power plant has spotlighted questions about Turkey's energy policies and reliance on coal despite climate commitments.

Experts criticize the insistence on coal energy by companies and the government when Turkey should be transitioning to renewable energy under international accords like the Paris Agreement. They argue the priorities are backward - sacrificing forests while expanding coal power.

Umit Sahin, an expert on climate policy, says energy companies see nature as "free" and are driven by profits over environmental concerns. He argues they want to maintain centralized, non-democratic control over energy production. Renewables allow decentralized, democratic participation threatening their monopolies.

Mahir Ulutas of the Turkish Chamber of Electrical Engineers states that shutting down the major coal plants in Mugla would not affect Turkey's electricity supply, as idle capacity already exists. The claim that lacking Akbelen coal would cause shortages in 2024 is unfounded. He contends Turkey must reevaluate its high energy-consuming growth model rather than destroying nature to feed excessive demand.

Murat Turkes, an academic expert on climate change, emphasizes that forests are indispensable carbon sinks. Cutting them down for mines and power plants breaches Turkey's obligations under international climate accords. Turkes notes that Turkey's renewable potential exceeds its energy needs, but profit-driven companies prioritize cheap fossil fuels over clean energy, which requires initial public investment.

Critics argue that while Turkey nominally supports climate action, its policies still promote fossil fuels over renewables and nature protection. The mine and power plant threatening Akbelen's forests exemplify these contradictions between rhetoric and reality on energy and the environment.