Sustainable Development in Turkey: The Balance between Human Development and Environmental Conservation

by Jessica Stone

Turkey is part of the UN Millennium Development Goals.  The Millennium Development goals are: 1) Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger 2) Achieve universal primary education 3) Promote gender equality and empower women 4) Reduce child mortality 5) Improve maternal health 6) Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases
7) Ensure environmental sustainability and 8) Develop a global partnership for development.

With the United Nations Development Programme’s support, the Turkish government has engaged local communities in the process of developing sustainable management in the long-term.  Turkey’s rapidly growing economy and industrialized cities have drastically increased its demand for natural gas and electricity.  According to the Republic of Turkey Ministry of Foreign Affairs, “Over the last decade, Turkey has been the second country, after China, in terms of natural gas and electricity demand increase.”  The increase in demand can be attributed to its geographic location, which increases its potential for changes in the energy sector that involve refined renewable energy sources.  “Turkey is geographically located in close proximity to more than 70% of the world’s proven oil and gas reserves.”

However, Turkey remains quite dependent on imported fossil fuels, especially Russia.  According to the World Bank, “Turkey imports more than 60% of its energy – much of it in the form of fossil fuels – despite an abundance of untapped, renewable energy sources throughout the country.”  Turkey’s limited domestic energy resources have become problematic due to the country’s growing energy demand.

One way the country is trying to reduce dependency on imported fossil fuels is by generating nuclear energy and improving energy efficiency.  The country is utilizing its advancements in hydro, wind, and solar energy.  According to the Republic of Turkey Ministry of Foreign Affairs, “Turkey ranks seventh in the world and first in Europe in terms of geothermal energy.”

Renewable energy use in Turkey. Source: Google Images.Renewable energy use in Turkey.  Source: The World Bank.

Addressing this growing demand while also benefiting economically and environmentally remains a challenge for Turkey.  The increased demand has bolstered Turkey’s energy supply security.  As a result, Turkey has been forced to become more vigilant of energy consumption ands aims to diversify its energy supply and maximize all renewable energy sources.  According to the World Bank, “Turkey aims to meet a target of 30% for renewable energy production in the country and to reduce its energy intensity levels (energy consumption of energy per unit of GDP) by 20% between 2011 and the end of its Centennial year.”

In order to accomplish this goal, Turkey is focusing on an economic structure that also considers environmental factors and contributes to overall human development.  According to Turkey’s 2012 Sustainable Development Report:

Turkey believes in a “human” centered development. Sustaining the existence of human beings in a strengthened way is only possible by realizing the principles of equity and sustainability. Based on this notion, green growth can only be a meaningful part of national and international agenda if it presents a more honored life to people. In other words, an economic structure which places more emphasis on environmental values can only be acceptable and applicable to the extent that it contributes increasingly to human development for present and future generations.


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