As there are sporadic movements around the country to build a clean energy future, Greenpeace is trying to create a nationwide network to achieve that goal in Turkey, where dozens of coal-fired power plants are planned and existing capacity has reached approximately 10.6 GW. Pınar Aksoğan, a climate and energy campaigner for the environmentalist group Greenpeace Mediterranean, said that they worked with 17 representatives from local resistance groups at a workshop in Ankara on June 9-10.
“There are several local organizations to fight against coal, a dirty energy resource. However, these local organizations are not yet connected with each other. We are now working with them to be able to do that,” she said upon her return from Ankara. The representatives came from the Black Sea regions of Zonguldak, Bartın, Gerze, and from Adana, Foça and Yalova where there are either existing or planned coal-fired power plants. There are strong movements in those towns, and the one in Gerze is especially well known.
Since August of last year, the people of Gerze, a jewel of a town with natural beauty and tranquility, have been on watch 24/7 in order to prevent a company from doing any construction on a planned coal plant that they say will harm their agricultural land and have detrimental effects to the air, sea and drinking water.
There is also a local resistance movement in the Black Sea province of Zonguldak where miners play dice with death every working day. Zonguldak’s coal mining industry has a huge influence on the city because there are few homes in which no one in the family is involved in coal mining.
“That’s why our struggle against coal has not been easy here. People earn their bread from coal mining,” said Melahat Çöğendez who is a volunteer member of The Turkish Foundation for Reforestation, Protection of Natural Habitats and Combating Soil Erosion (TEMA) in Zonguldak.
“Whoever you ask -- whether or not they work in the coal related field -- young and old alike respond that they have been affected by coal. In recent years, they have started to see more negative impacts of the coal industry as cancer rates and births of babies with pulmonary problems have been increasing,” she added.
She also said that a nationwide network will be more useful to tell people about the harms of coal mining and coal power plants. The two-day workshop in Ankara was useful for her and the others, she said because they have started to learn mechanisms to find out how others have been successful in their campaigns against coal.
Aksoğan and her friends from Greenpeace used a new book, “Yaşamı Savunmak: Yerel Mücadeleler İçin Yasal Rehber” (Defending Life: Legal Toolbox for Stopping Coal Power Plants).
Written by Gökhan Candoğan, a lawyer who has been involved in environmental defense since 1998, the book advises local resistance movements how to be successful in their campaigns.
There are three stages that they can follow, the book says. The first one is the period prior to the establishment of a coal-fired plant. In that stage, local movements can take certain steps to stop the companies which have plans for coal plants. The second stage is when those companies are drawing their plans. The book also talks about what legal processes are involved and what resistance groups can do in that stage.
Even though the final stage is establishment of a coal-fired plant, there are still a lot of things to do at that stage; for example, locals can follow up to make sure companies are in line with their promise to keep emissions at safe levels.
According to Greenpeace research, coal-fired thermal power plants are responsible for 41 percent of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions, a direct cause of climate change. Turkey’s record in that regard is not promising; in 2009 Turkey’s total greenhouse gas emissions were 98 percent higher than those of 1990. Turkey’s emission reduction target is 7 percent in the energy sector by 2020 if current reduction efforts continue, according to its national strategy document. But several environmental organizations said that Turkey’s target should be at least a 30 percent reduction by 2020, considering the steep increase in its emissions.
Several negative health effects are associated with coal mining, preparation, combustion, waste storage and transport. These include respiratory problems and mercury pollution, which causes numerous fatal diseases when it enters the food chain and soil.
Last year, Greenpeace launched an Internet campaign against the planned power plant in Gerze. More than 77,000 people signed the petition. Greenpeace is planning an international coal strategies conference in İstanbul on July 17-20.
66 percent concerned about climate change
According to the United Nations Development Program’s (UNDP) “Nationwide Awareness Survey on Climate Change in Turkey,” 66 percent of the interviewees are quite concerned about the climate change issue, while 34.6 percent think that climate change is a serious problem and immediate action must be taken. In addition, 34.3 percent of the survey respondents believe that there is enough evidence to prove climate change and that taking action would be beneficial.
The survey was recently conducted through face-to-face interviews in 17 provinces and 25 water basins, including urban and rural residential areas, on a target group ranging in age between 15 and 69.
Only 32 percent of the respondents indicate that they pay attention to eco-labeling while buying products, implying that although there is high general awareness on climate change, the level of taking action on the issue is low.
In addition, 34.1 percent of interviewees think they will have to change their lifestyle in the future to mitigate climate change; 22.9 percent believe new mitigation technologies will emerge to fight climate change; and 33.2 percent of the respondents indicated that they would pay more, if they knew that a product is produced with environmentally friendly methods.