International Environmental Issues

In our times, it is widely recognized that the economic and social development depends on the protection of the environment and reduction of the human impact.

Finding solutions for environmental problems that we are facing have become very important. Environmental problems, which may have global impacts, are complex and often interrelated with socio-economic factors. These problems, such as water and air pollution, generation of solid and hazardous waste, soil degradation, deforestation, climate change and loss of biodiversity does not recognize political borders and pose major threats to human safety, health and productivity. Due to these threats to human future, it is essential to address these problems.

One of the important dimension of the efforts for environmental protection is raising public awareness and participation. The problems can only be properly addressed through cooperation among public sector along with the private sector, non-governmental organizations and the civil society.

Addressing the global environmental problems that threaten our living planet requires national efforts as well as international collaboration on both bilateral and multilateral level and the active participation of all members of the international community.

In this respect, international organizations such as the UN, the OECD, OSCE and other international financial institutions, global and regional fora, have been promoting and coordinating the efforts for the joint confrontation of global environmental problems, on a multilateral level. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) was established, as one of the productive consequences of the 1972 Conference on the Human Environment (Stockholm Conference). The UNEP provides a basis for comprehensive consideration and coordinated action within the UN system on the problems of environment.

Major international agreements and conventions covering a wide range of environmental issues such as climate change, biological diversity, combating desertification, control of movements of hazardous wastes, ozone layer, illegal trade in endangered species, have been elaborated under UNEP’s auspices.

Turkey has been actively involved in international cooperation efforts to address environmental problems that are complex and mostly related to socio-economic issues. Turkey, taking into account its national interests and socio-economic conditions, have become party to a number of conventions both at the global and regional level, with a view to contributing to address environmental problems.

Sustainable Development:

The Declaration on the Human Environment was adopted at the United Nations (UN) Conference on Human Environment (Stockholm Conference) that was held between 5-16 June 1972 and brought together countries of different socio-economic structures, convening to evaluate the environment for the first time.

The term “sustainable development” was first used in the Brundtland Report, prepared by the World Commission on Environment and Development in 1987 in which it is defined as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”.

In very broad terms, the Brundtland Report defined the relationship of poverty eradication, equitable distribution of benefits derived from natural resources, population policies and the development of environmentally sound technologies with the principles of sustainable development. In this regard, the Brundtland Report maintained that it was possible to achieve economic growth with an environmentally sound approach and called for the commencement of a new long-term growth era, in which the developing nations had important roles to play and restructuring was made possible, in order to solve the environmental problems of the world and to eliminate poverty.

The UN Conference on Environment and Development (Rio Conference) held in Rio de Janeiro between 3-14 June 1992, constituted a big step towards the adoption of a set of principles to enable a sound management of the environment by governments. During the Conference, Agenda 21, a comprehensive plan of action, as well as Rio Declaration on Environment and Development and Statement on Forest Principles are adopted. In addition, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and Convention on Biological Diversity were opened for signature during the Conference. The outcome of the Rio Conference also led to the preparation of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification that was opened for signature in 1994.

The Millennium Development Declaration and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) adopted by the governments during UN Millennium Summit in 2000, have become a universal framework for “development” and are considered as a means for developing countries to work together with developed ones in the pursuit of a shared future. MDGs are eight goals to be achieved by the target year 2015. These include eradication of extreme poverty and hunger, promotion of gender equality, reduction of child mortality as well as ensuring environmental sustainability. The target of “ensuring environmental sustainability” envisages the integration of the principles of sustainable development into country policies and programme and reversing of loss of environmental resources

In order to take a step further the decisions taken in Rio Conference and to render efforts of governments and stakeholders coherent for the achievement of MDGs, the World Summit on Sustainable Development was held in Johannesburg between the dates 26 August - 4 September 2002. Two principal documents were adopted as a result of the Summit: the Johannesburg Implementation Plan and Political Declaration in which the political will of world leaders was expressed.

The Implementation Plan covers a wide range of issues including, inter alia, poverty eradication, changing unsustainable patterns of consumption and production, protecting and managing the natural resource base of economic and social development and health. Some of the targets set out in the Plan are listed below:

- Halve by the year 2015, the proportion of the world’s people whose income is less than 1 dollar a day and the proportion of people who suffer from hunger and by the same date, to halve the proportion of people without access to safe drinking water,

- Promote women’s equal access to and full participation in, on the basis of equality with men, decision-making at all levels

- Increase investment in cleaner production and eco-efficiency in all countries,

- Diversify energy supply by developing advanced, cleaner, more efficient, affordable and cost-effective energy technologies, including fossil fuel technologies and renewable energy technologies, hydro included, and their transfer to developing countries on concessional terms as mutually agreed,

- Provide incentives for investment in cleaner production and eco-efficiency in all countries,

- Halve by the year 2015 the proportion of world’s people without access to safe drinking water and who do not have access to basic sanitation,

- Achieve a significant reduction in the current rate of loss of biological diversity.

During the World Summit on Sustainable Development, Turkey presented “National Report on Sustainable Development” prepared with a participatory approach involving the relevant institutions as well as all other stakeholders and a booklet comprised of the best practices of Turkey implemented in the context of sustainable development between 1992-2002.