In the past few weeks, Turkey was marked by two scandals related to Volkswagen. While the first one had to with diesel cars, the second was related to a plan by the company to invest in the city of Manisa.
As the details of the investment were being negotiated, real subjects were absent from the negotiation table. Economic aspects were discussed, the possibility of buildings factories on farm land were considered. The consequences for climate change were also brought up. Yet local and national politicians always shun environmental implications.
CEMENT CARBON EMISSIONS
As Europe’s cement factories became homeless after environmental standards and policies were implemented there, Turkey offered its land and soil to these companies. As a result, half of Turkey’s cement industry is made up of foreign companies. Amongst them are the French group Lafarge, the Italian group Italcementi and the German group Heidelberg. Turkey has become such a hub for cement production that companies from Greece and Brazil have also started operating there.
What attracted these companies was Turkey’s low environmental standards. Just like cement companies, it is the lack of regulations that is bringing automobile manufacturers such as VW. While factories are being shut down in Germany, they are being moved to Turkey. The city of Hamburg has made its objective to ban cars by 2025. What about the global debate on ending the sale of fuel oil-reliant cars by 2023? Does that not apply to Turkey?
THE VOLKSWAGEN EMISSION SCANDAL
When it came out that Volkswagen had been meeting environmental standards thanks to cheating on results regarding diesel cars, emission scandal unfolded concerning 8.5 million cars in Europe and 600 thousand cars in the U.S. Investigations began. In the U.S., the company had to pay a 4.3 billion dollars fine. in 2017. Germany fined the company 1 billion euros. Investigations spread to other countries and brands as well. Brands like Audi and Porsche had to pay fines for similar reasons. Mercedes-Benz, Fiat Chrysler and Opel were also embroiled in such scandals.
In total, Volkswagen had to pay a bill of over 30 billion dollars as a result of fines and repurchasing cars it had sold. Others dodged the situation with fines worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Some executives even went to jail.
The U.S., regarded as the “most polluting country in the world” has higher emission standards than Europe. Needless to say Europe has much higher standards than Turkey. Still, these countries’ governments ignore the situation.
AN INVESTMENT LIE!
As Volkswagen began its investment process, Turkey failed to carry out a thorough examination, instead welcoming the company with open arms. In fact what will happen is that the company will do little less than move its current factory, the Turkish public dealing with the investment.
Thanks to investment incentives, the company will pay close to no taxes. But if Volkswagen doesn’t pay taxes, who will? So much is being provided with incentives that the company has become spoiled. It even asked for the municipality to build social and education buildings as well as housing. This means Turkey alone will implement the investment operation using public funds.
What is more, talks are ongoing regarding a state guarantee to purchase 40 thousand cars. Also, no tariff car imports are allowed for Volkswagen. Over 100 thousand brand new Volkswagen cars that were withdrawn from the American market have been sitting idly in the California desert, the Baltimore docks, the Silverdome Stadium in Detroit and in a field near a nuclear plant in Seattle. Turkey might be the next destination for these cars.
So as the world punished a company that was concealing its excessive use of gas, Turkey offered it incentives. As if that wasn’t enough, it provided it with a guarantee to buy 40 thousand cars. Added to that, it agreed to abolish tariff imports and an opportunity arose to bring in withdrawn cars from America.
The prospect of selling withdrawn emission scandal cars in Turkey may leave one skeptical. Also, how can a car that was withdraw back in 2017 be “unused”?
A SCANDAL WORTH 3.5 BILLION
The company’s diesel cars are sold at about 25 thousand dollars a car in America. Based on that number, one can expect Turkey to pay the company about 1 billion dollars in its purchase of 40 thousand cars. If it imports the idle cars from the U.S., that will be another 2.5 billion dollars for VW. A total of 3.5 billion dollars from public funding will go to the company. Of course, Turkey will gain some MTV (motor vehicle tax), ÖTV (special consumption tax) plus the KDV (added value tax) and ÖTV from fuel sales.
It is an investment strategy aimed at saving a drowning company ensnared in corruption. And while the Turkish public will bear the economic costs of this plan the planet will endure its environmental cost. This is no profitable economic investment plan. It is a scandal.
Today, Ankara is not Wuhan. Wuhan is a good example compared to our capital city. Today, Ankara is a construction site. Ankara residents have to remind the city again that they do not want a municipal administration that works for contractors — alongside a presidential system that works for contractors.
This good news about the discovery of natural gas reserves in the Black Sea at the same time means a disaster for the environment. Turkey is a country in which environmental protection standards are very low, and it cannot control even this. This project will be the end of the Black Sea.
As Turkish politics have been reduced to a binary dichotomy between the government bloc and the opposition, İYİ Party plays a somewhat unifying and dampening effect in that regard. But while the government is out of touch with the people, the opposition is not tuned in with it either.
In the past four months, none of our municipalities prepared the infrastructure for washing our hands. They were not able to meet the sidewalk conditions of 1.5 meters width for the social distancing of pedestrians. Almost all of our 1,397 municipalities have failed according to these criteria, including opposition ones.
Even though there are now 163,000 cases detected in Turkey and even more cases that are undetected, the malls are opening. At what cost and for whose sake they are opening? It is quite apparent that they are not opening for our sake; the data is clear. When you review the equation from the point of view of the novel coronavirus, then you have five huge reasons not to step inside these malls.
In Turkey, the pandemic seems to have also opened asphalt season for some local administrations. Municipalities regarded this period as a huge opportunity to pave asphalt.
The Energy Ministry’s 2019-2023 Strategic Plan tells us a lot about the government's intentions. It is obviously a plan that still insists on coal and hydroelectric power policies, and that has solar and wind energy only as an accessory. The climate crisis is not even mentioned.
The first coronavirus month in Turkey will be recorded in history as the month of opportunism, the month of abusing a pandemic. It kept some of its people at home and others at mines and factories, turning the country into a labor camp. Only the local administrations were left, but there were policies to curb their powers as well.
As a host to 85 percent of all international travels, Istanbul has become an attraction center for coronavirus. And as a host to 38 percent of Turkey’s domestic travels, Istanbul spread the virus to the rest of the country.
The Turkish government has not taken steps related to the seriousness of the coronavirus outbreak. They actually took steps in the opposite direction asking people to do their own homework and resisting a total lockdown in the country. Meanwhile, the opposition self-quarantined itself politically.
Both the stage that the capitalism has reached globally and Turkey’s implementation of it, cannot be neglected while discussing the underlying factors which tie the climate crisis and the COVID-19 outbreak to each other.
In 2019, the number of issues broke the record with 935 extreme meteorological issues recorded in Turkey. That's 9 times the overall number recorded for the second half of the 20th century. Last year, floods occurred in cities including Ordu, Düzce, Trabzon, Antalya and Mersin that cost the lives of many people.
While Russia needs to sell its energy to Turkey, the US must stay within the Middle East to get its oil. That is why they are both seeking Turkey on their side.At the moment, Turkey is paying for the Syrian war with its loved ones and poverty. It is only by achieving peace with its neighbors that we can attain a win-win situation.
Thanks to a Special Communication Tax that was introduced after the 1999 earthquake, some 67.5 billion Turkish Liras have been collected up to now for earthquake relief. But rather than on earthquake preparedness, the money was largely spent on construction projects.
Kanal Istanbul is a project based on unjust profit-earning that is well-known first to Turkish companies, followed by Arab, European, and even Pakistani capital owners. But we still don’t know the full truth of what is going on with the project. Good that we do not know, because if we did, the Kanal Istanbul project would end immediately.
According to OECD data, Turkey allocated 289 million dollars for waste management in 2008. Ever since, the country has developed and grown, right? Despite this, the money allocated for waste management fell to 147 million dollars in 2015. We have a government that does not want to manage waste and spend money on it. Burying trash is easy; the soil is free.
President Erdoğan's government recently suffered two fiascos, one involved thermal power plants while the other had to do with a plan to rescue the private company “Simit Sarayı”. So why would it press forward with the Kanal Istanbul project?
It is possible for us to close down all coal mines! The way to this has been paved with the veto on the proposed bill. But if we leave public policy unattended and representatives continue to leave parliament seats empty, the opposite will happen. I should point out as a warning that, just like the Environment and City Planning Minister could actually be referring to the business schedule when he says “we installed a filter in 6 months,” a similar wordplay could be at hand with the veto. We will go after the answer together, I promise.
We know how much the ministry earned from shopping bags in the first nine months of the year. At 25 kuruş (cents) for each nylon bag, 15 kuruş were deposited to the ministry and the total was 188 million lira. You heard it right, 18.8 billion kuruş.
The Ministry of Forestry routinely opens up forest ecosystems for economic exploitation. It distributes permits to use forests for mineral exploitation, mining, construction and even for oil drilling. In 2012, 2,810 permits were granted for those purposes. Between 2012 and 2018, that number rose to 18,515.
The government has found a way to take back the Bosphorus after losing İstanbul elections. The Ministry of Environment and Urbanization has drafted a 28 point legislative proposal called the Boshporus Law. With the new law, Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality and four provinces no longer have any authority in the Bosphorus.
Erdoğan changed the climate of the UN Climate Action Summit. He talked about how he multiplied fossil fuels and how not recycling waste is a good thing, and he put concrete as a policy on the world stage.
Turkey wants to be a party to the Paris Agreement as the structure of the deal allows countries to increase emissions. Turkey, which is among the 12 countries that have not yet joined the agreement, had added 193.5 million tons to climate changing greenhouse gases in last 20 years before 2010.