There was a time, not too long ago, when the global energy debate was largely dominated by the price of oil. Many argued that climate change was a subject of debate – that harnessing the power of the Sun or the wind was essentially science fiction. That chapter in history ended somewhat abruptly as humankind began to witness the devastating and undeniable impact of rising temperatures. We have reached a point where energy transition, climate goals, national interests, economic growth and sustainability coincide.
When it comes to meeting climate goals, however, no country can do it alone. Nations have no choice but to join forces. Since the energy sector is responsible for three quarters of all greenhouse emissions, that is where change needs to happen as quickly as possible. The Turkish government recognises this reality and continues to take necessary steps in that direction.
That is exactly why Turkey and the UAE signed a strategic partnership framework agreement in the field of energy and natural resources during Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s historic visit to three Gulf states – the UAE, Qatar and Saudi Arabia – last month. Inked with a $29.7 billion agreement, the two countries pledged to jointly implement huge projects in a broad range of areas from renewable energy, including offshore wind and solar energy, to clean hydrogen and nuclear power.
Turkey, an import-dependent geopolitical heavyweight with a constant growing energy market, and the UAE, whose economy has benefited from oil and gas exports, would work together to spearhead the region’s transition to clean energy and efforts to meet climate goals. Yet our most recent agreement also reflects a core value of Turkish foreign policy: promoting international co-operation based on mutual interests and the principle of a just energy transition for all.
At the same time, it is important to consider that each nation has unique challenges and opportunities. Energy transition may be a buzzword today, but the right term of reference would be Smart Energy Transition: energy transition that is inclusive, responsive, flexible, rational and digital. We must strike a healthy balance between energy transition, job creation and economic growth to ensure that everyone gets on board and contributes to our efforts. Obviously, political consistency plays a huge role in this endeavour.
Mr Erdogan’s re-election in May 2023 not only showcased the resilience of Turkey’s democratic institutions but also marked the beginning of a new era of reform and investment in the country’s liberal, competitive, well-functioning and transparent energy markets. Having pledged to become a carbon-neutral economy by 2053, our country already generates 45 per cent of its electricity from renewables – which makes Turkey rank fifth in Europe and 12th worldwide.
Keeping in mind that our country’s electricity demand increased by 4.4 per cent annually between 2002 and 2022, compared to just 3 per cent globally, meeting climate goals without jeopardising economic and social development represents a Herculean task. Still, Turkey has the strong political leadership, robust economy and extraordinary resources to get the job done. By working closely with our friends and allies, we aim to end our import dependency. What Turkey foresees is a smart energy transition, where decisions are made rationally, not emotionally, for the purpose of maintaining our supply security, diversifying our energy mix, and transforming Turkey into an energy hub, becoming a safe space for investors. In line with that objective, we will continue to increase our oil and natural gas production as well as build nuclear power plants to diversify our energy mix.
The first Arab state to set a net-zero emissions target, the UAE joined dozens of countries, whose investments and trust in Turkey paid off spectacularly over the years. That the country is scheduled to host Cop28 later this year proves that it means business. Specifically, Cop28 President-designate Dr Sultan Al Jaber’s call to “challenge old models that were built for the last century” and “bridge divides that are blocking critical breakthroughs” deserves recognition as the country aims to mobilise action around a global “major course correction” to accelerate emissions reductions while ensuring energy security. We welcome the UAE’s vision and hosting of Cop28.
That is the context in which this budding strategic partnership fits, as it goes beyond profits and embodies our shared commitment to energy transition, building more sustainable economies, and promoting supply security for the region and beyond.
Going forward, Turkey will continue to create win-win situations in the field of energy and natural resources as it encourages its friends and allies to become part of its success story. Under Mr Erdogan’s leadership, we shall redouble our efforts to achieve a high level of economic and social development, contribute to energy security in Europe and the Middle East, and become a carbon-neutral economy within the next 30 years. Turkey’s strategic partnership with the UAE represents a giant leap forward towards that goal – and it should serve as a reminder to countries across the region that changing the course of history remains within the realm of possibility if we work together and make unwavering commitment to leaving behind a bright future to our children and grandchildren.