Turkey between Environmental Protection and Energy Security: A Regional Perspective

By Ustun, Cigdem | Insight Turkey, Spring 2012 | Go to article overview

Turkey between Environmental Protection and Energy Security: A Regional Perspective


Ustun, Cigdem, Insight Turkey


In the early 1900s, ecology began to be seen as an independent scientific area. However, it wasn't until the end of the 1940s that ecology was used in the analysis of energy use and distribution, ecosystems, the harmful effects of industrialization and urbanization, and the conservation of natural resources. (1) Human impact on the environment was the catalyst for environmental movements in the 1960s, followed by the identification of environmental depredation and the exhaustion of natural resources as the two important threats against national security in the 1970s. (2) Thus, environmental security was included in the agendas of states, international organizations, and national and international civil society organizations as a priority topic. Simultaneously, energy security, particularly the security of energy supplies, became a national security issue due to the oil crisis in 1973 in energy consuming countries. The 1973 oil embargo, imposed by oil producing Arab countries, panicked US and European consumers, which forced energy consumer countries to reconsider their energy policies and relations with the OPEC members and search for energy alternatives. As OPEC member states increased the price of oil, the life blood of developed industry, diversification of energy resources became vital. Therefore, since the 1970s it can be observed that easy access to energy resources, diversification of resources, and smooth transit passage of oil from energy producing countries to energy consumer countries became an important subject in security debates within the international system. In this context, the significance of transit countries and seas increased, since these have been the key geographical areas in this desired secure energy transition. However, as the oil and natural gas transit from the Middle Eastern, Mediterranean and Black Sea countries to western European countries amplified, environmental concerns and threats increased as well. In other words, states, international organizations, companies and individuals started to prioritize two controversial security issues--environmental and energy--at the same time. Although this debate was spread all over the world, this paper only focuses on the Black Sea region in general and Turkey in particular.

Research has shown that international attention given to the Mediterranean Sea has generated a more positive impact on environmental protection, as compared to that of the Black Sea. (3) Industrialization around the Black Sea during the Cold War, lack of international attention for long decades, and the region's position since the Second World War as a crucial hub for the transport of the energy produced by Caucasian and Black Sea littoral countries to the energy consuming countries in Europe aggravated the environmental situation in the region. Pollutants created by chemical industries and oil leaking from tankers have caused a decrease in biological diversity. Thus, increased pollution in the sea entered the agendas of governmental and non-governmental international/regional organizations and individual states in the last two decades. Unfortunately, after the end of the Cold War and collapse of the Soviet Union, the main priorities of the newly independent states included neither an increase of biological diversity nor a decrease in pollution. As the regional states put their efforts toward competing in the international liberal market, they focused on increasing industrialization, trade and economic ties with the energy demanding countries. With these aims, both energy demand and supply security became the top priorities of the region. Although international and regional agreements were discussed and signed, environmental issues were put on the sidelines.

In 1972, the United Nations (UN) Conference on the Human Environment, held in Stockholm, induced the Regional Seas Programme of 1974. The programme, which includes the Black and Mediterranean Seas, "aimed to address the accelerating degradation of the world's oceans and coastal areas through the sustainable management and use of the marine and coastal environment, by engaging neighboring countries in comprehensive and specific actions to protect their shared marine environment. …

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