Turkey country briefing - The European environment — state and outlook 2015

Briefing Published 18 Feb 2015 Last modified 23 Nov 2020
7 min read
Photo: © bass_nroll |Flickr

The 1982 Constitution recognizes the right of all Turkish citizens to a healthy environment, as well as the duty of the State and of citizens to upgrade the environment, protect environmental health and prevent pollution. Turkey is a party to all key international environmental conventions which provide appropriate policy frameworks and promote cooperation and coherent action at global, regional and national levels to address environmental problems.

Main themes and sectors addressed in the national State of Environment report

The last National State of the Environment Report[1], which covers the period from 2007 to 2011, consists of two main sections. The first section deals with six subjects: air, water and water resources, waste, biodiversity, land use, and institutional and legal regulations. The second section contains information on the state of environment in each of Turkey's 81 provinces. National State of the Environment Reports are published every four years.

Environmental Indicator Reports [2] [3] and Provincial State of the Environment Reports [4][5] are published annually. These two documents are the main sources of the National State of the Environment Reports.

The data for these reports is mostly provided by the Ministry of Environment and Urbanisation (MoEU), which collects the data by its own monitoring activities. Other institutions, particularly the Turkish Statistical Institute (TurkStat), are also important data suppliers for the reports. The publication of these reports is one of the duties for the MoEU by the Decree Law N.644.[6]

Key findings of the State of Environment report 

Turkey has been experiencing environmental pressures due to population growth, industrialisation and rapid urbanisation. These pressures translate into a range of environmental challenges such as climate change, desertification, deforestation, water scarcity, nature degradation and marine pollution. To address these challenges, Turkey has adopted new legislation and institutional practices as part of an effort to comply with the EU environmental acquis.

Enforcement of environmental law began in the early 1980s, since which time there has been increasing regulation in the environmental sphere. This has led to improvements in a number of environmental indicators. Some of these improvements are described below:

  • From 2007 to 2010, there has been a 29 % decrease in air pollution from PM10, and a 43% decrease in air pollution from SO2.
  • Figures show a decrease in total water consumption by 4.4% since 2008, while there has been a 4% annual increase in the number of people served with wastewater treatment since that time.
  • Between 2008 and 2010, collection of municipal waste increased by 3.8%. Regarding waste sites in urban areas in Turkey, the number of landfills which was 15 by 2001 rose to 38 in 2008, 59 in 2011, and 69 in 2012. Between 2009 and 2010, there was a 25% increase in the amount of hazardous waste treated.
  • Turkey is a centre of genetic diversity for plants. In Turkey, out of 11 466 taxons of species and sub-species, 3 650 are endemic. Moreover 8.1% of the total surface area of Turkey is protected.
  • According to the 2000 and 2006 CORINE studies, artificial areas in Turkey increased from 1.56% of the territory to 1.61% between 2000 and 2006, while the share of land covered by forests and semi-natural land remained roughly the same.

Table 1: Land use and land cover data for Turkey


Corine 1990

Corine 2000

Corine 2006

1. Artificial Surfaces




2. Agricultural Areas




3. Forests and semi-natural areas




4. Wetlands




5. Water Bodies

1.52 %

1.64 %

1.64 %

Main policy responses to key environmental challenges and concerns

Turkey has achieved progress in waste management, noise control, industrial pollution control and risk management, forestry, erosion control, and in the quality of its water and air. However, additional legislative and institutional efforts need to be made in the fields of nature protection, chemicals, climate change and water management.

Turkey's convergence with the EU environmental acquis requires comprehensive and costly investment, both in human and institutional capacity development as well as in infrastructure for activities such as environmental monitoring, inspection and reporting. An Annual Inspection Report for Turkey has been published since 2009. [7]

Turkey confronts the challenge of ensuring the integration of environmental protection and social inclusion into its plans for economic growth. Turkey's Tenth Development Plan (2014-2018)[8] puts sustainability at the core of its development endeavours. The plan promotes, inter alia, eco-efficiency and cleaner technologies in production processes and in the services sector. Turkey has been diversifying its energy mix by increasing the use of renewables. Today, renewables constitute 20% of power generation capacity in Turkey. 

Turkey is a party to all key international environmental conventions, which provide appropriate policy frameworks and promote cooperation and coherent action at global, regional and national levels to address environmental problems.

Regional Sea Conventions for the Black Sea and Mediterranean are major policy instruments for Turkey to protect the marine and coastal environments of these valuable ecosystems. 

Turkey has developed and implemented a number of strategy documents for sectors such as mitigation and adaptation to climate change, conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, erosion control and combating desertification, reforestation, and afforestation. New strategy documents regarding different aspects of biological diversity are also being prepared.

Country specific issues

Turkey has a unique and exceptionally rich biodiversity.[9] Turkey consists of different micro-climatic zones and biogeographic regions, each with its own natural ecosystems. Turkey is rich both in terms of its flora and fauna species, many of which are endemic.

Turkey is located at the intersection of the Mediterranean and Near Eastern gene centres, which makes its genetic diversity important. There are five micro-gene centres in Turkey, which offer very important genetic resources for the future sustainability of many plant species cultivated across the world. In terms of animal genetic resources, many domestic animal races were originally bred in Anatolia and spread to other regions of the world.

Turkey is also one of the leading countries for plant endemism. About 33% of the plant species are endemic to Turkey. The exceptional amount of endemism places great responsibility on Turkey to ensure that these species are adequately protected so as not to become endangered or extinct.

According to the OECD Environmental Performance Review of Turkey[10], protected areas reached 5.3% of Turkey's area during the review period. Turkey has further improved protection of these areas via management plans.

The proportion of protected areas (included RAMSAR Sites) to the total surface area of Turkey has increased significantly over the years. Turkey plans to augment this proportion to 10%.

Furthermore, forest areas of Turkey have increased as well, thanks to comprehensive afforestation campaigns, which also contribute to efforts to combat desertification.

Turkey's rich biodiversity is highly vulnerable to climate change, which is also putting pressure on its limited water resources. Turkey is not a water-rich country and water resources are not distributed evenly in the country. In this context, effective and integrated management of water resources is of great importance for Turkey.

According to the Fourth Assessment Report of the IPCC [11], future climate change could critically undermine efforts for sustainable development throughout the world and especially in the Mediterranean Basin.

Turkey is located in the eastern Mediterranean region where countries are in the highest risk group. Therefore, Turkey is compelled to immediately adapt itself to the adverse impacts of climate change.

Turkey has the lowest levels of per-capita GHG emissions among the OECD countries. Likewise, Turkey's emissions per unit of GDP is below the OECD and world average. Besides, Turkey's historical contribution to atmospheric accumulation of GHG emissions is extremely low.

Turkey is committed to combating climate change in accordance with the principles of "common but differentiated responsibilities" and "respective capabilities". Turkey intends to increase its efforts through not only domestic measures but also bilateral and multilateral cooperation and support.

The special circumstances  of Turkey, which are recognised by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, makes Turkey eligible to access current and future technology, capacity-building mechanisms, and finance mechanisms under the UNFCCC for adaptation and mitigation.[12][13]


The country assessments are the sole responsibility of the EEA member and cooperating countries supported by the EEA through guidance, translation and editing.


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