Enhancing the Capacity of Turkey to Adapt to Climate Change

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As part of the southern belt of Mediterranean Europe, Turkey is highly vulnerable to anticipated climate change impacts. Studies undertaken with the support of the United Nations show that Turkey has already experienced variability and changes to its climate. Present climate change impacts include rising summer temperatures, reduced winter precipitation in the western provinces, loss of surface waters, greater frequency of droughts, land degradation, coastal erosion, and flooding. This is having a major negative effect on water availability for food production and rural development.

The severity of these impacts is predicted to increase in frequency and magnitude. It is estimated, for example, that 50% of surface waters in the Gediz and Buyuk Menderes Basins along the Aegean coast of Turkey will be lost in this century, creating extreme water shortages for agricultural, domestic and industrial water uses.

At present, the achievements of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are threatened by climate change. The reduced water availability (in soils, rivers, dams, lakes and ground reserves) is likely to have devastating effects on agricultural production, causing a reduction in food production, a reduction in the influence of rural woman’s groups, and increased degradation of rural landscapes.

In 2008, UN agencies (UNDP, UNEP, UNIDO, FAO) agreed to work together in a Joint Programme funded by the MDG-F resources to enhance Turkey’s ability to adapt to climate change and to manage the risks to rural and coastal developments. A National Strategy to address those climate change impacts was developed and launched in November 2011. The Strategy is aligned with other national strategies and will feed into the Second National Communication to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).


The Joint Programme chose a strategy that would mainstream climate change adaptation into the National Development Framework, building capacity in national and regional institutions, piloting community-based adaptation projects in the Seyhan River Basin, and integrating climate change adaptation into all UN agencies working in Turkey.


  • The core objective was to develop capacity for managing climate change risks in rural and coastal areas in Turkey.
  • The UN trained over 380 people on climate change risks and associated impacts in 11 workshops in 11 provinces around the country. The results of the exercise contributed to Turkey’s National Adaptation Strategy and National Development Strategy. For instance, for urban infrastructure, new considerations on climate resilient cities have been added to the sustainable urbanization strategy.
  • In 18 small ground projects funded by this Programme, 1,500 farmers acquired the skills to better cope with the impacts of climate change, including the introduction of 248 varieties of drought and salinity-resistant crops and agricultural irrigation schemes which were used on 2,118 hectares.
  • An early warning system for flooding was established in Iskenderun on the Askarbeyli River.
  • A Knowledge Needs Survey was organized with 67 institutions and 190 universities. The results were used to develop a comprehensive capacity development programme which was launched during the MDG-F project implementation. This included the design and implementation of a “Climate Change, Adaptation Policies Certificate Programme” which was established in the Continuing Education Centre and Earth System Sciences Department of the Middle East Technical University in Ankara which has trained 33 professionals from the Government and non-governmental organizations. The course was adopted by the university and repeated in 2011.
  • More than 55,000 people, or 2.5% of the population of the Seyhan River Basin, are now better informed and are better able to cope with the impacts of climate change on their lives and livelihoods in the coming decades.


  • Administrative arrangements, with different rules applied by UN agencies, remained a challenge for the project team.
  • The final phase of the Programme accompanied major changes in governmental structures with restructuring taking place among and within the Ministry of Environment and Urbanization and the Ministry of Forestry and Water Works, which were, respectively, the lead coordinators of environmental policies and issues and key players in the implementation of the Joint Programme.

Way Forward

  • The project closed in March 2012. The final step for Turkey is the implementation of the National Adaptation Strategy, including the enacting of a new and flexible law on climate change adaptation which will cover all aspects of adaptation to climate change and which would amend all other relevant legislation where necessary.
  • It is also important that all the experiences of the Programme become part of a knowledge management process that translates into action. Many key priorities and actions proposed by the National Adaptation Strategy have been put together into a new proposal called “Building Turkey’s resilience to climate change through ecosystem-based adaptation: an umbrella programme including the Anatolian steppes, Mediterranean forests, the Cukurova coastal zone, and the southeastern GAP region”. The project aims to increase the supply of ecosystem goods and services and to reduce the vulnerability of communities and economic sectors to climate change.
  • Turkey cannot access any of the UNFCCC funding for adaptation to climate change so securing funding for this project is a future challenge for the country.

Read more about this JP on the MDG-F website.

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