Germany has played down a threat from Turkey to abandon the Paris climate accord amid fears that countries could start using the US decision to quit the global deal to demand more money from wealthy nations.
Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, surprised the German hosts of the G20 summit on Saturday when he told reporters his country may be less inclined to ratify the Paris agreement in the wake of the US decision, suggesting it could jeopardise funds promised to developing countries.
His comments came just hours after he approved a final communiqué at the meeting in Hamburg where the US was left isolated after 19 of the group’s 20 members pledged to fully implement an “irreversible” Paris agreement.
Germany’s environment minister, Barbara Hendricks, downplayed Mr Erdogan’s remarks on Sunday saying: “It’s about access to international financial mechanisms”, rather than a fundamental rejection of the Paris accord.
Mr Erdogan said at a press conference France had promised Ankara would be eligible for money to help it comply with the global agreement when it was adopted by virtually every country, including Turkey, in Paris in December 2015.
However, he said US president Donald Trump’s decision last month to pull out of the Paris deal “steers a course” towards Turkey’s parliament not formally approving the agreement.
More than 150 countries have formally ratified or joined the accord that came into effect last November but Turkey is one of at least 40 nations yet to take such a step.
Mr Trump’s decision to quit the deal, which drew widespread condemnation inside the US and abroad, has raised concerns among some climate change campaigners that countries might seek to wring financial concessions from richer nations to stay in the pact.
There is no public evidence of this occurring so far and Jennifer Morgan, executive director of Greenpeace International, said Mr Erdogan’s position was “not news” and Turkey’s concerns were unlike those of Mr Trump, who claimed the Paris deal “punishes the US”.
Laurence Tubiana, a French climate expert who helped negotiate the Paris accord, confirmed that in the lead-up to the deal’s adoption in 2015, Turkey had been concerned about whether it would be eligible for support from a Green Climate Fund set up to help developing countries shift to a greener economy.
She told the FT on Sunday that after France had consulted widely with other countries, it had found Turkey was already was receiving climate funding from other sources and Ankara had been assured that international agencies would be willing to continue such support.
Diplomats in Berlin believe that the Turkish leader may have wanted to embarrass German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, after her government banned him from addressing Hamburg’s large Turkish community.
Ankara and Berlin are in dispute over issues ranging from Mr Erdogan’s crackdown on his political opponents to his claims that Ms Merkel has applied “Nazi tactics” in preventing Turkish politicians from speaking at rallies in Germany.