Istanbul, Turkey – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has returned to Istanbul instead of attending the United Nations COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland.
The state-run Anadolu Agency said the president returned to Istanbul late on Sunday night directly after attending the G20 summit in Rome. Erdogan was expected to address the COP26 summit on Monday and Tuesday, to lay out how Turkey plans to meet emissions reduction goals it has agreed to under the Paris climate agreement.
The Turkish presidency has not given an official reason for Erdogan’s abrupt cancellation of plans to attend the summit, where Ankara had also hoped to hold meetings with US President Joe Biden and other world leaders on a range of topics.
Erdogan met Biden on Sunday on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Rome, discussing a continuing dispute of F-16 fighter jets Ankara would like to acquire, and the war in Syria.
An unnamed Turkish official told Reuters news agency there had been “protocol issues” over the Turkish president’s attendance at the summit.
Erdogan has in the past been criticised by Turkish opposition leaders for his heavily secured convoys, most recently at the UN General Assembly in New York in September.
Turkish Minister of Environment, Urbanisation And Climate Change, Murat Kurum, is still expected to attend the COP26 summit and represent Turkey.
Starting on Monday, world leaders will deliver two days of speeches. This will be followed by technical negotiations to attempt to reach a deal by the time the summit ends on November 12.
Turkey became the last G20 country to ratify the Paris climate agreement last month.
Although Turkey had signed the agreement in 2016, it had not fully ratified it over the years, saying in part it objected to being listed as a “developed” country and thus being ineligible for financing available to developing countries.
Turkey has reached an agreement last month to receive $3.2bn, mostly in loans, from the World Bank, France and Germany to help it meet its goals laid out in the Paris Agreement.
The agreement aims to limit global warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) – preferably to 1.5C – compared with pre-industrial levels, and binds signatories to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to meet that goal.
Turkey has said it plans a reduction in emissions of 21 percent by 2030, and to reach net-zero emissions by 2053. Turkey currently accounts for less than 1 percent of global emissions, and experts say most of that comes from its energy use, which relies heavily on coal and non-renewables, which the government plans to phase out.
Turkey has experienced a number of natural disasters this year that experts say are driven by global warming. The country currently faces a lingering drought that threatens farmers and water supplies.
In July, wildfires swept across large parts of the country’s southern coast and killed at least eight people.
Then some 82 people were killed by flooding along the Black Sea coast. And a layer of sea mucilage, caused by changing conditions in the waters off Turkey’s coast, covered the Sea of Marmara earlier this year.