1 Legal framework
1.1 Which legislative and regulatory provisions govern environment and climate regulation in your jurisdiction?
The main legislation governing environment and climate regulations is the Environmental Code 2872, dated 11 August 1983. There are many regulations governing specific matters relating to the environment, issued on the basis of the Environmental Code. By way of example, these include:
- the Regulation on the Control of Water Pollution;
- the Regulation on the Procedures and the Principles Regarding Determination, Registration and Approval of Protected Areas;
- the Regulation on the Environmental Impact Assessment;
- the Regulation on the Evaluation and Management of Environmental Noise;
- the Regulation on Industrial Air Pollution Control;
- the Regulation on the Control of Air Pollution Caused by Heating;
- the Regulation on the Control of Emissions Causing Odour;
- the Regulation on the Environmental Permit and Licence;
- the Regulation on Waste Management Activities;
- the Regulation on Preventing Major Industrial Accidents and Reducing Their Impact;
- the Regulation on the Classification, Labelling and Packaging of Substances and Their Mixture;
- the Regulation on the Control of Soil Contamination and the Point Source Polluted Fields;
- the Regulation on Tracking Greenhouse Gas Emissions;
- the Regulation on Control of Pollution Caused by Dangerous Substances in Water and Its Environment;
- the Regulation on Environmental Inspection;
- the Communique on Tracking Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Their Reporting;
- the Communique on the Accreditation of Greenhouse Gas Emissions and the Authorisation of Accreditation Companies; and
- the Communique for the Purposes of Registering Projects Developed to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Obtain Carbon Certificates.
There are also other laws that regulate more specific areas. For instance, the legal framework for green certificates is set out in the Law on the Usage of Renewable Energy Resources for the Purposes of the Generation of Electricity Energy and the Regulation on the Renewable Energy Resource Certificate.
1.2 Which bilateral and multilateral instruments on environment and climate regulation have effect in your jurisdiction?
Turkey is a signatory to many international agreements, including the following.
- The Geneva Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution, 1979.
- The Cartagena Biosafety Protocol, 2000.
- The Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, 2001.
- Climate change and ozone depletion:
- The Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer, 1985.
- The Montreal Protocol, 1987.
- The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, 1992.
- The Kyoto Protocol, 1997.
- Paris Agreement, 2015
- The Aarhus Convention on Access to Information, 1998.
- Land use:
- The Antarctic Treaty, 1959.
- Nature and biodiversity:
- The Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty (Madrid Protocol).
- The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, 1971.
- The CITES Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, 1973.
- The Bern Convention on European Wildlife and Habitats, 1979.
- The International Convention for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas, 1966.
- The Specially Protected Areas and Biological Diversity Protocol to the Barcelona Convention, 1995.
- The Black Sea Biodiversity and Landscape Conservation Protocol to the Convention on the Protection of the Black Sea Against Pollution, 2002.
- The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification in Africa, 1994.
- The Basel Convention on Hazardous Wastes, 1989.
- The Protocol on the Prevention of Pollution of the Mediterranean Sea by Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal, 1996.
- The Cooperation in Preventing Pollution from Ships and in Combating Pollution of the Mediterranean Sea by Oil and Hazardous and Noxious Substances in Cases of Emergency Protocol to The Barcelona Convention, 2002.
- The Barcelona Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment and the Coastal Region of the Mediterranean, 1976.
- The Protocol for the Protection of the Mediterranean Sea Against Pollution from Land-Based Sources and Activities, 1980.
- The Bucharest Convention on the Protection of the Black Sea Against Pollution, 1992.
1.3 Which bodies are responsible for enforcing the applicable laws and regulations? What powers do they have? To what extent do they cooperate? What are the mechanisms for cooperation?
As the protection of the environment is regulated by various laws, the authority with competence to enforce these regulations is the authority specified in the relevant law. The Ministry of Environment and Urbanisation is the principal authority which enforces and oversees the relevant legislation and regulations relating to the environment. The Ministry of Environment and Urbanisation can delegate its power to monitor the enforcement of the applicable laws and regulations to:
- civil administration authorities;
- the Undersecretariat for Maritime Affairs;
- the police and gendarmes;
- the coast guard; and
- the Environment Agency.
The Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, the Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources, municipalities and other city administrations are also responsible for enforcing the applicable laws and regulations, according to their areas of responsibility. These authorities have the power to impose administrative and criminal sanctions. In terms of administrative law, the authorities cooperate and coordinate among themselves by correspondence.
1.4 What is the regulators' general approach to environment and climate regulation/action?
The regulator's general approach to the environment is to impose both preventive and deterrent regulations. Environmental regulations are mostly based on the ‘polluter pays' principle.
2 Environmental protection
2.1 What are the key features of the regulatory regimes that protect the following environmental assets in your jurisdiction? (a) Air; (b) Soil; (c) Fresh water; (d) Sea water; (e) Flora and fauna; and (f) Natural habitats and scenic landscapes.
Turkey has aligned its regulations in parallel with the international agreements on air pollution that it has ratified. However, exceptions have been introduced in most regulations, in order to safeguard the Turkish economy and avoid hindering exports. The regulations on air pollution have the following aims:
- establishing and implementing the applicable legal framework;
- preventing or reducing environmental damage and harm to human health;
- setting out defined methods and criteria for making evaluations;
- protecting and improving the environmental status quo; and
- informing the public.
The principles on the protection of the soil are set out in the Environmental Code and the related regulations. The prevention and remediation of soil pollution are regulated in detail in these statutes. The legislature's approach to the protection of the soil is preventive. It is not only contaminated areas that are regulated, but also areas at risk of potential contamination.
(c) Fresh water
The development and management of water resources in Turkey are governed by many regulations. Dozens of laws, decrees and regulations include provisions on water use, management and protection. The main tasks of the General Directorate of Water Management, under the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, are:
- to formulate policies for the protection and sustainable use of water resources;
- to prepare legislation; and
- to coordinate national and international water management.
(d) Sea water
All marine pollution – including that resulting from coastal facilities, ships and accidents – is regulated under Turkish law. Turkey has signed many regional cooperation agreements to reduce, control and prevent the pollution of the marine environment, and ensure the sustainable use of natural resources. In general, the regulations on the protection of seas set out the measures to be taken against pollution and the intervention policies to be applied in case of pollution.
(e) Flora and fauna
Turkish law does not regulate the conservation of flora and fauna under separate legislation. Instead, these issues are regulated under the scope of the Environmental Code and the National Parks Law. Special environmental protection areas are designated on the basis of input from local governments, universities, non-governmental organisations and other relevant organisations. There are currently 16 special environmental protection areas and 31 nature protection areas in Turkey. The designation of special environmental protection areas, national parks, natural parks, nature conservation areas and wetlands is published in the Official Gazette.
(f) Natural habitats and scenic landscapes
Pursuant to the Protection of Cultural and Natural Assets Law (2863), the Ministry of Culture and Tourism must take the necessary measures to protect natural habitats and scenic landscapes. The identity of the owner of the specific property is not relevant in this regard. If necessary, such areas with natural assets can be expropriated by the General Directorate for Foundations.
Forests are protected under Article 169 of the Constitution and the Turkish state has absolute responsibility for their protection. The Constitution also prohibits any general or special amnesty for crimes committed against forests.
2.2 What are the key features of the regulatory regime that protects against environmental nuisances (eg, noise, odour and light pollution) in your jurisdiction?
Environmental nuisances are regulated under the legal framework set out in the Environmental Code. The regulatory provisions are set out in, among others:
- the Regulation on Evaluation and Management of Environmental Noise;
- the Industrial Air Pollution Control Regulation;
- the Regulation on Control of Air Pollution Caused by Heating; and
- the Regulation on Control of Emissions Causing Odour.
There is no specific regulation on light pollution; instead, the regulations governing energy saving apply.
In general, Turkey's preventive regime requires persons whose activities are likely to cause environmental damage to take appropriate measures to prevent any damage to the environment. In the absence of such measures, the necessary licences (eg, construction, operation or construction occupation) will be refused or withdrawn, as the case may be. The primary responsibility for ensuring compliance with the regulatory framework rests with the Ministry of Environment and Urbanisation, which shares this task with other administrative authorities, such as city administrations, municipalities, the Undersecretariat for Maritime Affairs and the coast guard. The authorities are granted discretion to impose fines. In principle, they may grant the perpetrator of a nuisance a cure period of up to one year in order to remedy the nuisance. If the nuisance is not remedied, the perpetrator's activities will be stopped by the authorities for a limited or unlimited period.
2.3 What are the consequences of breach of these regulatory regimes?
Breaches of the environmental regulations may attract administrative, civil and criminal consequences. The administrative authorities can stop the activities of the perpetrator of a nuisance for a limited or unlimited period, either directly or after a cure period of up to one year. If the nuisance presents a danger to the environment or human health, the activities must be stopped without a cure period. The Environmental Code provides for the imposition of administrative fines, which, in the case of hazardous substances, may be as high as TL 8,047,986. Furthermore, fines of up to TL 20,243 may be imposed on individuals and legal entities that cause environmental pollution pursuant to Article 41 of the Misdemeanours Law.
Breaches of the environmental regulations may also result in criminal penalties under Article 26 of the Environmental Code. For instance, anyone that gives false or misleading information may be imprisoned for between six months and one year. Anyone that forges false or misleading documents may be subject to the provisions of the Turkish Criminal Code on fraud and forgery, and may be imprisoned for up to 12 years. Articles 181 and following of the Turkish Criminal Code also regulate crimes against the environment, including:
- wilful or negligent pollution of the environment;
- generation of noise in breach of the regulations;
- construction of a building without a licence or against the specifications in the applicable licence; and
- use of a building without a construction occupation licence.
These crimes are punishable by up to six years' imprisonment.
In addition to criminal and administrative sanctions, strict liability (ie, without any requirement of fault) is imposed on the perpetrator of a nuisance. The ‘polluter pays' principle has been adopted pursuant to Article 28 of the Environmental Code.
Further sanctions and administrative fines may be imposed under specific laws, such as the Forests Law, the Public Health Law and the Fisheries Law.
3 Climate change/action
3.1 What are the key features of the regulatory regime governing greenhouse gas emissions in your jurisdiction?
The main statute governing greenhouse gas emissions in Turkey is the Regulation on Tracking Greenhouse Gas Emissions. The regulation provides for the monitoring and reporting of greenhouse gas emissions following a verification procedure. Monitoring takes place within the framework of a plan prepared by the operator and approved by the Ministry of Environment and Urbanisation. A report must be prepared six months prior to the start of the monitoring period. Reporting takes place on a yearly basis based on the emissions report of the operator, which must be verified by an accredited company. Pursuant to a recent amendment to Article 20 of the Environmental Code, failure to submit or update a greenhouse gas emission monitoring plan or to submit an approved greenhouse gas emission report in time may incur administrative fines of up to TL 36,000.
With regard to greenhouse gas emissions, it is important to note that Turkey is a party to the Kyoto Protocol. Furthermore, the Paris Agreement on climate change has been ratified and entered into force on 7 October 2021
3.2 What emissions trading regimes are operational in your jurisdiction and what are their key features?
There is a voluntary market for carbon emission certificates based on the Communique for the Purposes of Registering Projects Developed to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Obtain Carbon Certificates, issued on 9 October 2013. Companies undertaking such projects must register themselves and, 30 days after their project is issued with a carbon certificate, their project with the Ministry of Environment and Urbanisation. The voluntary carbon standard institutions, which develop voluntary carbon emissions standards, will register these projects in accordance with such standards and issue the relevant carbon certificates; they must report the projects they have registered and certified twice a year. A similar reporting obligation exists for the independent audit companies, accredited in accordance with the Kyoto Protocol, which approve and verify such projects, for the projects they have audited.
Furthermore, a new green certificate system, similar to the system of ‘guarantees of origin' set out in Article 15 of EU Directive 2009/28/EC, was introduced on 14 November 2020 by the Regulation on the Renewable Energy Resource Certificate (YEK-G). The system came into force on 1 June 2021. The users of YEK-G certificates – energy producers and suppliers that have subscribed to the system and are registered with the responsible authority (EPIAŞ) – can prove to their customers in a reliable and transparent way that the electricity they sell is generated from renewable energy resources. EPIAŞ will establish an organised market on which green certificates may be traded. Companies that hold electricity generation and supply licences will be able to participate in the market. To operate in the YEK-G market, companies must sign an organised YEK-G market participation agreement with EPIAŞ. Multi-source electricity generation licence holders may participate in the YEK-G market if all of the energy resources used in their facilities are renewable. In order to register, companies must submit their YEK-G system participation commitment to EPIAŞ. EPIAŞ will then issue them with electronic YEK-G certificates. Trading in green certificates shall take place among YEK-G users either on the organised market or on the subsidiary contractual market; in each case, sales must be notified to the responsible authority. The prices shall be freely determined on the market. If a company violates the YEK-G system participation commitment, it will be prohibited from trading in the YEK-G system and market. As the green finance regulations are still very new, the details regarding their implementation will become clearer with the issue of further regulations.
3.3 How prominently does renewable energy feature in the energy mix in your jurisdiction? What regulations and other measures have been put in place to promote the use of renewable energy?
In recent years, certain incentives have been introduced to promote the production of renewable energy certificates. The most prominent is the Renewable Energy Support Scheme (YEKDEM), prescribed under the Law on the Usage of the Renewable Energy Resources for the Purposes of the Generation of Electricity Energy. YEKDEM includes procedures and principles relating to the prices, periods and payments to be made to those which undertake generation activities based on renewable energy resources and have been granted a YEK certificate. YEKDEM supports energy generation based on renewable energy sources by offering a minimum price application for investments and a purchase guarantee for 10 years at a certain price. Renewable energy facilities that have already become operational or will be operational by 30 June 2021 will benefit from the support of YEKDEM, which will remain valid until 31 December 2030. On 31 January 2021, YEKDEM support was extended for facilities that will become operational between 1 July 2021 and 31 December 2025; and the applicable support tariff was revised.
To further promote renewable energy, the Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources provides a fixed price guarantee, lower licence fees and, in certain cases, no licence fees for those seeking to establish a production facility in line with the renewable energy legislation.
However, the most significant measure to promote the use of renewable energy regime is the introduction of the YEK-G system, as explained in question 3.2.
3.4 What regulations and other measures have been put in place to promote greater energy efficiency in your jurisdiction?
Due to its strategic importance, energy efficiency is specifically regulated under the Energy Efficiency Law and the related regulations. The Energy Efficiency Strategy (2012–2023) and the National Energy Efficiency Action Plan (2017–2023) are the most important instruments that define the purpose and scope of the Energy Efficiency Law. Measures include the establishment and operation of:
- energy efficiency service markets;
- energy service companies;
- energy auditors;
- energy efficiency projects; and
- voluntary agreement schemes to encourage energy-saving investments.
3.5 What other initiatives have been rolled out in your jurisdiction to combat climate change and its effects? How are those effects typically manifesting in your jurisdiction at the present time?
In order to combat climate change, the Climate Change and Alignment Department was established within the Ministry of Environment and Urbanisation. As Turkey aims to reduce the intensity of its primary energy use by 20% by the end of 2023, the department is actively pursuing several climate projects, which involve educating the public and enhancing public awareness, and issuing grants that support municipalities, universities and non-governmental organisations. As result of these projects, the fight against climate change has attracted special attention and public awareness has increased. The local administrations are also implementing projects to combat climate change and have direct contact with the public.
3.6 What impact is Covid-19 likely to have on climate action in your jurisdiction?
One almost immediate positive impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has been a dramatic reduction in nitrogen dioxide levels. There has also been a drop in carbon emissions. Both have had a significant and positive impact on human health, particularly in urban areas, and have helped to increase public awareness of climate action. If the behavioural changes caused by the pandemic become habits (depending on whether and how individuals, businesses and institutions embrace remote working), this might in turn secure lasting reductions in domestic and international business travel, with the result that these positive achievements are maintained. Accordingly, the widespread use of green certificates may be expected when the new YEK-G system starts operating as of 1 June 2021.
Conversely, the use of single-use plastics and plastic packaging material has increased as a result of the pandemic, with a potentially negative impact on the environment. Accordingly, the Circular on Covid-19 Measures in the Management of Personal Hygiene Material Waste such as Disposable Masks and Gloves was issued by the Ministry of Environment and Urbanisation on 7 April 2020. This regulation is important in terms of both health and waste management.
4 Environmental permits and approvals
4.1 What environmental permits and approvals are required in your jurisdiction, and when are these typically required?
The key statute on environmental permits and approvals is the Regulation on the Environmental Permit and Licence. Enterprises whose activities are highly dangerous (listed in Annex 1 of the regulation) or dangerous (listed in Annex 2 of the regulation) for the environment are subject to this regulation and must obtain an environmental permit or licence before they commence operations. The following industries are affected:
- mining and construction materials;
- chemicals and petrochemicals;
- forestry products and cellulose;
- food processing;
- waste management;
- storage/filling and emission of materials; and
- surface covering.
Depending on their scope, activities in these industries may fall within the scope of Annex 1 or 2 of the regulation, and the procedure and the competent authorities will change accordingly. For highly dangerous activities, the Ministry of Environment and Urbanisation is the competent authority; otherwise, the authorities at the level of the city administration are competent. Specific activities that do not fall directly within the scope of the Regulation on the Environmental Permit and Licence, but are nevertheless subject to permits and approvals under the applicable regulations (eg, in the areas of air pollution, noise control, waste water management or deep sea emissions), must be separately scrutinised and approved accordingly by the competent authorities. Approvals must be issued at the start of the project.
Furthermore, pursuant to Article 10 of the Environmental Code, an environmental impact assessment (EIA) is required for every company, institution or enterprise whose activities are likely to have a negative impact on the environment. An EIA is required for:
- all projects listed in Annex 1 of the Regulation on the EIA;
- projects for which an EIA is required as a result of the screening procedure, where screening is achieved on a case-by-case examination or where the thresholds set out in Annex 2 of the regulation are exceeded; and
- in case of a capacity increase or expansion, where the thresholds set forth in Annex 2 are exceeded.
The projects listed in Annex 1 relate to facilities such as the following:
- thermal power plants;
- nuclear fuel facilities;
- metals facilities;
- asbestos facilities;
- chemical plants (producing on an industrial scale);
- explosive and combustible substance facilities;
- waterways, harbours and shipyards; and
- hazardous waste facilities.
Annex 2 lists the facilities that are subject to an EIA depending on their size, capacity, type and possible impact on the environment. An EIA must take place at the very start of the project.
Another important permit relates to waste management. Pursuant to Article 11 of the Environmental Code, facilities and enterprises which cannot dispose of their waste resulting from activities that relate to production, consumption or services must manage their waste in accordance with the applicable regulations and obtain the necessary approvals. At the stage of obtaining a construction permit, such facilities and enterprises must present documentation to prove that they will be able to comply with their waste management obligations.
4.2 What is the process for obtaining environmental permits and approvals? If a permit or approval is refused, can the decision be appealed?
A multi-stage process is envisaged for projects that are subject to an EIA. First, a screening process will take place on a case-by-case basis by the EIA Commission, to decide whether an EIA is required. If the commission decides that an EIA is not required, it will issue a decision of "EIA Not Required". If it decides that an EIA is required, an announcement will be made that the EIA application file has been opened to the public. Until the process ends, opinions and suggestions regarding the project can be submitted to the relevant governorship or the Ministry of Environment and Urbanisation. In addition, a meeting for the public will be held, and public opinions will be taken into consideration by the commission and reflected in the EIA report. The ministry will issue an "EIA Positive" or "EIA Negative" decision for the project, taking into account the work of the commission and public opinion. The ministry monitors compliance with its decisions.
For projects that are subject to the Regulation on the Environmental Permit and Licence, in general, all enterprises that fall within the scope of this regulation are subject to a provisional activity certificate, which is valid for a period of one year. The enterprise must apply for a (final) activity certificate within six months of the issuance of the provisional activity certificate.
Where an enterprise falls within the scope of the Regulation on the Environmental Permit and Licence, specific activities that are subject to permits and approvals under the applicable regulations must be separately obtained from the relevant authorities prior to the issuance of the final activity certificate under the regulation. In other words, even if the enterprise falls within the scope of the Regulation on the Environmental Permit and Licence, and its activities are thus subject to a permit issued by the Ministry of Environment and Urbanisation or the city administration authorities, as the case may be, permits relating to specific activities for which environmental approval is required must be obtained separately.
A lawsuit can be filed before the administrative courts against decisions of the administrative authorities within 60 days of notification of the decision. Before initiating administrative proceedings, the removal, reversal or amendment of the administrative action or the institution of a new administrative action may be requested from the higher authority or, if there is no higher authority, from the authority that granted the administrative decision.
4.3 What is the duration of environmental permits and approvals?
If the investment in the project is not initiated within seven years of an "EIA Positive" decision or within five years of an "EIA Not Required" decision, that decision becomes invalid. Once the investment is initiated, the EIA decision remains valid until construction is completed. Environmental permits and licences are valid for five years and must be renewed thereafter.
4.4 What, if any, requirements and restrictions apply to the transfer of environmental permits and approvals?
A change in owner or title of an enterprise that holds an environmental permit or licence certificate is regulated in Article 12 of the Regulation on the Environmental Permit and Licence and Article 21 of the Regulation on the EIA. A transfer of the project for which environmental permits and approvals have been obtained can be requested from the relevant provincial directorates of the Ministry of Environment and Urbanisation. Following the transfer, the new person or enterprise will be monitored and audited by the Ministry of Environment and Urbanisation as the project applicant. As environmental permits are granted on a project basis, it is sufficient that the transferee commits to the project requirements.
4.5 What ongoing rights and obligations apply to the holder of an environmental permit or approval?
An environmental permit holder must fulfil the commitments foreseen in the EIA permit. The permit holder must also prepare a project progress report within the periods determined by the commission, upload the report to the electronic system and submit it for inspection by the Ministry of Environment and Urbanisation pursuant to the Regulation on the EIA.
4.6 What are the consequences of breach of an environmental approval or permit?
According to the Regulation on the EIA, if it is found that the project owner has not complied with its obligations as set out in the final EIA report or the project introduction file, a period of up to one year may be granted to bring the project into compliance with these requirements. If the project is still non-compliant at the end of this period, the investment will be suspended. The suspension decision will not be revoked unless the respective obligations are fulfilled. An extension to ensure compliance or the suspension of activities does not prevent the imposition of the penalties stipulated in the Environmental Code.
Article 20 of the Environmental Code also contains a penalty specific to EIA requirements. Anyone that starts constructing or operating before the EIA process has begun or ended will be subject to a fine corresponding to 2% of the project cost. The investor will also be obliged to ensure restitutio in integrum (restitution to the original state) in the field of operation. Anyone that breaches the commitments submitted during the EIA process may be subject to a penalty of TL 40,223 for each breach.
5 Waste management
5.1 How is ‘waste' defined and regulated in your jurisdiction? Does the regime vary depending on the type of waste involved?
The Environmental Code defines ‘waste' in the broadest sense as "any material that is produced as a result of any activity, thrown or left to the environment". The main statute governing waste management is the Regulation on Waste Management Activities. This applies to the management of most types of waste, such as the following:
- mining waste;
- agricultural waste;
- waste from carpentry, cartoon, paper, panel and furniture production;
- waste from the leather, fur and textiles industries;
- waste from petrol refinery and gas refinement;
- waste from organic chemical processes;
- waste from inorganic chemical processes;
- waste from the production, supply and use of printing and tacky ink and primers;
- waste from the photography industry;
- waste from heat treatment;
- waste from hydrometallurgy activities (excluding iron);
- waste from metal and plastic shaping;
- oil waste and liquid fuel waste (with some exceptions, such as renewable oils);
- waste organic catalysts, coolers and propellants;
- packaging whose treatment is not otherwise defined, and absorbers, wiping fabrics, filtering materials and protective clothes;
- waste which is not otherwise defined;
- excavation and destruction waste;
- waste relating to human and animal health;
- waste obtained from waste water treatment activities; and
- municipality-related waste (including household wares as well as similar commercial, industrial and institutional waste).
The following types of waste do not fall within the scope of the Regulation on Waste Management Activities and are subject to their own regimes:
- gas emissions;
- radioactive waste;
- waste water;
- explosives that are in a non-useable status;
- non-contaminated excavation soil;
- animal cadavers;
- animal excreta;
- other animal by-products sent to biogas and compost recycling facilities or to burning or storage facilities;
- natural and harmless agricultural or forestry materials; and
- ship-generated waste and cargo residues.
Special regulations also apply to the treatment of waste such as:
- packaging waste;
- medical waste;
- vegetable oil;
- dangerous waste; and
- radioactive waste.
Law 31350, published in the Official Gazette on 30 December 2020, significantly amended the provisions of the Environmental Code governing waste management, among other things. For instance, the treatment of certain types of waste, to be specified by the Ministry of Environment and Urbanisation, must be handled by entities licensed by the ministry as ‘waste management responsible'. For waste that does not fall under the ministry's specifications, the delegation of this task to such licensed entities will be optional. Further, pursuant to the amendments introduced by Law 31350, motor oil waste must be managed by licensed institutions, which are also authorised to exchange motor oil. All details regarding the amendments introduced to the Environmental Code in relation to waste management will be specified in regulations to be issued by the Ministry of Environment and Urbanisation. Thus, the applicable regime will vary depending on the type of waste involved; this will become clearer in the very near future.
5.2 What key rights and obligations apply to waste operators in your jurisdiction? What are the consequences of breach?
Waste operators are subject to the procedure set out in the Regulation on the Environmental Permit and Licence (see question 4.1) and must comply with the conditions set out in their permits. They are subject to:
- requirements on the training of personnel;
- high standards of healthcare; and
- security standards for personnel who work in the risky areas of their facilities.
They must also manage the waste produced as a result of their activities and any residues. Waste operators must also fill out a ‘national waste carriage form' for:
- dangerous waste;
- medical waste;
- metal waste;
- waste vegetable oil;
- waste accumulators;
- waste rubber plastics; and
- waste electrical products.
The national waste carriage form incorporates the records and information regarding the transport of the waste to the waste treatment facility. Further obligations are set out in the regulation.
Breach of these obligations is subject to the consequences set out in question 2.3. Furthermore, administrative fines of up to TL 20,243 may be imposed on individuals and legal entities that have collected or stored household waste in areas which are not dedicated for such purpose pursuant to Article 41 of the Misdemeanours Law.
5.3 Are any producer responsibility regimes applicable in your jurisdiction?
Producers and suppliers of electronic products, packaging, vehicles, batteries and accumulators are subject to an extended liability, which creates an obligation to take the necessary precautions – from the design of the products onwards – in order to:
- reduce the negative effects of their products on the environment;
- prevent waste;
- promote reuse after waste management;
- safely recycle; and/or
- support recovery.
Although there is otherwise no special responsibility regime, a financial obligation has been imposed on producers of products listed in Annex 1 of the Environmental Code (eg, plastic bags, tyres, accumulators, batteries, metals, vegetable oil, some electronics and electrical goods and medicines), which are obliged to pay a fee in the form of a ‘recycling contribution'. The amount of this fee varies according to product or product group. Administrative fines may be imposed on those that do not fulfil this obligation. For instance, anyone that does not pay the contribution fee may be subject to an administrative fine of 20% of the recycling contribution. Further penalties are set out in the Environmental Code.
Other obligations have also been introduced for producers of waste that can be recycled pursuant to Law 31350. Article 11 of the Environmental Code, as amended by Law 31350, enshrines the following principles:
- prevention and reduction of waste or its effects;
- recycling of waste; and
- collection of waste that can be recycled separately at its point of origin.
Accordingly, companies that have established ‘zero waste management systems' and that have obtained the relevant certificates can deliver their waste, collected separately at the point of origin and according to type, to waste management companies that have been licensed by the Ministry of Environment and Urbanisation for the purposes of recycling. Pursuant to the Zero Waste Regulation, the following institutions and enterprises are obliged to establish a zero waste management system:
- local administrations;
- public institutions;
- organised industrial zones;
- business and commercial centres;
- shopping centres;
- education institutions and dormitories;
- healthcare institutions;
- gas stations and rest facilities;
- chain supermarkets;
- housing estates with more than 300 residences; and
- industrial sites mentioned in Annexes 1 and 2 of the EIA Regulation.
Failure to set up a zero waste management system will incur an administrative fine of TL 20,000. In addition, producers, importers and suppliers that do not fulfil their waste management obligations may face an administrative fine of up to TL 10,000.
Starting from 1 January 2022, single-use packaging produced from glass, polyethylene terephthalate plastic and aluminium will be subject to a compulsory deposit. The release of such packaging products will be possible with the approval of the Environment Agency. The deposit fees collected from such packaging will be funnelled to the Environment Agency before these products are released to the market, and follow-up on the collection and refund of deposits will be overseen by the Environment Agency. Administrative fines under the Environment Law will apply to anyone that do not abide by the deposit rules. We will be in a better position to assess the extent to which special producer responsibilities apply under these provisions once further details have been set out in regulations issued by the Ministry of Economy and Urbanisation.
6 Hazardous substances
6.1 What are the key features of the regulatory regime governing hazardous activities and substances in your jurisdiction?
Hazardous activities are highly regulated and the regulations have widespread application. The regulations that are generally applicable to certain types of activities include provisions that apply specifically to hazardous substances. For instance:
- the Regulation on Waste Management Activities regulates, among other things, the management of waste from hazardous substances; and
- the Regulation Governing the Classification, Labelling, and Packaging of Substances and their Mixture includes provisions on the labelling and packaging of hazardous chemicals.
The carriage of hazardous substances via road, air, rail or sea is subject to separate regulations that contain detailed provisions on their packaging, carriage, loading and unloading, among other things. The pollution of the seas with hazardous substances is also specifically regulated by, for example:
- the Law on the Principles of Emergency Response and Compensation for Damages in Pollution of the Seas with Oil and Other Hazardous Substances; and
- the Regulation on Control of Pollution Caused by Dangerous Substances in Water and Its Environment.
Similarly, air pollution is also specifically regulated under the Regulation on Industrial Air Pollution Control.
Hazardous substances relating to the disposal of industrial and medical waste are managed pursuant to specific regulations. To oversee the implementation of these laws and regulations, the Chemicals Management Department was established within the Ministry of Environment and Urbanisation.
In general, the regime governing hazardous activities and substances consists mainly of preventive measures. For instance, safety measures and plans to mitigate the impact of accidents are regulated in detail.
6.2 What key rights and obligations apply to operators of hazardous sites in your jurisdiction?
The obligations of the operators of hazardous sites are set out in various regulations, depending on the type of activity and the type of hazardous material. For instance, the waste management of hazardous substances is carried out by licensed operators. Hazardous waste can be temporarily stored for a maximum period of six months. Facilities which contain hazardous substances must comply with the safety measures and reporting requirements stipulated under the Regulation on Preventing Major Industrial Accidents and Reducing Their Impact.
The operators of hazardous waste must have third-party liability insurance, as specifically regulated by the applicable legislation.
Furthermore, the Regulation Governing the Classification, Labelling, and Packaging of Substances and their Mixture sets out the rules and obligations of producers, suppliers and importers of substances and mixtures that may be hazardous. There are numerous requirements for the labelling and packaging of hazardous substances, as well as an obligation to inform and notify the Ministry of Environment and Urbanisation. Separate regulations apply with regard to the transfer of hazardous substances via land, sea, air or rail. The transfer of hazardous substances is subject to special permits, depending on the means of transport.
6.3 What reporting requirements apply to environmental accidents in your jurisdiction?
According to the applicable regulations, if a major accident that poses a serious risk to human health or the environment occurs in its facility, the operator must immediately notify:
- the city administration;
- the municipality;
- the Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency;
- the Public Health Agency of Turkey;
- the Ministry of Environment and Urbanisation; and
- the Ministry of Labour and Social Security.
It must further provide information on the accident, including:
- how the accident occurred and developed;
- the dangerous substances involved and their quantities;
- the data necessary to assess the effects of the accident on human health, the environment and goods; and
- the emergency measures taken.
In addition, the operator must complete the accident reporting section in the notification system of the Ministry of Environment and Urbanisation within 60 days of the accident, and send it to the provincial directorate of the Ministry of Environment and Urbanisation and the provincial directorate of the Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency.
6.4 What is the process for investigating environmental accidents in your jurisdiction?
Following a major industrial accident that affects the environment, the Ministry of Environment and Urbanisation will:
- investigate the facility;
- request that safety measures be taken to prevent future accidents; and
- examine whether the facility was in compliance with the regulations.
Those who are responsible may also be subject to criminal investigations for their actions or omissions which fall within the scope of crimes against the environment under the Criminal Code.
6.5 What are the potential consequences of breach of the regulatory regime governing hazardous activities and substances – both for operators themselves and for directors, managers and employees?
Pursuant to Article 20 of the Environmental Code, administrative fines of up to TL 8,047,986 may be imposed on anyone that:
- enables hazardous waste to enter into the country, exports hazardous waste or allows hazardous waste to pass in transit without prior notification of the authorities;
- collects, separates, stores, recycles, reuses, transports, packages, labels or disposes of hazardous waste, or does not close down a hazardous waste disposal facility, in accordance with the relevant rules; or
- produces, processes, exports, imports, carries, stores, uses, packages, labels or sells waste, or puts waste on the market, in breach of the relevant rules.
In case of the discharge of hazardous substances or waste to the sea, lakes or rivers, the amount of the administrative fine will be 10 times higher than that issued in case of discharge of petroleum and its derivatives to the sea, lakes or rivers. The fine is calculated based on the gross tonnage of the tanker which causes the discharge of hazardous substances, and will start from TL 6,619.4 per gross ton.
In addition, Article 174 of the Criminal Code penalises the storage or transfer of hazardous substances without permission. Those found responsible for producing, importing, exporting, transferring, storing, selling, buying or processing nuclear, radioactive, chemical or biological substances which are explosive, corrosive, abrasive, injurious, suffocating or poisonous, or which cause permanent illnesses – as well as those which provide the necessary substances and equipment to produce, process or use such substances – may face imprisonment or criminal fines.
Those harmed may also resort to general tort liability to claim compensation from the responsible persons or companies.
Furthermore, pursuant to the Criminal Code and the Misdemeanours Law, directors, managers and employees may be held personally responsible if they are found to have acted intentionally or negligently. The potential consequences of breach of the regulatory regime governing hazardous activities and substances may take the form of:
- an administrative fine pursuant to Article 20 of the Environmental Code; or
- imprisonment or criminal fines pursuant to Article 174 of the Criminal Code.
To avoid such liability, directors, managers and employees must demonstrate that they have acted diligently and have not intentionally or negligently caused the company to the regulatory regime governing hazardous activities or substances.
7 Contaminated land
7.1 What are the key features of the regulatory regime governing contaminated land in your jurisdiction?
The regime governing contaminated land not only deals with actually contaminated land, but also sets out preventive provisions to deal with potential contamination.
Limit values of soil contamination are set out in the regulations and followed through with in-depth investigations. Certain activities are classified as "potentially soil pollutant activities", which are strictly monitored. If there is a reasonable suspicion of contamination, in-depth investigations must be carried out. Pollution prevention procedures must be followed and obligations are imposed on operators to prepare such procedures.
7.2 Who bears the liability for the clean-up of contaminated land? Can such liability be excluded or subcontracted/delegated?
Based on Articles 2 and 28 of the Environmental Code, as well as the Regulation on the Control of Soil Contamination and Point Source Polluted Fields, polluters have strict liability for damages arising from the pollution and deterioration they have caused. These may variously be business owners, contractors or subcontractors. They must stop, mitigate and reduce the damage; if they fail to do so, they will be liable for the costs arising from the measures taken by the authorities on their behalf.
There is no provision that directly allows for the exclusion or delegation of liabilities. There is no strict liability for the owner of the land if it did not undertake the activities leading to the pollution. In other words, the polluter need not be the owner of the land to be liable for the contamination. If the polluter has used the land based on a personal right or a right in rem, this will suffice. Individuals and private or public entities can be held liable if they fulfil the conditions of liability.
7.3 How is liability determined in cases where multiple parties have contributed to the contamination?
Each polluter is responsible for the penalties, separately and individually. However, in cases where multiple parties have contributed to the contamination, civil liability towards third parties is joint and several, according to the general provisions. If one party pays damages to third parties, it can have recourse to the other polluters to the extent of their fault.
7.4 Can individuals bring proceedings against polluters, landowners and/or occupiers where they have been affected by contamination? If so, which court/tribunal is competent to deal with such proceedings?
The civil liability of polluters, landowners and occupiers is possible based on the Environmental Code and the general provisions, and can be claimed before the civil courts. Individuals can bring claims against polluters based on Article 28 of the Environmental Code. This is a strict liability regime – that is, the claimant need not prove any fault attributable to the polluter. It is sufficient to prove the damages caused through the contamination.
The landowner can also be held liable if the conditions set out in Article 730 of the Civil Code are fulfilled. The owner's liability is also strict; however, the claimant must prove that the owner has exercised its ownership rights against the legal restrictions. Similarly, building owners and the owners of usufruct rights and settlement rights are liable for deficiencies in the construction or maintenance of buildings pursuant to Article 69 of the Code of Obligations. Their strict liability can be claimed if the conditions set out in Article 69 are fulfilled, in addition to the liability of the polluter. Another important liability regime is set out in Article 71 of the Code of Obligations for those that engage in perilous activities. This foresees the liability of enterprises that are engaged in perilous activities, and states that both the owners and the operators of such enterprises are liable for damages arising from such activities. This liability is strict; the engagement in perilous activities must be proven.
Criminal complaints may also be filed before the criminal courts, as environmental pollution is prohibited by the Criminal Code and the Misdemeanours Law. The complainant can also seek compensation in the course of criminal proceedings. Criminal proceedings may also be initiated ex officio by the prosecutor, without the need for any complaint.
8 Reporting, auditing and disclosure
8.1 Are any public registers of environmental information maintained in your jurisdiction? If so, what are they, who can access them and how? What possibilities exist for third parties to access environmental information and what is the process for doing so?
There is no general, publicly available environmental information recording system that covers all environmental issues. However, it is possible to obtain information on specific environmental issues upon application to the authorities. For instance, environmental permits and environmental impact assessment (EIA) decisions are kept by the Ministry of Environment and Urbanisation. The ministry also maintains the Contaminated Land Information System, in which all information on contaminated land in Turkey is recorded. The General Directorate of State Hydraulic Works also keeps information on all kinds of water data. Third parties can apply to the authorities to obtain the information they need. It is also possible to apply to the Ministry of Environment and Urbanisation for an information request through the President's Office Information Centre.
A key provision on the right to obtain environmental information is Article 30 of the Environmental Code, under which any person has the right to obtain information pursuant to the Law on the Right to Obtain Information. However, any information that might jeopardise environmental assets, such as reproduction areas or rare species, can be withheld. Also, information that contains trade secrets will be withheld by the authorities. Public companies must disclose important information such as EIAs through the Public Disclosure Platform (KAP). Therefore, environmental information relating to public companies can also be obtained through the KAP records.
8.2 What environmental reporting requirements apply to companies in your jurisdiction?
Companies must periodically conduct analysis and send reports to various authorities under the Ministry of Ecology and Urbanisation depending on the scope of their activities (eg, waste management, chemical registration or waste water management). There is a unified system – the Integrated Environmental Information System – through which companies can submit analysis and reports to the authorities according to their field of activity. Companies must register with the Integrated Environmental Information System, prepare the necessary information in line with the regulations that govern their field of activity and make a notification using the online program.
8.3 Are companies in your jurisdiction subject to environmental audit requirements?
Although there are no specific regulations on environmental audits for companies, the Ministry of Environment and Urbanisation conducts annual audits. In addition to these planned audits, unscheduled audits may be carried out in case of accidents, notices or complaints. In addition, companies are obliged to provide all necessary information and documents if requested to do so by the ministry.
8.4 When and how must environmental issues be disclosed (eg, in the event of the potential sale of land or a merger or acquisition)?
While there is an environmental reporting requirement to inform the Ministry of Environment and Urbanisation (see question 8.2), there is no general requirement to publicly disclose environmental issues. This is rather left to the discretion of individuals and companies. However, as explained in question 6.3, in the event of major industrial accidents, institutions and companies which fall under the scope of the Regulation on Preventing Major Industrial Accidents (ie, all enterprises that store or may store hazardous materials listed in Annexes 1 and 2 of the regulation, in amounts equal to or exceeding the limits specified in Annexes 1 and 2; or enterprises that may produce these hazardous materials as a result of loss of control in their chemical processes) must make available to the public information regarding:
- their activities;
- substances which may cause a major industrial accident;
- the basic hazards of these substances; and
- the measures to be taken in case of a major accident.
The following information must be shared with those who request information on the potential dangers and consequences of major accidents:
- the security report to be prepared in case of major industrial accidents;
- policy documents concerning accident prevention;
- accident scenarios;
- internal emergency plans; and
- other relevant information (except for confidential information) and necessary precautions.
Furthermore, companies which are subject to the capital markets legislation must disclose any changes in relation to their environmental obligations through the KAP.
9.1 What environmental and climate taxes are applicable in your jurisdiction?
The only environmental tax that applies in Turkey is the environmental cleaning tax. Residences, workplaces and other buildings that benefit from the environmental cleaning services of municipalities are subject to this tax. Further, although this is not considered as a tax under the strict definition of the term, recycling participation shares are collected from sales points, distributors and importers of certain products (eg, electrical products, plastic bags and batteries). The environmental pollution prevention fund outlined in Article 18 of the Environment Law and exhaust emission fees are also noteworthy in this regard.
9.2 Are any exemptions or incentives available?
Several tax exemptions and incentives are available for activities and facilities relating to renewable energy. Prioritised areas in the Investment Support Scheme of the Ministry of Industry and Technology Investments relating to energy efficiency include:
- investments that are subject to an environmental permit;
- investments for electricity generation from wasted heat energy; and
- investments relating to the production of wind turbine and generator wings for the renewable energy sector.
If the investment is supported pursuant to the Investment Support Scheme, exemptions from value added tax (VAT), customs tax and social security premiums paid by the employer, withholding tax support for income tax and tax cuts will apply. Investment support is also available for investments in regions which are economically and industrially less developed. Exemptions from VAT and customs tax, and withholding tax support for income tax, are available for investments in such regions. In addition, according to Article 13(j) of the Law on VAT, the delivery of goods and services to renewable energy facilities is exempt from VAT.
Some tax exemptions are also available to individuals. According to Article 9/9 of the Law on Income Tax, individuals who generate electricity based on renewable energy sources in their residences with energy panels with a maximum capacity of 10 kilowatts and who sell on generated power exceeding their need are exempt from tax applied on income generated from these activities.
9.3 What strategies might parties consider to mitigate their environmental and climate tax liabilities?
As the existing environmental taxes in Turkey are very limited in scope and calculated on the basis of criteria such as the use of resources and the size or purpose of the building, there are no applicable strategies to mitigate environmental or climate tax liabilities.
10.1 What types of environmental insurance arrangements are put in place in your jurisdiction? Is there any mandatory environmental insurance in your jurisdiction? How sophisticated is the environmental insurance market? What, if anything, is excluded from insurance cover?
There is no advanced and specialised environmental insurance regime in Turkey and the market is not sophisticated. Hazardous substances and hazardous waste compulsory liability insurance is mandatory for companies that produce, store, transport or sell hazardous waste or flammable or caustic substances. The following are excluded:
- damages claimed by those who caused the event that created the damage;
- illiquid damages incurred by the insured;
- damages caused by acts of war, armed conflict, insurrection, blockade, rebellion, riot or civil commotion; and
- damages caused by nuclear accidents.
Types of voluntary insurance include environmental pollution financial liability insurance and coastal facilities marine pollution liability insurance. Unless otherwise agreed, the following, among others, are excluded:
- damage that happened gradually in the past, after the validity date;
- the cost of remediation of damaged land;
- damage caused to natural resources and livestock used for subsistence;
- damage caused to biological diversity, live sources and habitats;
- payments to third parties due to the interruption of work (fixed costs, payments to employees, rental payments);
- public damages; and
- illiquid damages.
10.2 What are the ‘green finance' arrangements in your jurisdiction? To whom do they apply? What, if any, obligations do they impose? Who is responsible for monitoring, enforcing and reviewing such arrangements in your jurisdiction?
The Turkey Sustainable Energy Financing Facility (TurSEFF) is a programme developed to provide financing for sustainable energy and resource efficiency investments in the public and private sector. It was developed by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and supported by the European Union. Loans are made available through partner banks to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and companies providing municipality services that fulfil the requirements for SMEs, vendors and dealers of eligible equipment.
The obligations and details of the payment scheme – such as interest rates, payment terms, grace periods and guarantees – are determined in the credit or leasing agreements contracted between the supported businesses and the partner banks.
The projects supported under the TurSEFF scheme are followed by a project consultant appointed by TurSEFF. The project consultant assists, develops and supports the projects, and oversees their technical and financial compatibility with the TurSEFF programme. Once the project is completed, the project consultant will report on whether it was implemented correctly.
Other relevant green finance arrangements are available under the new renewable energy resource certificate scheme (see question 3.2).
11.1 In which forums are environmental and climate change disputes heard in your jurisdiction?
Disputes relating to permits, authorisations and environmental impact assessment (EIA) reports issued by the Ministry of Environment and Urbanisation, and disputes concerning administrative fines, are subject to the jurisdiction of the administrative courts. Claims relating to the liability of the polluter may be brought before the civil courts or the criminal courts, depending on the nature of the claim and the dispute.
11.2 What issues do such disputes involve?
Disputes often involve EIA decisions and permits issued by the Ministry of Environment and Urbanisation. Cases may also concern administrative fines or criminal charges.
11.3 What defences and indemnities are available, both for corporates and for individuals?
Corporations and individuals can bring tort claims before the civil courts and request compensation. As liability is strict, demonstrating that there has been harm is sufficient for liability; there is no need to prove fault or intent.
11.4 How are environmental disputes resolved?
Most environmental disputes concern administrative measures or decisions, fines or penalties or criminal matters. As a result, most disputes are not arbitrable and are resolved through litigation before the state courts.
11.5 Have there been any recent cases of note?
A recent case of note concerns the Kanal Istanbul Project, which will connect the Black Sea and the Marmara Sea through an artificial waterway. Numerous civil society organisations have filed lawsuits before the administrative courts against the positive EIA decision. These cases are pending. Many cases are also ongoing concerning positive EIA decisions for hydroelectric power plants and mining areas across Turkey.
12 Trends and predictions
12.1 How would you describe the current environment and climate change landscape and prevailing trends in your jurisdiction? Are any new developments anticipated in the next 12 months, including any proposed legislative reforms?
While Turkey's environmental legislation is not yet fully in line with EU and international standards, there is a trend towards more green legislation. For example, Turkey introduced a ban on the free distribution of plastic bags in January 2019. In July 2019, guidelines for the transition to a zero waste system by 2023 were adopted.
Very recently, Law 31350 was passed by the Turkish Parliament, establishing the Environment Agency, which will be responsible for certain duties currently undertaken by the Ministry of Environment and Urbanisation.
A new Regulation on the Control of Packaging Waste was also published on 26 June 2021. Accordingly, under the Environment Agency's oversight, a new compulsory deposit system will enter into force on 1 January 2022. The system is designed to encourage the production of recyclable packaging that will have the minimum possible effect on the environment. It is expected that the new system will have an impact on the packaging sector and render it more green in the near future. It will also contribute to the economic use of recycled products and be involved in the management of recyclable waste.
More details on the activities of the Environment Agency as well as further amendments to the Environmental Code on waste management, will be set out in regulations issued by the Ministry of Environment and Urbanisation. The regulations that will be implemented will introduce significant changes to waste management systems and recycling.
13 Tips and traps
13.1 What are your top tips for smooth environmental and climate change compliance in your jurisdiction and what potential sticking points would you highlight?
As Turkey is still in the process of aligning its environmental legislation with EU law, statutes are constantly evolving, creating new challenges. One of the main challenges is to monitor these changes and train a team who can implement the applicable legislation on a day-to-day basis. Furthermore, although the laws may be aligned with international precedents, implementation may differ. Therefore, it is important to work with professional advisers who monitor these laws and are experienced with implementation, and stay in close contact with the authorities to avoid high penalties and lengthy administrative and court procedures.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.