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Why Jordan’s economic recovery must be ‘green’

210823 Shada El-Sharif
“For once, we have an opportunity not only to advance short-term priorities but to apply a long-term planning approach that recognizes climate change as both a significant threat and, more importantly, an opportunity,” writes Jordan News columnist Shada El-Sharif. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
Despite the multiple hands dealt to Jordan in recent years (disrupted energy supplies, influxes of refugees, and most recently, the coronavirus-induced economic slowdown) the country is in a position to rewrite its development trajectory for the decade to come. اضافة اعلان

For once, we have an opportunity not only to advance short-term priorities but to apply a long-term planning approach that recognizes climate change as both a significant threat and — more importantly — an opportunity.

These dimensions become clearer once viewed though a national security lens that underscores the role of climate change in Jordan’s water, food, and energy security.

Though we may have come to accept the statement that “Jordan is the second-most water scarce country globally,” this should not lull us into resigned inaction in building resilience in this vital sector and turning the tables on this demoralizing statistic.

The recently released Assessment Report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change clearly highlights that the Mediterranean region, in which Jordan falls, “will see increased droughts and fires, which will continue to affect livelihoods, agriculture, water systems, and ecosystems,” in addition to more intense storms.

This report has been dubbed a “code red” for humanity, calling for urgent action to implement significant cuts in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and invest in resilience measures to face the worsening impacts of the climate already felt in many parts of the world.

Jordan, and in particular its water sector, is no exception. The country faces “pre-existing vulnerabilities due to conflicts, immigration, dependence on trans-boundary river flows, and limited mitigation options,” according to the National Climate Change Adaptation Plan.

Though climate change is expected to put pressure on an already water-stressed region, preemptive action today will reduce the risk of “water wars” and climate migration in the future.

Therefore, investments to tackle water loss, increase rainwater harvesting, implement innovative technologies, reuse treated wastewater, adopt nature based solutions, and enhance transboundary cooperation among Arab countries are an essential security driver for Jordan and the region.

Since the majority of water consumption in Jordan is in agriculture, this makes it one of the most “climate-sensitive” sectors of the economy.

At the same time, interventions in the sector will have significant social ramifications, considering that a majority of rural populations depend on this sector for their livelihoods.

This is particularly important to highlight in the days following World Humanitarian Day, August 19, where this year’s theme aims to raise the profile of vulnerable groups’ climate change adaptation, which in Jordan includes underserved communities and refugees.

In the wake of COVID-19, the country’s food security has risen to the top of the national agenda, given its critical role in ensuring resilience to external shocks; whether pandemics, regional conflicts, and increasingly, climate change.

It is therefore quite timely that Jordan is advancing its Food Security and Nutrition Strategy, which is an opportunity to address the issue through a climate and vulnerability lens.

As the third pillar of the water, energy, and food nexus, the energy sector continues to be central to Jordan’s economic development and fiscal positioning (noting that it represents around 10 percent of GDP).

The latest Jordan Energy Strategy released by the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources focuses on the self-reliance scenario, which aims to increase dependence on national energy resources including more ambitious targets for the contribution of renewable energy to the energy mix (14 percent by 2030).

Investing in clean, local resources will not only help Jordan meet its GHG reduction targets under the Paris Agreement but will also increase the sector’s resilience against future shocks including those that may be climate induced.

Therefore, adopting a “green”, climate-responsive approach to recovery not only helps to position Jordan as a climate leader the region (as outlined in my recent article), but as a strategic approach that can strengthen the country’s water, energy, and food security.

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