Vulnerability and Governance within the Context of Local weather Change in Jordan


Compared to neighboring countries that continue to wrestle with political instability, natural disasters, conflict, and mass migrations, Jordan is a relatively small and stable nation. Yet today it faces serious economic challenges, with youth unemployment at around 50 percent and a debt ratio that is around 114 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP). Climate change compounds an already dire economic situation; impacts key sectors of the economy, particularly water, agriculture, food, and health; and influences low-carbon policies in other sectors like energy and transport. Partly in response to these challenges, Jordan developed an economic plan in 2022: the Economic Modernization Vision (EMV) ambitiously targets the creation of 1 million jobs and the attraction of $41 billion in investments by 2033. Jordan is also among the first countries in the region to issue a National Adaptation Plan and update its Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).

However, in order to realize these economic targets while addressing its climate vulnerability, Jordan needs to strengthen its climate governance framework to achieve the adaptation and mitigation goals in line with its NDCs. Jordan has strategically identified “sustainable resources” and “green growth” as two of its key economic growth drivers under the EMV to ensure a sustainable economic development environment conducive to growth. These drivers are set to function alongside other areas of historical comparative advantage such as tourism and information and communications technology. However, climate must be embedded within the governance and planning frameworks across all sectors. In doing so, it will be an enabler for investment, jobs, and development, rather than a threat multiplier that exacerbates existing vulnerabilities and jeopardizes the security of precious resources that could derail these economic development aspirations.

The linkages between climate change vulnerability, governance, and economic development may not be entirely evident from the onset. This piece aims to shed light on Jordan’s climate vulnerability and adaptation contexts, challenges of the current climate governance framework from the perspective of diverse stakeholders, and conclusions for the way forward. The key findings are summarized below:

  • Jordan is expected to witness a warmer, significantly drier climate, with shifting rainy seasons and more extreme weather events like drought and frost. These changes in weather patterns are already exacerbating hardships faced by vulnerable communities, particularly farmers, refugees, and those in poverty pockets. This reality should inform the prioritization and implementation of adaptation actions, nationally and locally, across the country.
  • Despite progress at the regulatory, policy, and project levels, the climate change governance framework in Jordan has not yet delivered the type of transformative impact the country needs in terms of resource security, climate resilience, jobs, investments, and financing.
  • A holistic governance approach that tackles climate concurrently across all sectors is needed, particularly in water, health, agriculture, and urban development. Climate change also impacts key economic considerations related to trade, water and energy tariffs, unemployment, the real economy, and the financial services sector. These linkages need to be better articulated in sectoral policies by applying a climate lens to all national and local planning and implementation processes.
  • Synergies and trade-offs between key resource-focused sectors (water, energy, food, and environment) need to be addressed through a nexus-based governance approach, backed by a neutral, science-based centralized policy function. Such a system will target overall economic benefits to the country in the medium to long term, rather than allowing for only short-term gains for a particular sector.
  • In general, any national government should lead the delivery of “ambitious climate policies,” supporting other layers of government (regional, municipal, city, or village level), engaging globally, and articulating economic cobenefits through a multisectoral approach.
  • There is a need to strengthen Jordan’s Ministry of Environment (MoEnv) as the national entity mandated to drive climate policy and action. Similarly, there is a need to build capacities at municipalities, as well as at the Aqaba Special Economic Zone Authority and the Petra Development and Tourism Regional Authority, to adopt the same direction in their jurisdictions, institutionalizing frameworks for meaningful and regular engagement with civil society and the private sector.
  • The focus needs to shift from generating additional policies and strategies to examining and streamlining existing laws, policies, strategies, and national committees. A clear regulatory framework should serve as the backbone to an institutional, sustainable, and systematic governance model.
  • There is also a need to enhance national capabilities to attract and mobilize climate finance nationally and internationally, leveraging the existing pipeline of climate-responsive projects and investments. Such efforts could include the multibillion-dollar projects and public-private partnership opportunities embedded within the EMV, NDCs, Climate Investment Mobilization Plan, and Green Growth National Action Plans (GG-NAPs).
  • There are indications of growing alignment between the executive and legislative branches on the importance of climate policies and projects, which bodes well for Jordan’s climate change governance and its effectiveness in delivering economic benefit to all Jordanians.
  • Key dimensions—vision, regulations, policies, institutional capacities, human resources, nexus thinking, and multistakeholder/multisectoral planning—must all come together to shape and refine an effective climate governance framework.

Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation Priorities in Jordan

Before delving into the achievements and deficits of the existing climate governance framework, it is important to arrive at a clear understanding of the real and evolving climate change impacts facing Jordan. As a party to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Jordan has been issuing National Communications since 1998. These reporting frameworks take stock of a country’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, highlight climate change impacts and vulnerabilities, and present priority climate actions. More importantly, they are central to the transparency frameworks espoused by the UNFCCC, which signatory countries can leverage to demonstrate national progress against targets and attract further support from investments, technical assistance, and finance.

In the run-up to the 26th Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow, and following the 2020 launch of its GG-NAPs, Jordan issued updated NDCs raising its ambition of reducing GHG emissions by 31 percent by 2030, up from 14 percent. (Jordan had already achieved 12 percent by 2022.) This target is only 5 percent “unconditional” and based on national means; 26 percent is “conditional” on receiving international support. Jordan must leverage its efforts to meet this target in order to attract billions of dollars in climate finance to realize strategic projects in all sectors. Although Jordan contributes a mere 0.06 percent of global GHG emissions, such declarations represent important commitments to the global climate agenda and encourage the country to develop a pipeline of low-carbon, climate-responsive investments with development cobenefits. Jordan’s engagement with these global climate policy frameworks can transform national mitigation and adaptation priorities into opportunities for bilateral cooperation, investments, grants, knowledge transfer, and technical assistance. This approach has already borne fruit, with Jordan receiving $33 million from the Green Climate Fund  to promote climate-smart agriculture and improve water security in rural communities. Such successes need to be scaled and replicated in this and other sectors.

In terms of mitigation, Jordan achieved 27 percent renewables in its electricity mix by 2022, and hence it is on track to meet and likely exceed its target of 31 percent by 2030. Jordan also was among the first regional adopters of hybrid and electric vehicles, largely owing to favorable tax and customs exemptions at the onset. Such vehicles currently make up 18.5 percent of the total vehicle fleet. However, for Jordan and many other developing countries, adaptation is the priority, despite this demonstrable progress on the mitigation front.

Jordan recently issued its Fourth National Communication (4NC), the latest official document on the country’s climate progress and priorities for adaptation and mitigation. It builds on the findings of the National Adaptation Plan, the Updated Climate Change Policy (2022–2050), EMV, and updated NDCs. According to the 4NC, by 2100, Jordan will have a warmer, significantly drier climate. These impacts do not bode well for existing vulnerabilities unless concerted adaptation actions are taken in the next decade. These actions have been examined in the 4NC and are discussed below, considering perspectives from vulnerable and impacted communities.

Agriculture and Food Security

Although the agriculture sector represents only about 5.6 percent of GDP (not considering backward and forward linkages across the value chain, which would raise the GDP contribution to 15–20 percent), Jordan has managed to achieve self-sufficiency in olives, vegetables, fruits, eggs, milk, and dairy. However, because of climate change, an overall 20 percent yield reduction is expected in rainfed olives, a crop of historic, cultural, and export significance for the country. More than 80,000 families work in olive cultivation, and olive growers are already experiencing significant yield reductions due to reduced and changing rainfall seasons. Fayyad Zyoud, chairman of Jordan’s Olive Producers and Exporters Association, has identified delayed rainy seasons and severe frosts as the main climate culprits harming Jordan’s olive industry.

Similarly, climate change is expected to result in a 15 to 31 percent reduction in rangeland and feed resources, which will directly harm cattle and livestock value chains. Jordan’s National Food Security Strategy, prepared by the Ministry of Agriculture, has made strengthening “climate resilience” a main objective and states that “climate change affects all the components of food security and food systems in Jordan.” It identifies “small and subsistence farmers who mainly depend on rain-fed agriculture and extensive semi-intensive livestock raising” as particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change, and it highlights Tafilah as the most food-insecure governorate. It also cites an alarming statistic: 53 percent of Jordanians, around 3.9 million people, are vulnerable to food insecurity.

Priority adaptation measures identified in the 4NC include the need to integrate climate resilience into policy and institutional reforms in the agricultural sector, enhance drought management systems, shift to water-efficient crops, improve irrigation system efficiency, and strengthen hydrological and meteorological services. The Ministry of Agriculture, in coordination with other line ministries, will need to adopt more holistic, nexus-based planning approaches. According to farmers like Zyoud, Jordan also needs to invest in early warning weather stations with accessible communication systems, as well as capacity-building programs targeting farmers. At the same time, Zyoud calls for adoption of native species that demonstrate resilience in the face of frost, drought, and other climate impacts. It is evident that strengthened planning, coordination, and governance measures are just as important as technologies and capacity-building solutions. Proactive engagement with vulnerable groups, like olive farmers, will also be needed to develop targeted adaptation interventions and public-private partnerships.

Water

Even though water scarcity is a major threat to resource security and economic development, little progress has been made to significantly alter Jordan’s position as one of the most water-scarce countries globally. According to the 4NC, climate change is expected to result in an 18 percent reduction in surface runoff and a 16 percent reduction in groundwater recharge. Jordan’s per capita renewable freshwater resource stands at 61 cubic meters per year (m3/year), well below the “severe water scarcity” threshold of 500 m3/year. The water sector is also “considered the most vulnerable sector to climate change,” considering the significant risks brought about by rising temperatures, reduced rainfall, droughts, and floods. Water scarcity also means less water for rainfed and irrigated agriculture. In addition, electricity costs represent the majority of operational expenses in the water sector, which underscores the need to ensure holistic and nexus-based governance between these interlinked sectors.

Climate change resilience is clearly embedded within the latest National Water Strategy, an approach that needs to be streamlined across all sectors of the economy. In addition, synergies and trade-offs need to be addressed through a nexus-based governance approach, backed by a neutral, science-based centralized government function that can ensure longer-term overall economic benefits, rather than short-term gains for a particular sector. The EMV called for a Water-Energy-Food-Environment (WEFE) Nexus Council, but this has yet to be fully institutionalized and operationalized. However, if strategically capacitated and empowered, it could provide the type of cross-sectoral, multidisciplinary coordination needed to maximize the economic benefits of policies, regulations, strategies, projects, and financing within these sectors. This would also advance the strategic objectives of water, food, and energy security for the country.

On top of these mounting climate pressures, Jordan continues to grapple with the growing demand on its precious resources caused by the significant influx of refugees: its population has almost doubled from 6.3 million in 2008 to 11.5 million in 2023. This rapid population increase helps explain the anticipated growth in water demand and the related deficit in the water balance, estimated at a negative 835 million cubic meters by 2050. In response, Jordan launched the global Climate-Refugee Nexus Initiative at COP27 to attract global support, assistance, and finance for countries like Jordan that face the dual challenges of climate and significant refugee populations. In the coming years, host communities will also need to prioritize efforts to tackle these risks at the top of their local and municipal development plans. This will require strengthening the decentralization agenda and empowering municipalities to develop local climate action plans, such as the Sustainable Energy and Climate Action Plans (SECAPs) developed by Irbid and Karak municipalities.

According to Rafat Naddaf, a humanitarian field expert at the Zaatari and Azraq Syrian refugee camps, “there is limited awareness of climate change impacts among refugees in the camp, and life is becoming more difficult; water supply is intermittent, and many have to walk to get their water. There is a lack of awareness on water conservation, and the camps are not prepared for heavy rains or flooding, which is becoming more of a risk. Rising temperatures in the camp are also causing more frequent power outages and impacting necessary electrification for food, medical supplies, and online learning, which is harming health and education among this vulnerable population.”

Similar to the agriculture sector, the first identified adaptation measure in the 4NC is better integration of climate adaptation and resilience in the policy and institutional frameworks of the water sector. Other measures have featured in countless previous strategies, including improvements in demand management and water use efficiency, as well as supply augmentation through increased contribution of nonconventional water resources and desalination.

The flagship Aqaba-Amman Water Desalination and Conveyance Project aims to supply an additional 300 million cubic meters of water across Jordan’s governorates by desalinating and transporting water from the Red Sea to Amman. This project is a prime example of how Jordan can attract climate finance to a vital, multibillion-dollar project, given its target to secure at least 50 percent clean energy for the project’s power needs. Nonetheless, discussions about Jordan’s water security cannot be decoupled from regional geopolitics. Since “most of [Jordan’s] water assets are transboundary, water needs to be thought of a key safety precedence as a substitute of merely a technical or sectoral problem,” as highlighted in a current paper from Carnegie. On account of the current Israeli warfare in Gaza, Jordan has tabled a proposed Declaration of Intent in 2021 with the UAE and Israeli governments to evaluate the feasibility of a water-for-energy deal throughout the border—although the Palestinian aspect is notably absent from the deal.

Health

According to the 4NC, the Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment of the health sector revealed that “climate risks (droughts, dust and sandstorms, flooding, shift in rainy season, increasing humidity, decreasing precipitation, increasing temperature) have both direct and indirect linkages with health risks, and they impact everyone from farmers, consumers of produce, children, and vulnerable populations across the entire country at different levels.” The impacts identified in the water and agriculture sectors above are also expected to interact with potential impacts on health. Increasing temperatures translate to a rise in water-, food- and vector-borne diseases, which are expected to become more prominent in areas of water scarcity where water projects will be established, such as in the arid and semiarid eastern Badia. Similarly, water scarcity will result in reduced access to nutritious food, thereby contributing to rises in malnutrition. These impacts are amplified by direct vulnerabilities caused by increases in heat stroke and fatigue, as well as exposure to harmful solar ultraviolet radiation.

Alaa Al-Qasem, a Syrian refugee at Zaatari camp, recounted how climate change is affecting health in the camp: “When temperature rises, we feel it quickly in the caravans—mostly made of zinc boards; the walls fill like fire. As the heat and dust rises, asthma and lung diseases increase, and we are seeing more food poisoning when refrigerators stop working due to power outages.” Rafat Naddaf, a humanitarian field expert, also points out the health risks to diabetic patients, whose medications often require refrigeration. These life-threatening risks are being amplified by climate change and require investments in the form of climate-resilient water, energy, food, and health systems. In his recent address to the United Nations General Assembly, King Abdullah II warned that “Jordan’s capacity to deliver necessary services to refugees has surpassed our limits.” This is among the drivers for Jordan announcing the Climate-Refugee Nexus initiative at COP27, highlighting the particular vulnerability of natural resources and national infrastructure in countries facing the dual pressures of climate change and forced migrations. The aim is to draw further attention, and more importantly, financing to impacted countries.

The 4NC once again calls for strengthened coordination between the water and health sectors, as well as updates to the overall strategy of the Ministry of Health to consider climate adaptation. There is also a need to strengthen national surveillance, monitoring, and early warning capacities to detect and respond to climate-induced health threats. Naturally, this endeavor requires targeted awareness, education, and capacity building with regard to the climate change impacts on health, for both the public and the medical system as a whole.

Climate and Vulnerability in Jordan

The Economic and Social Council for West Asia (ESCWA) has adopted the definition for vulnerability put forth by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)’s Fourth Assessment Report, which breaks down the three primary components of vulnerability: exposure, sensitivity, and adaptive capacity, as shown in figure 1 below.

“Within this context, exposure refers to the quantifiable climate change, such as in temperature and change in precipitation. Sensitivity helps to describe the natural and physical environment as well as differing population groups that are most susceptible to climate change. Coupling both exposure and sensitivity describes the potential impact. Countering potential impact is the adaptive capacity, which describes the ability to cope, mitigate and adapt to climate change. The net difference between potential impact and adaptive capacity defines vulnerability.”

The IPCC definition of vulnerable groups typically includes young children, those aged 65 or older, pregnant women, those with preexisting medical conditions, physical laborers, and those in low socioeconomic conditions. These definitions align with the approach adopted by Jordan to carry out its climate vulnerability assessments, as captured in the 4NC and summarized in the preceding section. For regional context and overall trends, the ESCWA Arab Climate Assessment Report of 2017 finds that the vulnerability in the Arab region is largely “moderate to high,” with an increasing gradient from north to south. Another notable finding is that among the three components of vulnerability outlined above, “adaptive capacity” is the most likely to influence vulnerability. Calculation of adaptive capacity also includes factors related to institutional setup and governance, which means that “the ability of mankind to influence the future is stronger than that of climate change and environmental stressors.” Such conclusions place a heavy burden of responsibility on policymakers and citizens, but they also offer hope that concerted efforts to strengthen a country’s adaptive capacity can improve prospects for resilience and prosperity in the face of climate change. In other words, both the challenge and the solution can be addressed through political will and effective governance.

This approach can be considered in the context of socioeconomic and urban sectors, which are key sectors of vulnerability in Jordan.

Socioeconomic and Urban Sectors

Jordan’s Public Sector Modernization Roadmap identifies “evidence-based policymaking” as a key objective for an improved administrative function. This road map represents one of the three reform processes that Jordan is undertaking alongside the political and economic efforts (the latter captured through the EMV). Broadly speaking, this roadmap lays out the key reforms needed to raise the public sector’s efficiency and quality from the institutional, legislative, and services standpoints. From a climate planning perspective, relevant data and analysis have been generated to inform policymaking. The 4NC overlays Jordan’s vulnerability and climate datasets, which has enabled the generation of “hazard maps” that highlight the governorates with the highest overall climate hazards: Irbid, Ajloun, Mafraq, and to a lesser extent Jerash and Karak. Furthermore, an assessment is done on how climate change can amplify underlying risks for socially vulnerable groups (defined based on income, educational attainment, gender, living standard, residency, and age) with regard to climate vulnerability factors (exposure, sensitivity, adaptive capacity, and hazards). Based on this analysis, the most impacted areas are Amman, Ajloun, and Karak. Not surprisingly, those most vulnerable are people living in poverty, older adults, and migrant communities. In terms of Jordan’s proposed adaptation measures with both climate and development cobenefits, the 4NC focuses on poverty alleviation, income diversification, and improved access to basic services. Other proposed policy directions include gender mainstreaming, enhancing food security, and strengthening social safety nets. These measures would not only improve climate resilience but also address long-standing socioeconomic challenges, which policies like the EMV aim to address. There have been fragmented efforts to develop climate-responsive local action plans, such as Amman’s Climate Plan and the aforementioned SECAPs for Irbid and Karak Municipalities. However, these initiatives were developed before the release of the recent vulnerability assessments and hazard mapping under the 4NC. It has yet to be seen how or if such data will inform climate-resilient policymaking in Jordan’s most vulnerable cities.

Similarly, a hazard map was generated to highlight the urban areas most susceptible to droughts and floods (see figure 2). Proposed adaptation measures that align with other key policy frameworks such as the National Climate Change Adaptation Plan 2021, Jordan’s National Strategy for Disaster Risk Reduction 2023–2030, and the Updated Climate Change Policy 2022–2050 include the expansion of urban green infrastructure, nature-based solutions like planting native trees, rainwater harvesting, and improved building efficiency. The impact of green spaces and community-based farming cannot be underestimated: both Al-Qasem and Naddaf highlighted the positive impacts that small-scale farming can have on refugees, including improving climatic conditions at Zaatari camp, increased food security, and possibilities for revenue generation. Unfortunately, such activities face regulatory hurdles that often disincentivize farming within the camps, alongside climate pressures. “Many women earn their income from working in nearby farms; some have lost these limited incomes due to climate-induced deterioration of farmlands,” Al-Qasem said. Nonetheless, observers have recognized the need to enhance the governance approach through improved community engagement in local climate action. This would require national and local public sector efforts to proactively involve citizens and neighborhood networks in a participatory approach to advance needed climate solutions in the urban context. Such an approach, particularly in planning and designing local climate adaptation plans, is highlighted in Jordan’s National Adaptation Plan and the National Climate Change Policy of 2022–2050.

Climate Vulnerability and Economic Development

To build a broader understanding of the vulnerability Jordan’s economy faces in the context of climate change, the World Bank’s recent Country Climate and Development Report (CCDR) highlights that Jordan ranked 75 out of 182 countries in the Notre Dame Global Adaptation Index (ND-GAIN) for climate vulnerability in 2019, down from 63 in 2015. The ND-GAIN Index ranks countries using a score that calculates their vulnerability to climate change, other global challenges, and their readiness to improve resilience. Jordan received a vulnerability score of 0.375, on par with peer countries (as seen in figure 3), driven by high subscores on freshwater withdrawal, urban concentration, and energy import dependency. This comparative analysis underscores how water, urban, and energy sector policies can directly impact Jordan’s relative regional vulnerability to climate change.

The CCDR warns that “climate change will exacerbate Jordan’s development challenges by impacting people, natural resources and the economy, creating pressing adaptation needs across sectors.” It cites examples such as reduced productivity in labor-intensive sectors like agriculture and construction owing to prolonged heat waves and reduced water availability. These sectors are key employers of vulnerable groups such as women and refugees and hence renders them particularly sensitive to such extreme weather events. Another finding is that climate change is expected to affect “Jordan’s competitiveness, generating new risks and opportunities for the private sector.” The report further describes the “serious threat” climate change represents to the tourism industry, often described as “Jordan’s oil” (drawing a parallel to the economic prosperity of the fuel-based economies of the Gulf). It explains how climate change can impact tourism seasonality, locations, landscape aesthetics, and operating costs. The country’s trade structure is also described as “highly vulnerable” to climate change, as its five largest export sectors—textiles, chemicals, fertilizers, pharmaceuticals, and rare minerals—are either highly water- and energy-intensive or sensitive to water and energy tariffs. In addition, climate change could have effects on the real economy because of the large size of Jordan’s financial sector (181 percent of GDP) and the fact that construction, real estate, trade, and industry constitute a majority of its banks’ loan portfolio. All of these sectors are highly exposed to the transition and physical risks of climate change.

Reflecting on the above, it is clear that planning within “traditional” economic areas for Jordan like tourism, unemployment, trade, finance, energy, or the real economy can no longer be decoupled from climate change considerations. A holistic governance approach that tackles climate concurrently across all sectors is clearly needed. This requires concerted coordination among all ministries and the ability to apply a climate lens to development planning and implementation. The EMV is an important enabler for improved government coordination, particularly with a delivery function set up at the prime ministerial level to advance implementation. However, this function should not be limited to oversight and monitoring but must be complemented by proactive problem-solving and advancement of strategic projects that can have a significant impact on people and the economy. Such a strategic coordination function should also leverage and coordinate closely with the WEFE Nexus governance function, whose mandate and importance are highlighted above. This approach would enable policymakers to prioritize measures that can maximize climate and development cobenefits and minimize the projected risks, over the short, medium, and long term.

Climate Change Governance: Status and Aspirations

During the historic 1992 United Nations summit in Rio de Janeiro (known as the first Earth Summit), a multilevel global governance framework was introduced to start mobilizing actors toward sustainable development. Building on this concept, a multilevel climate governance  has emerged as a system that “creates opportunities for action and interaction” among all stakeholders and at all levels of governance around climate action. It is meant to be regarded as an “opportunity structure,” rather than a “problem-oriented formulation,” as global climate policy is commonly perceived. Its key characteristic is that it is not restricted to governments but also includes diverse actors across all levels and sectors (as shown in figure 4).

Vertical interactions offer the opportunity for upscaling best practices and maximizing cobenefits. The multilevel climate governance framework also depends on multisectoral and multistakeholder involvement. Each layer or level has its specific role to play and results in horizontal, peer-to-peer dynamics for learning, competition, and cooperation. However, according to the model’s author, “national governments, acting within networks, remain the key players in the [multilevel global] system.” Governments subsequently have a definite position in main “bold local weather insurance policies,” supporting different layers of presidency (such because the regional, metropolis, or village stage), partaking globally, and articulating financial cobenefits by means of a multisectoral method.

Considering this aspirational view of climate governance at the national level, it is important to acknowledge the considerable strides Jordan has taken in advancing its climate policies, regulations, and institutions. It was among the first countries in the region to issue a Climate Change Bylaw (Regulation No. 79/2019), which outlines the role of the MoEnv in serving as the national focal point to the UNFCCC; chairing the National Climate Change Committee; preparing climate policy and project proposals; and coordinating with key stakeholders on climate finance, priority projects, and market mechanisms. The bylaw is intended to enable the engagement of a broad segment of stakeholders, including sixteen public sector representatives (on the national committee) and almost thirty other entities through different groups and mechanisms (representing, for example, chambers of industry and commerce, universities, civil society, and the private sector). Other relevant climate documents issued by MoEnv include the National Adaptation Plan (2021), updated NDCs (2021), 4NC (2023), and the National Climate Change Policy of 2022–2050.

Jordan also boasts a number of other firsts at the policy level, having launched the first climate change policy in the region, for the period 2013–2020, and the first National Green Growth Plan in 2017 (followed by six sectoral GG-NAPs, as noted above). Jordan was also recognized by the World Economic Forum as a “climate action pioneer” due its issuance of a first-of-a-kind monitoring, reporting, and verification program to track GHG emissions in key sectors (starting with energy). However, the focus now needs to shift from generating additional policies and strategies to streamlining, consolidating, and ensuring coherence across the climate policy landscape in the country. This must be accompanied by an examination of existing laws, policies, strategies, and national committees. A clear regulatory framework will always be the backbone to an institutional, sustainable, and systematic governance model.

Despite this progress at the regulatory, policy, and project levels, the climate change governance framework in Jordan has not yet delivered the type of transformative impact the country needs. Ruba Ajjour, manager of the Climate Change Studies Division at the Royal Scientific Society, notes:

“We are missing readiness at a higher level. The bylaw is important, but it needs to be better operationalized. The Ministry of Environment does so much, but [it] want[s] extra capacities, specialised within the completely different areas of local weather change, to have the ability to have interaction key stakeholders and advance a number of nationwide tasks. Jordan, in addition to different Arab international locations, must strengthen their negotiation capacities at COPs and higher coordinate their regional positions.”

There is a need to recognize and enable the MoEnv as one of Jordan’s sovereign ministries, alongside those typically in this category such as defense, finance, interior, and foreign affairs. This status would enable it to lead on applying a green lens to all development frameworks in the country, thereby safeguarding the quantity and quality of precious natural resources and attracting billions in green finance and investments to the country. The UAE—the host of last year’s COP28—has a dedicated Ministry of Climate Change and Environment, with a stated mandate to “integrate environmental protection in socio-economic development plans and promote sustainable use of vital resources.” Jordan’s GG-NAPs outline a similar desired impact of “sustainable economic growth, social development and poverty reduction, climate change adaptation and mitigation, resource efficiency, and enhanced natural capital”—all of which cannot be realized without sufficient cross-sectoral awareness and an empowered ministry to lead not only on conceptualization but also on coordination of implementation.

But even within the executive branch, MoEnv cannot realize the national climate change agenda on its own. Other stakeholders have an important role to play in their respective jurisdictions, including the Aqaba Special Economic Zone Authority, the Greater Amman Municipality (GAM), and municipalities vying for stronger decentralization. Fortunately, each of those also boasts its relevant strategies and projects, which now need to be scaled up and leveraged for partnerships with the private sector. This includes GAM’s Green City Action Plan (including thirty-seven actions with a $300 million price tag), an updated land use master plan for Aqaba in line with a green, smart cities approach (under development in line with the EMV Executive Program), and a number of SECAPs developed for municipalities like Karak and Irbid.

Elham Alabbadi, a farmer and local activist in Balqa governorate, stated,

“Despite the many plans and strategies, little direct benefit can be felt by farming families. There is a need for governments and municipalities to move away from centralized thinking and really work with cooperatives, the private sector, and proactive individuals to implement useful projects on the ground. Access to grant financing and subsidies is important, as farmers are being burdened and forced to leave their lands.”

Such testimonies should be a wake-up call for the existing governance and institutional structures to engage more effectively with local communities, civil society, the private sector, and community leaders across the country. Particular attention should be paid to engaging women, youth, the elderly, and people with disabilities.

The legislative branch is also beginning to integrate climate change into its agenda. Member of Parliament Zaid Otoom has called for the establishment of a new Environment and Climate Change parliamentary committee, which has been launched in the most recent session of Parliament. He believes

“such a committee is needed to enable parliament to fulfill its oversight role over the government’s progress on the climate change file. Many areas are already experiencing the dire impacts of climate change, with water scarcity impacting farming communities and accelerating rural-to-urban migration. At the same time, Jordan with its abundant solar and wind resources is well-positioned to become a hub for clean energy. But the government must focus on ensuring a ‘just transition,’ creating jobs and opportunities for all.”

The EMV aims to create a million jobs and attract billions in investment opportunities with “green growth” as a key economic driver, yet it incorporates energy sector initiatives that continue to align with more conventional energy technologies such as oil, gas, and shale. Because the vision’s executive programs are revisited regularly, Jordan will need to keep these “just transition” considerations in mind and recognize the accelerated global efforts toward decarbonization as promoted at COP28. (Even though the UAE Consensus did stop short of calling for the global phaseout of fossil fuels advocated by climate activists and vulnerable nations, a “just transition” was still a key outcome.)

Similarly, a Senate committee headed by Mustafa Hamarneh has issued a position paper on “opportunities for economic growth and job creation through climate-responsive measures across sectors” and convened discussions with government bodies to assess progress. This growing alignment between the executive and legislative branches bodes well for Jordan’s climate change governance and its effectiveness in delivering economic benefit to all Jordanians.

The National Agricultural Research Center is one of the first national institutions to issue an internal circular on adopting a WEFE nexus lens in all plans and projects. A major challenge highlighted by Nizar Haddad, director general of the National Agricultural Research Center, is that

“any climate issue has to be considered from a nexus approach, rather than single sector planning we often see. We also need to consider the lifecycle ecological footprint of any technology, including extraction, manufacturing, transportation, and disposal. A holistic approach is needed; even when considering the ‘circular economy,’ the focus should not only be on the material and monetary aspects but the socioeconomic dimensions as well. Jordan can also do better in attracting climate finance for strategic projects in all sectors.”

The above dimensions—vision, regulations, policies, institutional capacities, human resources, nexus thinking, and multistakeholder/multisectoral planning—must come together to hone an effective climate governance framework. This framework, in turn, can then unlock climate finance and investments, thereby creating new jobs and revenue-generation opportunities. This would contribute to the delivery of the EMV’s ambitious targets. It will require a robust public financial management system, with capabilities for “climate budget tagging.” This can then be reflected in the project pipeline of the public investment management and public-private partnership framework, enabling Jordan to track how it is allocating its own resources to climate actions to meet its NDC target of 5 percent unconditional GHG reduction by 2030. This is where monitoring, reporting, and verification comes in, as a pioneering tool that enables Jordan to transparently track its national contributions to climate action and engage international investors and financiers in bridging gaps to achieving the 26 percent conditional GHG reduction target. Such a framework also lends itself to other green finance and investment opportunities, including green bonds, green public procurement, carbon markets, and climate-debt swaps. Jordan’s private sector, with an International Finance Corporation contribution, has already capitalized on relevant developments and issued the country’s first green bond in 2023.

Conclusion

Despite the existential threats posed by climate change, multiplied for a refugee-hosting country like Jordan, it is not too late to take serious and concerted efforts to apply a climate lens to all layers and sectors of governance. Jordan is capable of unlocking significant economic benefits that align with the ambitious EMV targets of 41 billion Jordanian dinars (around $57 billion) in investment and 1 million jobs by 2033. Mega green investments—like Jordan’s memorandums of understanding for the manufacture and export of green hydrogen/ammonia (as per the EMV) and the almost $8 billion pipeline of climate-resilient and low-carbon development projects highlighted in the Climate Investment Mobilization Plan—clearly demonstrate how green, climate-responsive investments can meet a significant portion of the country’s overall investment target. Jordan has demonstrated the possibility to attract climate finance for the Aqaba-Amman Water Desalination and Conveyance Project, which can only succeed if financial closure is achieved in a way that can result in a feasible public-private partnership. Similarly, GIZ (the main German development agency) recently conducted a Green Jobs Assessment in six sectors of Jordan’s economy, where it was demonstrated that approximately 113,000 jobs could be generated if certain what-if scenarios and green investments are implemented.

Recent analysis on Jordan’s growing climate vulnerability in light of drier, hotter, and more extreme weather projections, overlayed against data on existing socioeconomic challenges (including poverty and unemployment), has generated climate hazard maps that need to inform priority adaptation interventions where they are needed the most across the country. Particularly vulnerable refugee and farmer populations can benefit from improved early-warning systems and investments in climate-smart, data-enabled, and resilient infrastructure. Climate change also impacts key economic considerations related to trade, water and energy tariffs, unemployment, the real economy, and the financial services sector. Addressing all of these concerns will require improved cross-sectoral, nexus-based coordination, planning, and delivery approaches by all ministries.

Endowed with a favorable regulatory and policy framework, and actual “green” success stories in every sector, Jordan will need to invest in strengthening the climate governance framework from a multilayer governance approach. Most importantly, it is imperative that Jordan focuses on enhancing national capabilities to attract and mobilize climate finance (nationally and internationally), leveraging the existing pipeline of climate-responsive projects and investments.

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