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Jordan and Climate Change

by Dr. Martin Beck, Lea Johanna Collet

Effects, Perceptions and Adjustment

Dr. Martin Beck and Léa Collet wrote an article on "Jordan and Climate Change: Effects, Perceptions and Adjustment Measures in Jordan"

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In comparison with Europe or Germany,

climate change and its consequences

only take up a secondary

role in the Jordanian public debate.

There is, however, a certain level of

awareness, especially among a more

highly educated population. The central

environmental issue in Jordan is

sufficient water supply for the population

and the agricultural sector - an

issue that is perceived rather as an

ongoing local phenomenon conditioned

by the natural environment

but unrelated to global climate

change. This perception has not been

shattered even by the heat waves in

the summer 2010 and the drought

during the winter 2010/2011. The

current debate on climate change in

the media and scientific publications

is comparatively limited and shows

that there is a lack of empirically secure

data, which would prove or

rather demonstrate climate change

and its consequences in Jordan. At

the same time, Jordan has started to

play an active role in international

negotiations on environmental and

climate policies particularly as water

problems increasingly became the

key issue in development cooperation

for the past years. However, regional

cooperation in dealing with

climate-related problems has clearly

not been used to its full potential,

the reason behind that being the difficult

political conditions, particularly

with Israel.

According to the Jordan Meteorological

Department (JMD) 2010 was the driest

year since 1992. In Jordan, one of the

four most arid countries in the world,

drought, heat waves, lack of rain and water

scarcity are no new phenomena: heat

waves and lateness or sheer absence of

rain have become normalcy during the

past six years, inter alia due to natural

events such as the Red Sea Troughs

(RST) and, according to the Director of

the JMD, the phenomena have no direct

connection with climate change. Other

Jordanian experts have reached similar

conclusions. As part of a study published

by the renowned “American Journal of

Environmental Sciences”, a team of Jordanian

and Arab authors undertook the

attempt to investigate the link between

the development of precipitation in Jordan

and the global phenomena of climate

change. They assessed data from six meteorological

stations in Jordan in order to

compare the changes of temperature,

precipitation and relative humidity of the

last decades in order to be able to make

a statement on climate change in Jordan.

The authors reached the conclusion that

there is no evidence of a visible trend in

an above-average increase or decrease of

precipitation but there appears to be a

clear reduction of temperature range.

Thus scientific proof of a link to climate change could not be met by the authors.

There are, however, several clues that

this could be due to the fact, that sufficient

data generation and analysis cannot

be achieved in Jordan simply because of

limited meteorological infrastructure.

These estimations reflect in the public

perception of climate change: The Jordan

Times, the most important English speaking

daily newspaper with close links

to the government, interprets in its few

articles on climate change the drought

and the absence of rain as a result of

natural climate variations. Jordanian

Arabic-speaking newspapers do actually

point out that climate phenomena like

the drought during the winter 2010/2011

have wide and serious effects, especially

on the agriculture, but these findings are

generally seen as being unrelated to the

consequences of climate change.

Nevertheless the opinion poll “Arab Public

Opinion and Climate Change” in the annual

report of 2009 of the Arab Forum for

Environment and Development encompassing

the opinions of 2322 inhabitants

of the Arab World clearly shows that

there is a level of awareness about climate

change within the Jordanian population:

96% of Jordanian respondents indicated

that they consider climate change

primarily as the result of human activity

and 88% considered climate change a

serious problem for their country. The

problem awareness, which is above the

average of the Arab World, goes hand in

hand with a high degree of satisfaction concerning the government’s policies in

the combat of climate change: only 26%

consider it insufficient, 42% see it as

positive - the average across the Arab

world lies at a mere 30% of government

satisfaction in this policy field. The results

of this study surely only have limited

meaningfulness: It is not a representative

study, as questionnaires had been

sent out to the public in leading newspapers

(in the Jordanian case the renowned

Al-Dustour) and everyone who was interested

could fill out and send in the form.

This methodical approach brings with it

certain distortions – respectively three

quarters of respondents were men and/or

had a degree of higher education- and it

can be supposed that readers were more

likely to respond if they already considered

climate change to be an important

issue. At the same time, the results of

the study admit the conclusion that it

would be wrong to generally attribute to

the Jordanian population a low level of

awareness about climate change and its

consequences for Jordan.

Jordan has shown itself relatively active

in the context of international efforts in

the combat of climate change and its

consequences. In 2009 the “Second National

Communication report” was

launched within the United Nations

Framework Convention on Climate

Change (UNFCC) to focus especially on

sectors where climate, environment and

adjustment measures are deemed important,

i.e. agriculture, energy, waste, industry,

land-use change and forestry.

Moreover, it has been stressed that the

vulnerability in terms of climate change is

particularly high in the agricultural, the

water and the health sector. The majority

of adjustment measures are thus

taken in these areas.

Jordan tries to implement, with international

support, the mechanisms of the

UNFCC and the Kyoto Protocol and to reform particularly the water, the agricultural

and the energy sectors. For example,

the government has been able to

undertake first steps in promoting a sustainable

water supply and an improved

health and food security with the help of

the UNDP and three other UN organizations

as well as the UNDP/Spain MDG

Achievement Fund within the “Adaptation

to Climate Change to Sustain Jordan's

MDG Achievements” program. Moreover,

Jordan is the first Arab country that

tries to integrate gender aspects into its

climate policy. This should be documented

in the “Third National Communication”

report which will stress the socioeconomic

effects of climate change on

the Jordanian society. A study carried

out over twenty years by the International

Union for Conservation of Nature

has shown that women are important

socio-economic actors and, owing to their

competencies and knowledge, they can

achieve change in society. These skills

should be used in the future for different

projects in order to carry out adjustment

measures to climate change in a better

way. During the 16th Conference of the

Parties of the United Nations Framework

Convention on Climate Change (COP16)

in Cancún 2010, Faris Mohamad Al-

Junaidi, the Jordanian Deputy Minister of

Environment, stressed the gender aspect

in the Jordanian climate policy and underlined

that Jordan had already undertaken

important steps in order to fully

support climate protection. He also referred

to the fact that international support

is necessary for developing countries

so as to enable them to reduce the effects

and consequences of climate change through adjustment measures

and technology transfer.

The measures undertaken by the government

until now have shown that risk

perception about water scarcity has been

increasing amongst the population and

the political elite. Jordan’s water strategy

for the period 2008-2022 assumes that

the availability of fresh water per capita

has decreased from 3600m³ per year

(1946) to 145m³ per year (2008), which

is far below the absolute water shortage

limit of 500m³ per capita per year.

There are predictions according to which

the water deficit will increase from 692

million m³ (2010) to 1368 million m³.

The United Nations Development Assistance

Framework (UNDAF) for Jordan

from 2008 to 2012 states that Jordan’s

socio-economical development progress

of the past decades will be highly threatened

by the water shortage in the country.

Global climate change only plays a secondary

role within the National Water

Strategy from 2008 to 2022. However

the Jordanian government has undertaken

steps towards a strategy that perceives

the water issue not just as conditioned

by a natural scarcity but as a central

management problem within the environmental

policy of the Jordanian State.

The Water Strategy 2008 to 2022 intends

to reduce the use of ground water from

32% to 17% and to increase the use of

sewage in agriculture from 10% to 13%.

The use of desalinized water should also

be increased from 1% to 31% by 2022.

The government led by Prime Minister

Samir Rifa’i had undertaken concrete first

steps in order to adjust the price of water

to maintenance and investment expenditures:

consumers who use more than 60

liters a day would pay 9% or 33 piastres/

m³ (0,034€/m³) more from 2011.

Experts say that, despite the programs

conducted to combat climate change, the

establishment of climate saving and adjustment

measures in policies at national

level has not been receiving enough support

from most of the ministries. Like

for many initiatives of the Jordanian government,

there is a gap between planning

and implementation. The German Development

Cooperation, comprised of the

DED and the GTZ or the GIZ, respectively

support the various responsible ministries

in designing more effective climate and

resource protection policies, for example

through the monitoring and implementation

of precautionary measures for

ground water resources at the Ministry

for Water and Irrigation as well as the

promotion of better rationing of water

resources and the improvement of energy

efficiency at the Water Authority of


The most serious problem in effective

and efficient water management in Jordan

appears to be the agribusiness sector.

While irrigated agriculture represents

less than 5% of the GDP, it consumes

nearly 75% of the national water resources.

This disproportion is supported

by gigantic state subsidies in favor of irrigated agriculture: in 2009 alone about

10 million Jordanian Dinar have gone to

the water sector for the irrigation of the

Jordan Valley. The socio-political background

of this policy, which is aggravating

the environmental and water problems

in Jordan, is the fact that irrigated

farming is one of the few productive sectors

in Jordan providing employment: in

2007, 6% of the entire workforce, i.e.

107,000 Jordanians worked in the agricultural

sector. The danger exists that

the imbalance between water consumption

in the agricultural sector and its contribution

to the GDP will increase in the

next years because of population growth

as well as rising water demand. Therefore,

there are gradual attempts to adjust

the agricultural sector to climate-related

problems such as water shortage and periods

of drought. The introduction of drip

irrigation achieved a clear decrease of

water consumption in Jordan. Furthermore,

the agricultural sector has partly

changed over to less water-intensive

products such as dates and grapes, and a

considerable amount of farmers are

switching to ecological farming.

Measures such as the increase of the water

price and the restrictions of water allocation

for the agricultural sector show

that the Jordanian government also pursues

the goal of responsible usage of

scarce water resources by the society.

However, in an article of Venture magazine,

the Coordinator for Water of the

German Development Service (DED),

Dietrich Osswald, expressed his concerns

of whether the awareness for the need of

water-saving measures was deep-seated

within the Jordanian population. Government

adjustment measures have thus

to actively contribute to strengthening

awareness in the fields of environment,energy and resources within the Jordanian population, in order to support the

willingness for change in societal lifestyles

and thus in the long term to stop

the usage of natural resources beyond

the level of harmfulness.

In the energy sector, the Jordanian government

tries to react to climate-related

problems by diversifying the energy mix.

According to estimations, the electricity

demand should rise to 6000 Megawatts

by 2020. Currently, Jordanian energy

consumption mainly relies on imported oil

from Saudi Arabia and Iraq as well as

natural gas from Egypt. Better usage

for national resources such as oil shale

and uranium should be found in the future.

The set goal is the increase from

4% to 39% of the part of national energy

sources in the entire electricity production

by 2020. In that sense the planned

nuclear power plant will cover 30% of

energy demand until 2020. Also, the

opening of the energy sector to national

and foreign investors should gradually be

pushed forward. The new energy and

mineral law of 2009 provided for the

creation of a Renewable Energy and Energy

Efficiency Fund, which should give

out subsidies to make the price of electricity

from renewable energies economically

viable. Wind and solar power should

be strongly promoted in the next few

years. By 2015, 600 Megawatt should be

generated through wind farms. The new

energy strategy provides that by 2020

10% of the energy demand will be covered

by renewable energies.

Within the Jordanian political elite there

is a certain awareness that problems of

water supply (and climate change) need

measures that are more innovative and

that lie beyond the borders of the state.

Prince Hassan Ibn Talal is particularly

committed to designing not only national

but also regional strategies for a sustainable

usage of water resources. During the

conference of the West Asia/ North Africa

Forum (WANA) in May 2010 he suggested

to build ‘Concentric Circles of Cooperation’.

The countries of the Middle

East should be classified into groups according

to their needs and their political

structures in order to handle issues of

water and environment management

more efficiently through an independent

regional in stitution. Prince Hassan has

on various occasions underlined the necessity

for a representation of the WANA

region as a unity on the international

scale. In the preface to the white paper

“Clean Power from Deserts – the DESERTEC

Concept for Energy, Water and

Climate Security”, that Prince Hassan

presented to the European Parliament on

November 28th, 2010, he refers to the

idea of a community for water and energy

management of the EUMENA

states, resembling the European Coal and

Steel Community, in order to promote

stronger cross-border cooperation in the

water sector.

The tensed political relations between

Jordan and Israel since Prime Minister

Netanyahu’s accession into power have

significantly deteriorated the prevailing

conditions for cooperation between the

two countries. This hinders, for instance,

the realization of the ambitious Two Seas

Canal project, which had been contemplated

in the Israel-Jordan Peace Treaty

of 1994. The canal would transport water

from the Gulf of Aqaba up to the Dead

Sea, because nearly 95% of the southern

part of the Jordan River, which originally supplied the Dead Sea in water, is

used for industrial and agricultural

means. Only in 2008 the World Bank

started an extensive feasibility study, as

for a long time the project had been laying

fallow because of the politically difficult

situation in the triangle between Jordan,

Israel and Palestine. The international

interest in this project shows that

the construction of the ‘peace canal’ is

seen as a potentially important instrument

of cooperation in the region. The

canal as a regional cooperation model

would promote collaboration in different

sectors such as energy, agriculture and

water between Israel and Jordan and

would strongly link the economies of the

two countries. Although environmentalists

go by the fact that the construction

of the canal would also bring environmental

problems and although the implementation

of the project is still uncertain,

several experts concluded that the

“Two-Sea-Canal” project has already lead

to a harmonization between Israel and

Jordan in terms of environment protection

and water management.

Despite the low frequency of subjects

such as climate protection and climate

change in the current public debates,

there is a clear tendency towards an increase

in climate consciousness within

the Jordanian government and population.

Although the heat waves of the

summer 2010 and the droughts during

the winter 2010/2011 did not advance

the issue of climate change and its consequences,

nor achieved any importance

in the eyes of many Jordanians, a general

trend towards stronger resource and environment

protection is apparent. Since

the submission of the “First National Communications” report to the UNFCC in

1998 the government has carried out important

first measures to reform the water,

agricultural and energy sectors and

to actively promote resource protection.

Still, regional cooperation in the fields of

water and climate protection as well as

raising a climate and environment consciousness

amongst the population

should be promoted in the future.

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