By Hana Namrouqa

AMMAN – Jordan must adopt an environmentally sustainable economy in order to conserve natural resources and energy, Minister of Environment Hazem Malhas said on Tuesday.

The Kingdom is “ready” to embark on a green economy, the minister said at the opening of Think Green 3, a conference on green building and sustainable communities.

He called for proper urban planning, announcing that the ministry is currently preparing a “Green Economy Strategy”, which focuses on energy efficiency and sustainable development.

Malhas also underscored the need to protect soil in the Jordan Valley, the country’s bread basket, from the use of plastics and pesticides.

In addition, he called for “raising taxes on cars to the maximum to stop people from buying more vehicles and encourage them to use public transport instead”.

The conference, which concludes today, brings together 40 international experts and aims at raising awareness and improving expertise in green building practices in Jordan and the region, according to organisers.

Stephen Oehme, conference chairman and urban development consultant, said the event seeks to explore how Jordan can encourage green building and highlight its positive impact on the Kingdom.

Experts in sustainable development said starting a green building movement in Jordan would help the Kingdom preserve scarce resources, protect its environment and create jobs.

“Green building” is a design that focuses on the efficient use of resources – energy, water and materials – while reducing the impact on human health and the environment during the building’s life cycle through better site selection, design, construction, operation, maintenance and removal.

Addressing attendees, USAID Deputy Mission Director Dana Mansouri said buildings worldwide account for approximately 40 per cent of energy use, 40-50 per cent of raw materials, 25 per cent of harvested wood and consume 17 per cent of fresh water.

“This has serious implications on the sustainability of the environment in which we live,” Mansouri noted, adding that the conference helps gather major stakeholders to promote the adoption of environmentally responsible design and construction solutions.

In a bid to promote the adoption of green construction practices in Jordan, the Jordan Green Building Council (JGBC) was launched in March to introduce green building as a culture and raise public awareness on environment-friendly construction.

During yesterday’s opening session, JGBC President Mohammad Asfour stressed that the Kingdom can play a leading role in environmentally conscious construction.

“We hope that Jordan will always be at the epicentre of the global green building movement. Our educated professionals, practitioners, scientists, decision makers and businesspeople now have the chance to help shape the future of this evolving industry by working together,” he noted.