Local expert calls for further action to meet climate-related goals

By Maram Kayed – Feb 19,2020

AMMAN — Jordan is one of nine countries worldwide on course to beat CO2 emissions per capita targets by 2030, according to a report by a commission of over 40 child and adolescent health experts from around the world.

However, “no single country is adequately protecting children’s health, their environment and their futures”, according to the report, recently released by the World Health Organisation, UNICEF and medical journal The Lancet.

Titled “A Future for the World’s Children?”, the report stated that the health and future of every child and adolescent worldwide is under “immediate threat” from ecological degradation, climate change and exploitative marketing practices that push heavily processed fast food, sugary drinks, alcohol and tobacco at children.

“Despite improvements in child and adolescent health over the past 20 years, progress has stalled, and is set to reverse,” former prime minister of New Zealand and co-chair of the commission Helen Clark was quoted as saying in the report.

“It has been estimated that around 250 million children under five years old in low- and middle-income countries are at risk of not reaching their developmental potential, based on proxy measures of stunting and poverty. But of even greater concern, every child worldwide now faces existential threats from climate change and commercial pressures,” she added.

Hala Murad, a climate change expert, told The Jordan Times over the phone that, in comparison with other middle-income countries included in the report, Jordan “is obviously making progress, setting plans and implementing them”.

Although the Kingdom is not an oil- or resource-rich country, she noted, this “actually encourages it” to turn to greener, more environmentally friendly options.

“Although this cannot be measured in achievements, it can be seen as a good path that is being taken,” Murad added.

The report also includes a new global index that compares the performance of 180 countries regarding child flourishing, which includes measures of child survival and well-being, sustainability and equity.

According to the report, while the poorest countries “need to do more to support their children’s ability to live healthy lives”, excessive carbon emissions — disproportionately coming from wealthier countries — threaten the future of all children.

The index shows that children in Norway, Korea and the Netherlands have the best chance at survival and well-being, while children in the Central African Republic, Chad, Somalia, Niger and Mali face “the worst odds”.

“More than 2 billion people live in countries where development is hampered by humanitarian crises, conflicts and natural disasters, problems increasingly linked with climate change,” said co-chair of the commission Awa Coll-Seck.

The only countries on track to beat CO2 emissions per capita targets by 2030, while also performing fairly (within the top 70) on child flourishing measures are Albania, Armenia, Grenada, Jordan, Moldova, Sri Lanka, Tunisia, Uruguay and Vietnam.

Jordan is ranked 62nd among 180 countries in the child flourishing index and 87th in the sustainability index, according to the report.

“This report does something new and critical, which is introducing children’s rights within climate change action and also linking it with various aspects of our lives. Climate change does, indeed, affect all our lives, especially our children’s futures,” Murad said.

She noted that Jordan’s Amman Bus and Rapid Bus Transit are projects that will “hopefully contribute to lessening carbon emissions”, but that more projects and more funding is needed.

“Since the report praises the Kingdom, we should continue down this path,” she said.

To protect children, the independent commission authors of the report call for a new global movement driven by and for children. Specific recommendations include stopping CO2 emissions with the utmost urgency, placing children and adolescents at the centre of efforts and drafting new policies on child health and rights, among others.

“This report shows that the world’s decision makers are, too often, failing today’s children and youth: Failing to protect their health, failing to protect their rights and failing to protect their planet,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the World Health Organisation, said.

“This must be a wake-up call for countries to invest in child health and development, ensure their voices are heard, protect their rights and build a future that is fit for children,” he added in the report.