By Mohammad Ghazal – Sep 06,2022

This combo of photos shows greenhouses on a farm, a nearly empty dam and a flock of sheep on parched land (Al Rai photos)

  • Frequent heatwaves, erratic rainfall, flash floods, drought encompass climate change in Jordan
  • IMF says addressing water scarcity in financially sustainable manner will help preserve macroeconomic stability, contain public debt pressures
  • UN working hand in hand with Jordan to address challenges 
  • Weak climate action will hinder realising SDG targets 
  • Jordan is a victim, not an emitter; domestic emissions account for 0.06% of global CO2 emissions
  • Around 7.5$b needed for mitigation interventions alone, adaptation might cost more 
  • Carbon taxation could generate billions in revenue for Jordan

AMMAN — The temperature was 46°C degrees in Deir Alla’s Damia village in the Jordan Valley on August 28. Jamal Masalha sat near a fan to cool down, drinking a cold glass of water, but the veteran farmer was still frustrated, not only from the heat, but because he felt incapable of helping his plants withstand the scorching heat outside.

August 28 marked the peak of a heatwave that hit Jordan, raising temperatures 7°C-8°C degrees above their seasonal averages. The highest temperature across the country was recorded in Deir Alla, situated in the western part of the Jordan Valley and frequently referred to as Jordan’s food basket. This is where Masalha’s farm, which he inherited from his father, is located.

“Everything has changed over the past 30 years… It is becoming hotter every year; we are getting less rain and crops grow faster… challenges are mounting on farmers and many have already quit the profession,” Masalha told The Jordan Times.

The farmer, whose extended family also farm in the village, said that the area has been subjected to frequent, drawn-out heatwaves which cause a cascading impact, decimating farmers’ income as yield drops. Early harvesting has become more common, and the high temperatures damage crops.

“For 10 years in a row now, we harvest some crops such as tomatoes, cucumbers and zucchini early, and this floods the market with produce in a short period of time, forcing us to sell at cost or at a loss sometimes,” he said.

Some crops such as lemons, oranges, pomelos and other citrus fruits shrivel because of the extreme heat, he said.

“Climate change ramifications are certainly hitting us hard. We are aware that water is scarce in Jordan, and we are trying our best to cope with that, but what can we do about the erratic rainfall and the rising temperatures as farmers?” he asked.

How is climate change affecting Jordan?

Climate change ramifications are already evident in Jordan, especially pertaining to water and the agricultural sector, Belal Shaqareen, director of the Climate Change Directorate at the Ministry of Environment, told The Jordan Times.

The government announced 2022 as “the most difficult year” the Jordanian water sector has ever seen. The country’s 14 largest dams, which have a total capacity of 280 million cubic metres (mcm), currently hold only 21 per cent of their capacity. Most of the country’s 12 groundwater basins have been depleted due to over pumping. 

Jordan’s per capita share of water currently stands at 90 cubic metres per year, or 10 per cent of the water poverty line. Per capita water shares are 97.5 per cent lower compared with 1946 levels, which stood at 3,600mcm per year.

Jordan’s agricultural sector, which contributes around 5 per cent to the country’s GDP, receives around 49 per cent of Jordan’s available water resources. Even this quantity represents only around 60 per cent of the sector’s actual needs.

“Jordan is located in an area where the rise in temperature due to climate change is expected to be 20 per cent higher than other areas…Water-scarce Jordan is expected to witness drought, flash floods, less precipitation, erratic rainfall and rising heat… Farmers, for example, will need more water as evaporation will increase,” Shaqareen said.

Jordan’s Third National Communication on Climate to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) expects that increasing evaporative demand, owing to rising temperatures, could increase irrigation requirements by between 5 and 20 per cent or possibly more, by the 2070s.

The third report stresses that the timing of rain and intra-seasonal rainfall patterns are critical to smallholder farmers in Jordan. Seasonality influences farmers’ decisions about when to cultivate, sow and harvest. It ultimately contributes to the success or failure of their crops. Delays and below-average rainfall will likely have a negative impact on agricultural production, the report indicated.

According to the updated Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) report, all models predict a warmer climate with strong confidence in temperature increase.

By 2070 to 2100, average temperature increase could range between 2.1°C and 4.5°C.  Projections predict a drier climate with medium confidence. By 2070-2100, the accumulated precipitation could decrease by a range of 15 to 35 per cent. This decrease will be more marked in the western part of the country, according to the report.

All projections indicated a warmer summer and a drier autumn and winter with medium confidence. The warming would be more significant in summer, and the reduction of precipitation would be more important in the autumn and winter than in spring. For instance, the median value of precipitation would decrease by 35 per cent by the autumn of 2070-2100. The dynamic projections predict more heatwaves. In pessimistic but possible predictions for a summer month, the average maximum temperature for the whole country could exceed 42-44°C, according to the NDCs projections.

The future projections also indicate more droughts, where the maximum number of consecutive dry days would top 30 days in the 2070-2100 period.

The areas most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change are expected to be Jordan’s eastern and southern areas as well as the northern mountainous areas, according to exposure and vulnerability analysis carried by the third communication report. Climate change may also influence the seasonal patterns of respiratory diseases, cardiovascular diseases and mortality, according to the report.

Negligible emissions, disparate impact 

Countries under the Paris Agreement created a global framework for mitigating dangerous effects of climate change by limiting global warming to a hard maximum of a 2°C increase, and by vigorously pursuing efforts to limit the increase to 1.5°C. The agreement also aims to strengthen and support countries’ ability to contend with the impacts of climate change.

Jordan’s total greenhouse gas emissions, standing at approximately 28 million tonnes of CO2, are inconsequential, as this figure represents around 0.06 per cent of the world’s total CO2 emissions. 

The Kingdom, being the second poorest country in the world in terms of water scarcity, has enhanced its commitment to the international climate change governance system by raising its macroeconomic greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction target from 14 per cent to 31 per cent, as opposed to the “Business As Usual” method, according to the updated first NDC document submitted to the UNFCCC.

Jordan’s emissions are expected to grow to 38,151Gg, 51028Gg and 61,565Gg of CO2-eq in the years 2020, 2030 and 2040, respectively. The role of the energy sector and subsectors as leading GHG emitters is expected to progress in the future, with the sector forming 72.9 per cent of total emissions in the year 2006, to an anticipated 83 per cent in the year 2040, according to the third communication report.

With regard to energy subsectors, electricity generation and transport are the primary emitters. Their share of the energy sector’s total emissions falls between 39 and 43 per cent, followed by a share of around 7 per cent for the residential subsectors and 6 per cent for the industrial subsector. The commercial, agriculture and refinery processes as well as  the transportation of fuel are marginal contributors to total energy sector emissions.

“Jordan is an affected country; it is not an emitter and it needs support in combating climate change ramifications… Although our emissions are negligible, we deal with climate change as if we are behind all emissions in the world. We are responsible for climate change, but we need support,” Shaqareen said.

“Climate change will have a diverse impact on Jordan that will be felt by all… There is a dire need to act today and immediately,” Shaqareen said.

Who is the most vulnerable?

No one is immune from the ramifications of climate change, said Shaqareen, but some groups will be hit harder than others.

About 25 per cent of the total of impoverished individuals in Jordan live in rural areas which  are mostly dependent on agriculture. This demographic includes livestock keepers, smallholder farm households and landless former agriculturalists. In spite of the poor motivation of rural youth, agriculture is an important employer for rural communities, according to the third communication report.

This is a particularly important topic to address as more than 70 per cent of total agriculture in Jordan is rain-fed, according to the Agriculture Ministry.

The poor in rural areas in Jordan are expected to face the most severe consequences of climate change through the disruption of livelihoods that depend on natural resource management. The expected impacts of climate change, particularly reduced agricultural productivity and limited water availability, actively threaten the income of these populations, pushing the vulnerable into a more urgent state of insecurity. Families in poverty are at the greatest level of exposure to the impacts of climate change, and therefore deserve priority and consideration in the design of adaptive measures, the third communication report indicated.

Climate change will have an apparent socio-economic impact as decreased precipitation and flash-flood inducing erratic rainfall will negatively affect farmers.  

“This will have a negative impact on the livelihoods of many,” Shaqareen said. 

Changed rainfall distribution patterns will disturb rainfed agriculture, and with less rain, many households are expected to lose their primary source of income, he added.

“Even if we witness the minimum level of drought, there will be a negative impact on livestock breeders, for example, due to less vegetation in rangeland,” he said.

Shaqareen  said that farmers will be forced to buy more fodder, creating an additional financial burden.

“Climate change is not just an environmental issue. There will be economic losses and a socio-economic impact, and the ramifications will force people to move from some areas to other areas and head towards cities. This will increase unemployment and poverty, and markets will become more competitive,” Shaqareen said. 

IMF calls for safeguarding vulnerable groups

Climate change is having significant adverse effects on Jordan’s water sufficiency. Rising temperatures and declining precipitation, coupled with rapid population growth, partially due to the influx of refugees, have aggravated Jordan’s already urgent water scarcity issue challenge, which is expected to persist in the long run, International Monetary Fund (IMF) Resident Representative Kareem Ismail told The Jordan Times.

Water scarcity has the potential to cause considerable economic and social damage: water shortages can impose limits on agricultural use; and intermittent and inadequate water delivery can lower people’s standards of living, and reduce the productivity of workers, Ismail said.

“It is important to safeguard vulnerable groups who are disproportionately affected by these water shortages, as the government addresses the challenge of water scarcity over the medium term through policies to enhance efficiency and through climate adaptation investments,” Ismail added.

“Addressing water scarcity in a financially sustainable manner will help preserve macroeconomic stability, contain pressures from the sector on public debt, and support more inclusive growth,” he said.

The authorities in Jordan are pursuing large adaptation initiatives, including mega-projects to increase water supply, such as the Aqaba-Amman Water Desalination and Conveyance project, Ismail  said. There are currently investments in projects intended to enhance use-efficiency among available water resources, including reducing instances of non-revenue water.

“The fiscal costs of the new initiatives, coupled with the legacy of deficits in the sector, carry significant debt sustainability implications. It is therefore important to adopt a financial sustainability roadmap for the water sector and ensure financial due diligence and transparency of the procurement process of mega-projects to improve the financial viability of the water sector,” said Ismail.

Elevated development partner support is needed to help Jordan address water scarcity and shoulder the burden of hosting 1.3 million Syrian refugees, he added.

Vigorous climate action for fulfilling SDGs

Total net anthropogenic GHG emissions have continued to increase during the 2010-2019 period. Cumulative net CO2 emissions have generally risen steadily since 1850. Average annual GHG emissions during the 2010s were higher than in any previous decade, but the rate of growth between 2010 and 2019 was lower than that of the early aughts, according to the Climate Change 2022 Mitigation of Climate Change Working Group III Contribution to the Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. 

Climate change ramifications are expected to increase poverty and unemployment in Jordan. More support is needed for developing countries like Jordan,  President of  the Jordan Environment Union (JEU) Omar Shoshan told The Jordan Times.

“It is the poor, who usually have no other source of income, that will be the first to suffer economically from climate change ramifications. A thorough analysis of the socio-economic impact is needed, followed by a concrete action plan with interventions that would help lessen the impact on the most vulnerable,” said Shoshan.

Amid fast-changing international developments, such as the Russian war on Ukraine, the ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic and rising global inflation, there is a need to intensify and concentrate pivotal climate action efforts in order to realise the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“There are concerns today about progress in the implementation of SDGs amid these developments… Climate change will certainly increase poverty and hunger, two issues that the SDGs seek to eradicate,” Shoshan said.

According to the UN, the number of people living in extreme poverty globally declined from 36 per cent in 1990, to 10 per cent in 2015. But the rate of change is decelerating, and the COVID-19 crisis risks reversing decades of progress in the fight against poverty.

More than 700 million people, or 10 per cent of the total population, remain in extreme poverty today and struggle to fulfil basic needs, such as health, education, access to water and sanitation. The majority of people living on less than the international poverty line, or $1.90 a day, live in sub-Saharan Africa. Worldwide, the poverty rate in rural areas is 17.2 per cent, which is more than three times higher than in urban areas, according to the UN website.

UN working hand in hand with Jordan 

Various UN agencies are actively working with Jordan to address the ramifications of climate change, including developing interventions to address the water and agricultural sectors. 

“Increased public knowledge and awareness of climate change are critical to addressing its impact. We need to empower people, especially youth, as agents of change and support their meaningful participation in decisions that may affect their lives, especially as they relate to sustainable natural resources management and climate change,” Ghulam M. Isaczai, UN Resident Coordinator a.i and Humanitarian Coordinator for Jordan, told The Jordan Times. 

The United Nations in Jordan works closely with the government to address the impact of climate change in the country, he said.

“Our new Cooperation Framework (2023-2027) with the Government of Jordan will be looking at the energy, water and food security nexus from the perspective of climate change,” Isaczai said.

Shairose Mawji, Acting Representative for UNICEF Jordan, cited UNICEF Jordan’s latest study with the Economist Impact, which indicated that serious socio-economic impacts await the countries battling climate change, stretched water resources, and strained food prices — with women and children being disproportionately affected. 

The deteriorating water situation is a risk, particularly low-income households, those facing food insecurity, refugees, as well as women, children and young people, Mawji said.

The UNICEF representative said that an increase in childhood illnesses caused by a lack of access to water might not only stunt children’s growth and development, but will diminish their learning capacity and reduce their long-term earning potential. This is particularly true for girls, Mawji added.

“UNICEF supports immediate, sustainable and high impact projects, with a focus on water and environmental conservation, to increase access to safely managed water and sanitation services for the most vulnerable children and their families,” noted Mawji.

Working closely with the Ministry of Water and Irrigation and key stakeholders, UNICEF interventions support policies and strategies that improve the water supply and sanitation infrastructure in cities, schools, refugee camps at the community and household levels. The agency also promotes social cohesion and equitable access to water and sanitation for the most vulnerable children, according to Mawji.

Such cooperation includes the provision of clean water through sustainable networks in Zaatari and Azraq refugee camps, as well as scaling existing alternative water technologies to save water and increase its reuse, as well as educating and engaging children and youth in a network of environment clubs and climate action groups in communities, schools and youth centres, Mawji said.

UNICEF also works closely with the Ministry of Environment to ensure that the rights of children are safeguarded through national policy priorities by enabling the voices of young people to be heard in climate action discourse and response. 

UNICEF also supports the Jordanian government in building early warning systems and climate-related hazard predictions as well as in mapping and reviewing public expenditure linked to climate, Mawji added.

Jamela Al Raiby, WHO Representative to Jordan, said like several countries in the region, the Kingdom is expected to directly bear the burden of climate change across several key sectors, including the health sector. 

“In fact, Jordan was one of the first countries in the region to conduct a climate change, health vulnerability and adaptation assessment through which several climate sensitive diseases were assessed in terms of current and expected vulnerabilities and the adaptation measures needed,” Raiby added.

Unification of efforts needed

Jordan’s efforts to fight climate change have been ambitious but limited in action due to the need for long-term response and the limitation of resources, Nabil Assaf, The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) Representative in Jordan, said.

He told The Jordan Times that the response to climate change requires a unification of efforts between policy makers in all institutions at the national, regional and global levels, Assaf added.

Plans to mitigate the impact of climate changes must be the top priority of the government, in addition to developing consistency and synergistic responses to the crisis, he said. 

Assaf warned that unless immediate action is taken to make agriculture more sustainable, productive and resilient, climate change will seriously compromise food production in food-insecure areas. Jordan is considered to be among these countries, he pointed out.

Climate change has both direct and indirect effects on agricultural productivity, including changing rainfall patterns, drought, flooding, extreme temperatures and the geographical redistribution of pests and diseases. 

FAO is supporting countries in mitigating and adapting to the effects of climate change through a wide range of practical, research-based programmes as an integral part of the 2030 agenda and the SDGs, Assaf added.

FAO’s strategy focuses on adaptation and mitigation in the agriculture sectors and advocates for better management of synergies and trade-offs between the two. 

“FAO supports Jordan in these efforts by offering technical guidance, data and tools for improved decision making and the implementation of adaptive measures,” he said.

The agency has also embedded these tools and approaches into broader frameworks, such as climate-smart agriculture and in the promotion of disaster risk reduction policy and action,  especially in the approaches linked to drought, Assaf said.

In the Kingdom, FAO will implement the seven-year project, “Building resilience to cope with climate change in Jordan through improving water use efficiency in the agriculture sector (BRCCJ)” in conjunction with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and a number of relevant Ministries, public and private institutions, NGOs and other stakeholder projects, funded by the Green Climate Fund (GCF), according to Maysoon Al Zoubi, National Water Consultant and GCF Focal Point.

The $33.25 million project, Jordan’s first project with the GCF, aims to enhance infrastructure to maximise the optimal use of water and rationalise its consumption, she said.

It also aims to spread awareness on how to deal with water scarcity, and enable the private sector to market and sell technologies which can serve water management, saving and harvesting, Zoubi said. 

The FAO is also involved in a project to improve the productivity of rangeland in several areas across Jordan, she added.

Rana S. Saleh, Programme Analyst- Environment, DRR and Climate Change at UNDP Jordan, said that since UNDP’s establishment in Jordan in 1976, it has sponsored many initiatives to increase the Kingdom’s resilience to climate change effects, including in the context of mitigation, developing sustainable energy, and support to Jordan`s commitments towards the Climate Change Convention and Paris Agreement.

UNDP has since been supporting renewable energy and energy efficiency solutions at the municipal and household levels. UNDP supports many initiatives in accordance with international best practices to enhance sustainable water harvesting solutions as a means to adapt to climate change impacts, Saleh said.

Financing remains major challenge

The mitigation projects and interventions envisioned by Jordan are estimated to cost around $7.5 billion. Jordan is responsible for securing the necessary financing for 5 per cent of the country’s total emissions reductions target of 31 per cent. The remaining 26 per cent is conditionally linked to international funding and support, Shaqareen said.

Jordan needs additional $7 billion or more for projects related to adaptation such as reforestation, rangeland rehabilitation, and water projects, among others, according to Shaqareen from the Environment Ministry.

“Jordan did not cause climate change and this support is not a donation… In general, donors avoid providing finance for adaptation projects as the impact is difficult to assess and these are long-term projects,’ Shaqareen said.

The official added that Jordan needs more of these types of projects. “Adaptation projects across the world remain underfunded,” he said.

“Climate funding is still weak and lacking, and there is a need for more. The process is usually slow and bureaucratic, and the process for approvals is lengthy and tiring,” he added.

Shaqareen indicated that there are some small-scale adaptation projects underway in Jordan, including flash flood mapping in Amman in cooperation with UN-Habitat. Other flash flood mapping projects and adaptation-initiatives for displaced persons and host communities are ongoing in other areas.

He also stressed the need for more projects to build electric vehicle (EV) charging stations and the increased adoption of renewable energy.

Assaf, the FAO representative, said that financial resources and increased investment are needed to address climate change in order to reduce emissions, promote adaptation to current effects, and to build resilience.  

Public funding allocations are both insufficient for the magnitude of need, and are concurrently not effectively prioritising the most urgent circumstances.  

Understanding how to unlock public investments, including public climate financing, and maximising the value of existing investments is key to mobilising public financial resources, Assaf said. 

In order to increase access to financing for climate-resilient services, there is a need for strengthened institutions, policies and regulatory environments, increased project preparation, transaction advising and facilitation services, and improvements in sector coordination and knowledge management, he added.

“Developing countries faced problems in accessing climate financing, including slow disbursement, accrediting national entities to different climate funds, and a prolonged application processes,” Assaf said. 

In some cases, the funds come quickly, but it does not always reach or meet the immediate needs of local communities, leaving local climate challenges unsolved. This is, in part, because it is often more difficult for local actors to meet the requirements of climate finance providers, the FAO official said.  

Additionally, funds can sometimes be allocated in a way that is too adherent to a single project, rather than holistically addressing the recipients’ climate needs, he said.

“It’s better to set out a practical, new approach in accessing climate finance to ensure that countries and communities get the climate finance they need, and in a way that supports their long-term plans to address climate change,” Assaf said. 

Shoshan agreed, but called for more action.

“There is bureaucracy in procuring funding, and there is a need for more efficient efforts in marketing our projects and needs,” he said. Jordan’s climate action should live up to the level and seriousness of the challenges posed by climate change in the country, Shoshan  said.

Carbon taxation could generate billions for Jordan

In the race to net-zero, an increasing number of countries are looking at a multiplicity of ways to reduce CO2 emissions, including the introduction of carbon pricing, which is an option currently employed by some governments to help reduce pollution from fossil fuels and encourage investment in “clean” technology.

Carbon pricing involves a carbon tax levied on the emissions required in commercial production. Generally, the tax only covers CO2 emissions, but in some cases applies to other GHGs, such as methane or nitrogen oxides, based on their potential to contribute towards global warming.

According to the World Bank, there are 68 direct carbon pricing instruments operating in 46 national jurisdictions around the world as of June, 2022. These instruments are composed of 36 carbon tax regimes and 32 emissions trading systems (ETS). These tradable-permit systems set a cap on the quantity of GHGs emissions. Businesses and entities have the flexibility of buying and selling emissions units.

“Some countries in Europe started imposing carbon emission taxes on goods; this is increasing across the world and we are working to familiarise our industries with the latest in this regard, as all businesses willing to export to these countries will need to meet the carbon emissions targets and be active in the adoption of the energy transition,” Shaqareen said.

The private sector needs to be well-prepared to focus on energy efficiency and energy transition, as many industries in the future will be barred from the commercial export process if they do not meet certain climate requirements, or will otherwise face fees and taxes for their exports, Shaqareen added.

On Jordan’s willingness to sell carbon credits, he stated that “we do not want to sell carbon credit now, as it is not feasible.”

“There is the voluntary market and the compliance market for carbon credits…maybe  next year we can sell credits once the market is better regulated,” Shaqareen said, adding that Jordan can sell carbon credits after meeting its pledges set in the NDCs.

Jordan does not currently have any regulations for the sale of carbon credits, he added.

“We are working to have a draft for carbon credit regulations by the end of the year. These will govern carbon emissions and carbon credits,” he added.

On the potential revenue generated from imposing carbon taxes, he said that such taxes would place a heavy burden on various sectors, and that there are other priorities for Jordan at this stage in the battle against climate change.

A recent IMF report titled “Feeling the Heat: Adapting to Climate Change in the Middle East and Central Asia”, asserts that countries in these regions are already feeling climate change pressures.

Since 2000, climate disasters have resulted in $2 billion in direct material damages, 7 million affected people, and 2,600 deaths on an annual average. Analysis also suggests that the continuation of climate change will exacerbate current climate stresses and damages, particularly in low-resilience countries.

Climate change is a major threat to growth, prosperity, and macro-financial and socio-political stability. Econometric analysis finds that changing temperature and precipitation patterns have eroded per capita income, and also have shifted the sectoral composition of output and employment over the past three decades. 

Middle East, North Africa, Afghanistan and Pakistan (MENAP) countries have been hit harder than their Caucasus and Central Asia (CCA) peers, given their initially hotter and drier climates. 

Moreover, climate disasters have already adversely affected growth, fiscal and external sector dynamics, causing permanent output and tax revenue losses in CCA countries. The economic effects of climate change have disproportionately exacerbated poverty and inequality and heightened social tensions, migration, and conflict, in affected regions, the report said.

The report indicated that if Jordan pursues carbon taxation at a hypothetical rate of $25 per tonne of carbon, the collected revenue would total almost 2.5 per cent of GDP, or almost more than $2 billion. If the tax were $50 per tonne, it could generate 3 per cent of GDP, and if the tax were set at $75 per tonne, it would generate 4 per cent of GDP, according to the IMF report.

Masalha, Deir Alla’s decades-seasoned farmer, said he is a worried man these days.

“Every year, I plant in less and less parts of my farms, and I am worried about the future. Nothing is certain when it comes to rainfall and temperatures that we cannot control, but what is certain is that things will never go back to how they used to be if all countries and decision makers do not act now before it is too late to save our planet,” he said.