Jordan’s coming climate crisis will hit youth hard

15 Jan 2022

As in much of the Middle East, most young people are focused on jobs and finances, unaware of mounting climate risks

Climate change is not considered a national priority in Jordan, underming the country’s efforts to take a position at COP26. Young people, who will be most affected in their lifetimes, are disadvantaged by a lack of relevant education and information provision. They are also more preoccupied by immediate challenges of poverty and unemployment — even though the country’s acute vulnerability means environmental challenges are already exacerbating these problems.

What next

Without effective mitigation, global temperature increases and lower precipitation by 2050 will cause major stress on Jordan’s fragile natural resources. More droughts will increase disruptions to water and food supplies. This will play into existing economic problems of disrupted livelihoods, poverty and joblessness among youth that are exacerbated by the existing education system, which does not meet market needs.

Subsidiary Impacts

  • Climate change will further undermine employment prospects, driving more young people to emigrate.
  • Environmental deterioration will have most impact on the poorest, further worsening inequality.
  • Water shortages will constitute an acute regional challenge, with spillover effects into and from neighboring countries.

Analysis

Unemployment reached 25% in 2021, with youth unemployment at 63% — among highest in the world. With poverty around 16% and a large inequality gap, most Jordanians rank environmental issues and scarcity of natural resources near the bottom of their pressing concerns (see JORDAN: Vested interests may block urgent tax reform – May 20, 2021).

Regional exemplar

This is not unusual among Middle Eastern countries (see MIDDLE EAST: Climate change poses multiple threats – October 21, 2021). A 2020 survey showed that in crisis-hit Lebanon, economic issues were the main focus of public attention, with high living costs (48%), the weak economy (34%) and unemployment (31%) concerning most respondents respectively.

However, even in Saudi Arabia, a relatively wealthy oil producer, a 2019 survey showed that the top concerns were still unemployment and jobs (34%) and taxes (31%). This may in part reflect the large number of expatriate workers in the country.

Education and information

Although a Jordanian youth delegation did attend COP26, most young people are distracted by poverty and unemployment from the very real local threat of climate change. Without mitigation, the country’s 2021 National Climate Change Adaptation Plan is forecasting significantly higher local temperatures as well as a 20% rainfall decline cutting agricultural production by 10% by 2050, more electricity cuts and infrastructural damage from more extreme weather events.

Despite this threat within their lifetimes, most young people — even educated cadres such as engineers — have little knowledge of or interest in climate change. Consequently, they are unlikely to participate in initiatives seeking to tackle the problem or hold leaders accountable over climate issues.

Although Jordanian youth have relatively good access to education, the curriculum does not cover environmental issues. This in part reflects wider problems of a system that tends not to be student- centred or encourage analytical thinking. University degrees — for instance in civil engineering and medicine — follow old-fashioned structures and often fail to fit graduates for employment, thus worsening the distraction caused by immediate economic problems.

Religious and cultural factors may also play a role. Among conservatives, some reportedly believe that the impacts of climate change — such as increased droughts and flash floods — are the result of ‘fate’ rather than severe natural reactions to increase in mean temperature levels. On a similar basis, climate change adaptation initiatives, such as the adoption of new natural resource management practices, have not been widely accepted by users.

Young people are less likely to see environmental disasters as ‘fated’

This mindset is increasingly less common among young people, in part due to their improved access to more diverse sources of information. These include:

  • international social media accounts such as CNN Climate and UN Climate Change;
  • regional accounts, for example the Environment and Development Magazine and Climate Action Network Arab World;
  • online training courses like org; and
  • extra-curricular school or university environmental clubs.

Nonetheless, in many cases, the information accessed is misleading, due to a lack of transparency and presentation skills. In particular, available data on climate change tends not to be available in Arabic and to be expressed in dry, scientific terms. Moreover, much of it is not open-source.

This causes many young people to lose interest in content that comes across as intangible.

COP26 dynamics

The outcomes of COP26 Glasgow showed that, even on the global level, the world is far from any consensus on actions to mitigate climate change (see INTERNATIONAL: Pressure for climate action will build – November 19, 2021). For its part, Jordan offered an ambitious contribution in its updated Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) report.

However, it lacked clear, attainable goals. For example, it committed to a highly speculative 31% reduction in greenhouse gases. Given the country’s limited capital and resources, that target will likely prove impossible to achieve in the promised timeframe.

Moreover, Amman’s participation in COP26 was superficial in several areas. The delegation included representatives from the environment ministry, state non-governmental entities and youth, but it lacked wider civil society and local media representatives. Although representatives participated in several side events and discussions, they lacked a common strategic agenda and guidelines.

Members were absent from many high-level negotiations aiming to form shared commitments with other countries that are principally receivers rather than emitters of greenhouse gases, in order to communicate climate vulnerabilities, adaptation needs and investment opportunities to developed countries. The result was a missed opportunity to bring green funding and investments into Jordan.

Future trends

Ultimately, the major challenge of youth unemployment in Jordan cannot be separated from factors related to the ecosystem. Already, environmental problems are contributing to the low economic growth rate and high unemployment, especially in rural locations.

<100 cubic metres per year Per capita water availabilty

Water availability is under 100 cubic metres per person per year, below the acceptable global threshold (see JORDAN/ISRAEL: Despite cooperation, water may be short – February 9, 2018). The forecast impacts of climate change on rainfall and temperature will exacerbate this, leaving even fewer renewable water resources available to supply the growing population.

As well as shortages in drinking water supply, there will be decreased availability of water for irrigation and industrial purposes. That will have an impact on growth, since water is an essential input for key sectors contributing to GDP, including government services, finance, manufacturing, transport, tourism and agriculture.

This will have a knock-on impact on jobs, livelihoods and food security. Particularly vulnerable are young people living in poor agricultural communities in the rural highlands and Jordan Valley, who have a lower adaptive capacity and spend a higher share of their incomes on food.

Ultimately, addressing these intertwined problems would require an interdisciplinary approach across sectors. However, there is little sign of a concerted top-down effort in this respect. Meanwhile, young people preoccupied by immediate economic challenges and with little access to reliable and comprehensible information sources on climate change are unlikely to lead a grassroots initiative for change.

The law that could make climate change illegal – BBC Future

15 Dec 2020

The short-term cycles of government can be a real problem for climate change. But a new and ambitious climate law recently passed in Denmark tries to find a way around this problem, and some of the other common pitfalls of climate laws. It makes Denmark one of a small number of countries beginning to provide new blueprints of how government can genuinely tackle climate change. Its law could turn out to be one of the closest things yet to a law that would make climate change genuinely illegal.

It is one of the strongest laws of its kind in the world, because it avoids five big pitfalls of climate laws elsewhere.

  1. An enduring solution: How can a climate law avoid the scenario of a country setting a goal 10 or 20 year into the future but failing to actually meet it? The government will be held to account every year by the parliament. In theory, that will lead to a government having to step down.” But what happens when a new government comes in – will it be held to the same standard? Denmark has tried to minimise this risk by negotiating cross-party support of its climate law.
  2. Fair share: The law is its evidence-based approach to what share of the global emissions cuts it is responsible for. This legally binding science-based target is the backbone of its new law. Denmark’s new law also aims for “net-zero” emissions by 2050, although its “fair share” to reach this target would actually be closer to a 2040 deadline.
  3. Net zero: Global emissions will need to reach “net zero” around mid-century to stay on track for 1.5C.
  4. In it together: Denmark’s new law has a commitment to support other countries in cutting their emissions.
  5. Green lens: Denmark’s law also has a safeguard to make sure positive climate efforts in one part of its government aren’t undermined by those in another by ensuring all policies support green sustainable development.

Climate laws are becoming a tool for countries to tackle climate change. But what if governments fail to create them in the first place? In this case, courts are proving to be a powerful mechanism to force governments to take action. Denmark itself also has a movement trying to get climate change into its constitution, which has only been changed twice in the past 100 years.

How Covid-19 and the Climate are transforming the real estate sector- WEF

15 Nov 2020

The real estate sector has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic in unprecedented way. As of 3 April, the unlevered enterprise value of real estate assets had fallen 25% or more in most sectors, especially hospitality and leisure. Some asset classes, especially those with greater human density such as student housing, malls and healthcare facilities, had the hardest shock and have already been sold off in considerable numbers.

Even with the short-term benefits of increased e-commerce, the yield from logistics real estate could drop off, as goods and human movement slow down. The lockdowns also shrank the expected rate of return for letting and construction considerably. The bright side is that consumer demand will probably shift towards more efficient properties, especially since the lockdown experience has revealed the downsides of energy-intensive buildings.

Many real estate investors are not ready to take the sustainable and digital leaps needed to make properties safer and healthier even if, just a few months ago, the debate about sustainability was becoming increasingly urgent in many sectors, real estate included. Yields and returns for energy-intensive buildings will shrink soon – not just due to increasing regulatory pressures or to different working practices which, in part, will outlive the crisis, but rather because if the sector does not reinvent itself, it will contribute to speeding up the pace of the climate crisis.

Given the magnitude of the crisis we are living through, financial operators should stick to two axioms:

1. The physical crises of pandemics and climate change are interconnected.

2. Real estate sustainability is increasingly being impacted by these crises.

When it comes to resilience, the priority is to fully understand any weaknesses and then to build capability. Real estate investors should first seize the moment to decarbonize their portfolio and make their operations sustainable. Secondly, investors could deploy a portion of their resources towards building renewable-energy infrastructure and retrofitted buildings. Third, it is possible to combine traditional investing with environmental, social and governance-related (ESG) insights to improve long-term outcomes.

Build Back Better – Education Must Change after Covid-10 to Meet the Climate Crisis- UNESCO

15 Oct 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic dominated the headlines and every aspect of our lives in the last few months, a study found that in 50 years one billion people could live in insufferable heat.We must unite to fight the impending threat of COVID-19, which has already killed over 400,000 people. But we cannot forget that the climate crisis is also a battle for our lives, and that many will die from its effects if we do not act now. UN Secretary-General António Guterres has called upon Governments to “build back better” after the current crisis by creating more sustainable, resilient and inclusive societies. This must include education, as societies cannot transform if what and how we learn remains the same.

School closures in over 180 countries have laid bare inequalities in education, deficiencies in remote learning, the cost of the digital divide, as well as the important role schools play in student health and wellbeing. After this crisis, Governments around the world will need to reassess learning systems to meet these challenges.

Last year, the UN General Assembly recognized Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) as a model for rethinking learning to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. ESD reassesses what we learn, where we learn and how we learn. It develops the knowledge, skills, values and attitudes that enable learners to make informed decisions and actions on global problems such as the climate crisis. Equally important for the immediate crisis response and the prevention of future crises are individual socio-emotional skills.

Governments, policy makers and education leaders need to ensure that Education for Sustainable Development continues to be built into education frameworks at every stage of national education. The commitment to ESD must include learning in all contexts, for all learners no matter their gender, location, socio-economic status or connection to the internet.

How partnerships help small businesses adapt to climate change– LSE

15 Sep 2020

Micro, small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in developing countries often face major barriers within their business environment to adapting to the impacts of climate change. These barriers include a lack of access to finance, markets, insurance, climate-smart inputs and services, and knowledge about adaptation options.

Many of these barriers can be overcome through the activities, products and services of other private sector actors. There has been a lot of interest in unlocking the resources of the private sector to plug gaps in adaptation finance, at national and international levels. There has, however, generally been limited clarity around how this can be achieved.

Multi-stakeholder partnerships are becoming an increasingly important development paradigm. NGOs hope that supporting private sector actors to develop adaptation goods or services, which they have an ongoing incentive to maintain, will produce longer-term resilience that extends beyond a given programme or project.

Through action and investment from donor-funded and public sectors – in areas such as research, data access, relationship development, business incubation and access to finance – multi-stakeholder partnerships are supporting private sector actors to deliver adaptation resources to small-scale producers.

Market-based partnership strategies envisage that multi-stakeholder partnerships will become self-sustaining. But, private sector provision of goods and services that aid adaptation among SMEs often breaks down following pilot projects, when donor funding and brokering activities are withdrawn.

Dependence on market mechanisms, specifically on low-risk and commercially-viable business opportunities, meanwhile, makes multi-stakeholder partnerships less likely to deliver adaptation support to the poorest, most vulnerable and most geographically remote groups.

To mobilise more inclusive partnerships, identify risks and prepare mitigation measures, sufficient investment from NGOs and other donor-funded development actors into partnership design and strategy at the early stages of developing a multi-stakeholder partnership is required. Yet market systems are dynamic and changing, requiring partners to continually re-evaluate and renegotiate the terms of a partnership. Multi-stakeholder partnerships are therefore likely to require longer-term monitoring, evaluation and assistance than is permissible in short-term development projects.

The future of water: How innovations will advance water sustainability and resilience worldwide – World Bank

15 Aug 2020

As the global population hurtles towards 9.7 billion people by 2050, it has never been more important to produce more with less. As the water supply and sanitation (WSS) sector continues to face increasing pressures, especially due to the impacts of climate change, governments in the developing world will need to increase the sector’s resilience and sustainability. Innovation and technology have a vital role to play in scarcity and safety, water efficiency, utility operations, monitoring and treatment and data and analytics. The World Bank, along with water innovation accelerator Imagine H2O, recently hosted a virtual event showcasing fourteen water technology businesses with especially promising products and services.

The businesses highlighted in the webinar offer technologies that help utilities serve customers digitally, manage water resources remotely and in real time, empower farmers to make water smart decisions and utilize distributed technology to expand water and wastewater services to underserved communities.

Smarter Homes, is a company that produces the WaterOn device, which is a smart metering and automated leakage prevention system. Thus far, the device has been used on apartment buildings in India and has helped save 40,000 households an average of 35 percent of water consumption.

Ignitia is a company that uses machine learning and remote sensing to send text messages to small-scale farmers with hyper-local information on climates and weather forecasts. The service has thus far led to a 65 percent average yield increase across different staples, and a $476 increase in average farmer income.

Oneka is another company that helps consumers obtain safe drinking water without utilizing land or emitting greenhouse gases. Oneka’s wave-powered desalination buoys convert ocean water to drinking water. Each buoy can produce 10m3 of drinking water per day, saving an estimated 34,000kg of CO2 per year. 

Building Back Better: Why Europe Must Lead A Global Green Recovery- Yale Environment

15 Jul 2020

As governments spend massively to revive economies, a huge battle has emerged around whether the economic recovery should also achieve other goals, particularly cutting the emissions that cause climate change. Those advocating green spending say the $10 trillion that governments have already committed to stimulus should be just the beginning, and an even bigger pile of cash is now needed for expansive “green new deals.”

In most countries, the political forces are blowing against green recovery. Distant, abstract goals like global warming have fallen far down the list of priorities. Some have actually relaxed pollution control standards. Unlike the last financial crisis, when nations spent up to 15 percent of their stimulus money on clean energy, few have such forward-looking plans this time.

Europe, however, is the exception. There, the European Green Deal — a $1.1 trillion climate-focused infrastructure and decarbonization plan that had been cooked up before the pandemic — looks set to get even bigger now. A hyper-green Europe will have little impact on the climate unless the better technology and business practices nurtured at home can spread widely to the places that cause most emissions. Only 9 percent of world emissions come from Europe, a share that has dropped steadily and will decline even faster the more Europe invests in weaning its economies off of fossil fuels.

Markets in Europe are already open to global competition, which will help make the whole world greener. For example, Europe has a highly competitive market for building renewable power. Open competition in these sectors of the energy system is essential because it produces bigger demand for clean energy, which means more robust international supply chains, faster global improvement in technology, and cheaper options for all countries.

Europe is also poised to show the world how to achieve a “just transition” — a concept built centrally into the European Green Deal and designed to look out for those, notably workers, hurt by technological transformation.

The COVID-19 recovery can be the vaccine for climate change- World Economic Forum

15 Jun 2020

COVID-19 was not just a predictable crisis — it was predicted. Despite such warnings, many countries have failed to prepare for and, initially, to manage the COVID-19 crisis. That said, the pandemic has shown us how humanity’s collection ingenuity can pull us through. What is most concerning about COVID-19 is not the virus itself, but rather that it may be a harbinger of things to come.

There are clear connections between COVID-19 and the climate crisis. For starters, climate change increases the likelihood of COVID-type pandemics. More importantly, it vastly increases the likelihood of cascading disasters. There is no reason to believe 2020 will not deliver similar shocks to societies now handicapped by the economic impacts of the pandemic, with stretched emergency management capabilities and depleted health systems. Over longer timeframes, COVID-19 will have serious physical and mental health consequences through its effect on the global economy, on global and regional food systems, and on available resources for disaster response and social protection.

Similarly, climate change will generate events that escalate and proliferate, from multiple breadbasket failures to climate-induced conflicts and refugee crises. Without sufficient action, the long-term impacts of the climate crisis on health and the economy will play out year after year. For example, heat itself may cost global economies more than $2 trillion by 2030, with losses in some countries of 6% or more of GDP.

But there is a glimmer of hope. For if COVID-19 is a precautionary tale, it is also a crash course in the possible. So, while the pain of COVID-19 is devastating, it has created a policy window for climate action that six months ago would have been unimaginable. If we are to avoid a repeat of the dramatic human and economic situation we confront today, governments, business and society must collaborate to:

  1. Adopt science-based net-zero strategies.
  2. Better account for and address current and future health risks.
  3. Redesign cities for better lives.

Gender, Climate, and Security (Report) – UN

15 May 2020

In many regions of the world, the impacts of climate change are exacerbating conditions that threaten peace and security. Rising temperatures, extended droughts, or heavier, harsher storms are resulting in loss of livelihoods, increasing competition over scarce resources and fueling migration and displacement.

Gender norms and power structures play a critical role in determining how women and men of different backgrounds are impacted by – and respond to – such crises. Pre-existing inequalities, gender-related roles and expectations, and unequal access to resources can deepen inequality and leave some groups disproportionately vulnerable.

In his 2019 Report on Women, Peace and Security, the UN Secretary-General declared an “urgent need” for better analysis of the linkages between climate change and conflict from a gender perspective. Understanding the gender dimensions of climate-related security risks is not only key to avoiding exacerbating vulnerabilities, but also to uncovering new entry points for advancing gender equality, improving climate resilience and sustaining peace.

Case studies, from Egypt, Columbia, the Asia Pacific, Sudan, and other countries, contributed by researchers and practitioners form across the globe illustrate the different ways in which gender, climate change and security are linked. Understanding these linkages can help policymakers, development practitioners and peacebuilders mitigate risks of violence and leverage opportunities to build resilient, inclusive, and peaceful societies.

The report assesses entry points for integrated action and provides recommendations for policymakers, practitioners and donors on advancing three inter-related goals: peace and security, climate action and gender equality. The recommendations include:

  1. Integrate complementary policy agendas
  2. Scale up integrated programming
  3. Increase targeted financing
  4. Expand the evidence base

Why the MENA region needs to better prepare for climate change- Atlantic Council

15 Apr 2020

Countries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) have been hotspots for exploration and exploitation of energy resources for decades. Yet, the Mediterranean climate is proven to be just as volatile as its security issues. The consequences of changes in temperature, extreme weather conditions, and rainfall superimposed on a severe water crisis, political turmoil, and a web of intersecting violent conflicts, are all destabilizing issues likely exacerbated by climate change.

At the heart of the climate change discussion is the agriculture-water-food security nexus which overlaps with one another. Agriculture employs more than 35 percent of the region’s population and contributes 13 percent to the region’s GDP vs the global average of 3.2 percent. The world’s top nine wheat importers are MENA countries. Yet, around 50 percent of regional wheat and barley, 40 percent of rice, and nearly 70 percent of maize for the region is met through imports.

Such high levels of import dependency result in high vulnerability to global food price fluctuations, which, to some extent, are also driven by climate change impacts in food-exporting regions. Studies showed that climate and hydrological events coupled with global market fluctuations contributed to high wheat prices in Egypt during 2008 that affected the price of bread.

In terms of water security, a recent World Bank report estimated that over 60 percent of the population in the MENA region live in areas with high or very high surface water stress with reduced available amounts of water for immediate uses such as agriculture or filling reservoirs for drinking water. According to the World Bank, this region is expected to have the greatest economic losses from climate related water scarcity.

The MENA region should develop high levels of climate resilience by using developing countries’ capacities to access climate finance, efficient water governance and awareness, and building the regional strategy for climate mitigation and adaptation.