On September 23, the heads of state and government of the 193 members of the United Nations will meet for the Climate Action Summit in New York to demonstrate solutions by governments, the private sector and civil society to reduce emissions and build climate resilience and adaptation.
The impacts of climate change bear real consequences on people’s lives. We are witnessing the life-threatening impact of climate change: Low precipitation, floods and droughts; the convergence of these ongoing challenges with societal developments — rapid population and urban growth, political fluctuations, conflict-induced migration and growing poverty rates — will amplify the Middle Eastern and North African vulnerability to climate change.
The region is one of the most water-scarce and dry in the world, with a high dependency on climate-sensitive agriculture and a large share of its population and economic activity in flood-prone urban coastal zones. By 2050, it is estimated that climate change will be responsible for 22 per cent of water shortages in the MENA while 78 per cent of increased water shortages can be attributed to socio-economic factors.
According to the World Bank, climate-related water scarcity will negatively impact growth rates with a 6 per cent decline of GDP by 2050 due to water-related impacts on agriculture, health and incomes. Unfortunately, Jordan is among the most affected countries, despite having developed technical solutions and institutional mechanisms to cope. According to several reports, the Kingdom is scheduled to exhaust underground freshwater as early as 2060. This is a bleak picture.
The latest Third National Communication report, supported by the UNDP, warned, that Jordan will witness a steady increase in temperature at a rate of 1.5-2.5°C, an increase in dry seasons and heatwaves.
While rainfall is predicted to decrease in Jordan, yet there will be an increase in its intensity leading to more frequent flash floods that affect the Kingdom’s sustainable development and vulnerable ecosystems. If nothing is done, agriculture production may decrease by around 10 per cent in the next decades. As such, Jordan has developed the National Climate Change Policy 2013-2020, supported by the UNDP and the Global Environment Facility, showcasing innovative policies and mechanisms to increase the resilience and mitigate the impact of climate change on the most vulnerable groups.
Jordan is also among the highest in the world in dependency on foreign energy sources with 92 per cent of the country`s needs (representing 10 per cent of the GDP) coming from imported oil and natural gas from the neighbouring countries dominating energy supply and leading to a rapid growth in CO2 emissions. Jordan has scaled up its production of renewable energy, accounting today for 11 per cent of the total national electricity requirements and aiming to reach 20 per cent by 2020. To do so, it will need to accelerate efforts and further mobilise resources.
While the policy answers national priorities, the scope of the challenge calls for building on the steps already taken. Water scarcity in the Kingdom, if not addressed in innovative and creative ways, will pose a great challenge to economic growth and development gains. Innovations can include rainwater harvesting, desalination, waste water treatment to be reused for agriculture and drip irrigation, which is one of the most efficient water management measures to produce food.
At the heart of the discussions in Jordan on climate change is the agriculture-water-food-nexus, which conceptualises the depth and severity of the problem in Jordan; a process that the UN supports to address food insecurity and the development of agriculture. The UN’s response in Jordan using the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a blueprint in developing a multifaceted response to the multidimensional challenges that climate change represents for Jordan is at the core of adopting an ambitious vision.
Our response to climate change in Jordan aims at enabling a more resilient economy, protecting health and livelihood and making sure no one is left behind, in partnership with civil society, the government and the private sector. Our response is not just about SDG 13, it goes hand in hand with efforts to integrate disaster-risk measures, sustainable water management and human security into national strategies. In the context of discussions on economic growth in Jordan, we must ensure that climate change responses are factored into investments for infrastructure, bolstering knowledge and expertise on technical assistance, and that policy reforms and incentive frameworks lead to a better use of water and energy resources.
Climate change’s impact on Jordan is progressing and even faster than it was expected! But, if we ramp up our efforts right now and act now on climate change, we can still limit its impact and realise sustainable development by 2030.
“The Sustainable Development Goals provide a blueprint for the transition needed to a healthier planet and a more just world — for present and future generations. Action on climate change must be rights-based and protect the health and well-being of the world’s most vulnerable, making sure no one is left behind.” Such is the call of the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres at this year’s Climate Action Summit. World leaders need to increase ambition and accelerate action of countries and other stakeholders to protect the planet and ensure the well-being of people all over the world.
The UN is committed to supporting the Government of Jordan to respond to this global call. With partnerships among the different sectors and actions by individuals, we can make a difference. Every action matters. Let us act now to save Jordan, and our one and only planet. We cannot and should not fail!
Anders Pedersen is UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Jordan.
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