The global financial recession triggered serious debate among many countries in revealing the causes behind failures and in innovating affordable solutions. Seeking “transformational” economic growth is very fashionable nowadays bringing to the front-line clean energy and green investments as keys for a better future. And for those countries at the heart of change in the Arab World, the famous “Spring” is bringing a different flavor to the aspired change and reform.
In Jordan, attention to sustainability (whether environmental or social) is a need as well as a strategic choice. For a country with very limited natural resources and increasingly growing demand, attending for people and environment is not only a political obligation but an under-exploited differentiator that would place Jordan as a regional platform for community-oriented development and sustainable investments.
The known argument of “environment versus investment” should not stay within our dictionary. Both are converging to support development goals especially within a vulnerable environment like ours. The magnified energy crisis that recently hit Jordanians has initiated a paradigm shift in perception and practice. We have never been more aware of the energy cost and the tough budgetary constraints like we are today. I wish I could claim the same for water, another upcoming reality that Jordanians are hardly ready to face.
Learning it the hard way, Jordan is recognizing with no doubt that sustainable development and effective linkages between economic, social and environmental goals, are not attainable without targeting development sectors and mainstreaming sustainability within their plans and operations. The standalone green approach in decision-making is no longer viable as it encapsulates environment away from other development policies and reforms.
The demand for reforms that ensure long-term benefits to the community is dictating an integrated development approach. People need to be conscious about trade-offs and at the heart of the decision-making process. While calling for more jobs and social welfare; Jordanians are becoming more aware of the pressures caused by economic growth on the country’s natural resources. The business and investment climate has its requirements to give back with value added economy. Land, water, energy, infrastructure and good governance are all inputs in the development process; thus, if Jordan is to compete in the market, we should find the right recipe.
Recognizing its untapped resources, Jordan has identified clean energy and green investments as new clusters to boost economic development, provide green jobs, and sustain natural resources. As the first country in the MENA region to conduct a national green economy scoping study, Jordan has identified several opportunities to kick off the green clusters including renewable energy and energy efficiency, water and waste-water management, solid waste, green buildings, ecotourism, transportation etc. However, mainstreaming the green economy potential into those sectors is still limited.
The cost of imported energy amounted to 20% of the GDP (2006). Total imported energy amounted to 96% of Jordan’s total energy needs. The estimated investment needed in the renewable energy sector by 2020 is about 2.1 billion USD and in energy conservation around 152 million USD.
Jordan hopes to generate approximately 1200 MW of electricity from wind projects (BOO basis) and another 600 MW from solar (BOO basis) in addition to 50 MW from waste to energy projects by 2020. This goal is necessary to reach the 10% renewable energy target of the total energy mix.
A major achievement was made recently with the first patch of agreements signed between the government and renewable energy developers to start the first solar and wind power generation projects enabled by the recently issued comprehensive legislative and regulatory framework for renewable energy.
Such investments are expected to contribute to the energy security goals, create green jobs for Jordanians, alleviate burden off the government budget and position Jordan on the clean energy map. As promising as this truly is, Jordan needs to proactively pursue the other elements of the value chain, namely; education, innovation & technology, training, and entrepreneurship. With over 70% of its population under 30 years of age, Jordan’s big investment needs to be in its talent. Mainstreaming the green economy market needs into the education and vocational training systems will enhance the green clusters competitiveness and ensure socioeconomic benefits.
Through building an effective regulatory and governance framework and bringing together public and private sectors as well as civil society organizations; Jordan will establish its competitive edge in the green economy world while striving to meet its people’s development aspirations.