Tag Archives: environment

Innovating for Sustainable Development – it’s everyone’s business!

For decades, science, technology, and innovation were exclusive elements for more developed countries. Investment in research and development is still as low as it could get in developing countries. Even with the most talented individuals, research and development are confined within labs with minimal market and public interaction. This cannot be the case anymore as collective local actions are instrumental for global change.

The Global Goals for Sustainable Development (SDGs) not only highlight innovation as a goal but also emphasize the value of innovation to achieve other goals. Whether it be education, energy, health, climate change or poverty that we strive to address, science, technology, and innovation will need to be tackled in a participatory and inclusive manner to ensure benefit to the public. Building sustainable economic clusters and social businesses around new technologies are only possible though widely-enabled innovations from the full spectrum of community; including women, youth and indigenous communities. Connecting local technological needs with global opportunities is a common challenge in many countries that requires us all to be more conscious of market dynamics and social inclusiveness. The ability to recognize local technological needs and capabilities is core to create a value proposition that maximizes economic productivity and competitiveness.

Boosting local innovation might be the magical recipe for progressing on sustainable development goals if the ingredients are made available. Less developed countries need support to shape suitable models for innovation within the context of sustainable development. Lessons learned so far indicate that the public sector might not be the key driver for innovation. Businesses, on the other hand, play a substantial role in accelerating innovation as investors and consumers. However, the real catalysts for sustainable innovation are not yet fully empowered. Universities, research institutions, think tanks and NGOs are requested to step into the driver seat to define the needs and connect the dots. These players should be better equipped to understand local development challenges and convert them into innovation opportunities. Civil society organizations and scientists combining both knowledge and community power can advocate for an inclusive and enabling policy and regulatory environment that bolsters and celebrates local innovation.

Jordanian Women are Shaping the Clean Technology Future – Start by Telling Your Story!

CWEEL Group Pic

I must admit that I’m still learning and triggering thought on Jordan’s knowledge economy potential especially when it comes to the role of women. I also need to state clearly that I’m not a feminist and I believe in Jordanian women’s natural ability to take their part in development shoulder to shoulder with Jordanian men. Every day I encounter a new section of a story that is just beginning. Last week, I had the honor of being the guest speaker in the 2nd meeting for the CWEEL network in Jordan. CWEEL is the Council on Women in Energy and Environmental Leadership and Jordan is initiating its chapter through a few active men and women from the energy and environment sectors.

While I had a presentation ready, I navigated through the eyes of the amazing women attending the event and I suddenly decided to speak from the heart to the heart. Telling my humble story was the gate through which we all entered into an honest discussion that was as inspiring to me as it was to the group. For years, we tend to immerse ourselves in the world of work and lose many opportunities for human interaction.. more importantly for listening to another person’s story. In a personalized story, one can find moments and aspirations that could be life-changing.

My theory of the Clean Tech Sector in Jordan is that it will be shaped by its Women. They are rising like stars in various organizations starting from key business associations and NGOs (EDAMA, Jordan Green Building Council, Architects & Engineers Business Council, etc); Regulatory bodies (Jordan Standards and Metrology Organization), Utility Companies, Research and Academia and Financing Institutions. It is still quite rare to find women business owners or CEOs but this is changing soon, I believe. Getting those women connected and sharing stories together will ensure the sector’s success and growth.

Unlock your potential by sharing your story with another woman. I’m grateful for all the stories that added a special flavor to my life!


Green Careers – what are we missing in the educational system?

I was lucky enough to join the Green Careers booth at the International Youth Day celebrations in Irbid organised by USAID. The experience was rich as it made me realise how little environmentalists are doing to empower each other and to give hope to the new green generations. Young Engineering students already had pre expectations that the main challenge in their career is going to be unequal employment opportunities. I had to listen and try to change that perception while inside my head wondered what if that is really the case. After overcoming that first point, we started real talk about:
– the right attitude… What impression am I giving.
– how can I stay up to date with sector development and priorities (energy, environment and water).
– with over 112000 registered engineers in Jordan, how can I build my competitive edge.
– in the CV and during interview, how can I show my added value to the company.
– what would an employer like to see in my CV as a fresh graduate.
– does voluntary work count.

I know I wanted to keep doing this… And reach out to all those feeling its a curse to study green … If I can’t… We all can try though.



SEA as Sustainability Mainstreaming and Planning Tool in Jordan

Seeking to find its own recipe for sustainability planning, Jordan is piloting Strategic Environmental Assessment as a tool for planning and managing development zones or special economic areas. Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) is a systematic process for evaluating the environmental consequences of proposed policy, strategy or master plan in order to ensure they are fully included and appropriately addressed at the earliest appropriate stage of decision-making on par with economic and social consideration.

Using a unique model, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan has prepared Strategic Environmental Assessment and Strategic Environmental Management Plan (SEMP) for the Dead Sea Development Zone which was given a special status in 2009 to attract quality investments and to share economic gains with surrounding local communities.  Despite the fact that EU member states have well-established systems for SEA, this particular Jordanian-tailored application on the Dead Sea Development Zone Master Plan has incorporated specific aspects to introduce this project as a regional/international model in sustainability mainstreaming. The major benefits of SEA include:  

  • Enhanced sustainability of natural resources
  • Prevention of costly planning mistakes
  • Conservation of time and money
  • Simplification of Environmental Impact Assessment
  • Promotion of compatibility amongst Master Plans
  • Enhancement of development strategies
  • Improved public sector efficiency, and
  • Enhanced credibility in decision making

Key Takeaways

For years, Jordan has pushed for more serious consideration and buy-in for environmental issues from various players; the government, private sector, and civil society. While this has worked in some areas, it is no secret that it has not been quite successful in many others. Many argue that the standalone environmental policy and plans are not enough when it comes to balancing economic and social development needs. Key takeaways from the Jordanian SEA experience in the Dead Sea Development Zone are being discussed in the following paragraphs:

No Environmental ‘Surprises’ for Developers/Investors

The SEA process exists to ensure the early integration of environmental considerations into the preparation and adoption of Master Plans and development programs with a view to promoting sustainable development. The preparation or amendment of a Master Plan and the work on assessing the likely environmental effects should be undertaken in parallel so that the environmental considerations can be integrated into the preparation of the plan from the start. 

As a result there should be no environmental “surprises” for the Master Planning Team, no development “surprises” for the SEA Team and no expenditure wasted on designs which have environmental difficulties. The key result of the SEA will be Master Plans which respect the environmental carrying capacity, and therefore avoid, reduce or offset the likely significant environmental effects from investment projects. 

Clear Guidance for Development Programs

SEA and SEMP includes enough details to guide further detailing of the Master Plan and development projects. They provide specific environmental objectives that are extracted from national goals and zone-specific considerations. The involvement of stakeholders in the SEA process is a key success factor. The key groups and institutions, foreign investors, environmental agencies, NGOs, representatives of the public and others, including those groups potentially affected by the likely environmental impacts of implementing the Master Plan should be identified and consulted. Due to the unique nature of the Dead Sea are, several levels of consultations were organized including concerned Ministers.

Good Governance and Private Sector Involvement

SEA places the environmental protection burden on government’s shoulder. Through the proposed SEA/SEMP framework, roles and responsibilities of environmental management are clearly defined amongst various regulators, developers and investors, as well as some NGOs. The institutional coordination and good governance principles would be typically covered in contractual agreements and memoranda of understanding to ensure proper implementation.


Nevertheless, both SEA and SEMP are legalized and enforced according to the development zones legislative framework, which is the first attempt of its kind in Jordan to require SEAs. Throughout the process of preparation and implementation of the SEA study and SEMP, regulators, planning consultants, developers and NGOs have been learning a lot.

Going Beyond Compliance

Due to the environmentally sensitive nature of the Dead Sea area, measures to go beyond regulatory requirements are introduced in the SEA and SEMP. For example, an enhanced energy efficiency target of 30% and water efficiency of 20% would make the Dead Sea Development Zone a real destination for sustainable tourism. Such pilot would also serve as a national model for others to follow towards cascading the national water and energy efficiency targets on zone (regional) level.

Enhanced Partnerships

Support and buy-in from the government is needed to bring the SEA and SEMP to reality. Water, wastewater, solid waste and energy infrastructure elements are crucial for the successful achievement of the set environmental targets. Innovative financing mechanisms to green the area’s infrastructure need to be investigated including those with public-private partnership.

National Readiness, Awareness and Capacity-building

It is clear that the knowledge and skills needed to prepare SEAs and SEMPs are slightly different than those needed for EIAs. Jordan has been requesting big projects to submit an EIA (Environmental Impact Assessment) for over a decade now. Consulting firms providing such service are becoming used to the EIA model with little or no exposure to SEA and other environmental planning and mainstreaming tools.

During SEA consultation sessions and with the presence of dozens of NGOs representatives and national experts, the level of input is still leaning towards the EIA/individual project impact rather than plan/policy/strategy interrelated impacts. Even the regulators need to review and approve SEAs with a more strategic eye on the potential impacts.


SEA implementation in Jordan is expanding to other development zones and this will change the very nature of planning in the country for the better and will position Jordan as a regional leader in environmental mainstreaming and sustainability planning. A similar approach might be designed to assess the environmental sustainability impacts of urban/sectoral community development plans and propose guidelines for promoting compliance and beyond compliance measures in the MENA region. 


Jordan’s Green Economy Potential by Ruba Al-Zu’bi

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.