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    07-Sep-2022

Next government needs to have a firm grasp of climate change - By Ruba Saqr, Jordan News

 

 

The writer has reported on the environment, worked in the public sector as a communications officer, and served as managing editor of a business magazine, spokesperson for a humanitarian INGO, and as head of a PR agency.
 
Speculations over a new government with a newly appointed prime minister have been floating in the Jordanian media for a while now, the most recent of which came as an analysis piece posted earlier this week in Al-Ghad News. The article shared other scenarios as well, including the possibility of a wide reshuffle of the Cabinet, under the current premier.
 
 
 
Regardless of the winning scenario, Jordan is in fact in dire need of serious leadership on its climate change, agri-food security, water, and unemployment fronts.
 
As the country strides toward consolidating its agricultural and food security dossiers, following recent directives by His Majesty King Abdullah, the Kingdom needs a new Cabinet that is markedly more focused than pre-pandemic administrations on matters related to climate change and food security.
 
The future government’s mission will most likely include revisiting clashing laws that have missed the mark on climate change, like the new investment regulation bill as well as the existing environmental protection law. This, in addition to managing our water resources with a firm and steady hand, finding insightful solutions to urbanization and desertification, and expediting plans to drive sustainable agri-food security in a manner that revives the country’s long-neglected rural communities.
 
To achieve this, any new prime minister will need to set the right tone for the ministries whose areas of expertise are directly and indirectly linked to mitigating the ill effects of climate change. These include the ministries of water, agriculture, environment, labor, investment, energy, transportation, education, planning, and finance.
 
Unfortunately, the current government has so far shown a rather shaky grasp of Jordan’s long-term problems, although it was appointed just after the previous burnt-out government managed to steer the country through the most intricate stages of the pandemic, proving that under pressure, and with the right team, the government can exceed expectations.
 
Rather than come out of the trying months of the pandemic with clarity of vision and a strong understanding of the crucial lessons learnt from this world-engulfing health calamity (such as the frailty of long supply chains and their devastating contribution to climate change), the current government ended up suggesting the obliteration of one of the country’s pivotal public sector institutions.
 
As a result, former ministers voiced their rejection of the unreasonable plans to abolish the Ministry of Labor, as part of efforts to modernize the public sector, saying that this had nothing to do with introducing workable solutions to the structural problems plaguing the country’s public institutions.
 
Notably, the Labor Ministry gained further prominence following Jordan’s signing of the Free Trade agreement (FTA) with the US in 2000, during the Clinton administration’s time in office. Labor rights and environmental protection were the two main provisions in the FTA that ended up prompting Jordan to establish its first-ever Ministry of Environment and pay more attention to its labor policies.
 
It makes little sense for the current government to abolish the very ministry in charge of transforming and diversifying the Jordanian workforce, in a country that suffers from oversaturation across a large number of professional specializations in the job market.
 
A government with 360 degree vision should be able to see that the Labor Ministry is about to have a defining role as Jordan embarks on reviving its rural communities. With the right leadership, the ministry will be able to work with other ministries (like water, education, and agriculture) to come up with clear plans to transform the urban and semi-urban societies living near state-owned arable lands into active farming communities. This way, the ministry will not only redefine the scope of vocational training, it will also become quite instrumental in changing social attitudes that prefer office jobs (especially in the public sector) to cultivating the land.
It makes little sense for the current government to abolish the very ministry in charge of transforming and diversifying the Jordanian workforce, in a country that suffers from oversaturation across a large number of professional specializations in the job market.
Meanwhile, a new Ministry of Investment was added to the current Cabinet, followed by the introduction of an investment regulation bill that was unsuccessful in tackling climate change, the Kingdom’s chronic water crisis, and plans to achieve food security as a top national concern.
 
Lack of awareness by local policymakers, lawmakers and senior civil servants with regard to the looming dangers of climate change has already given way to the enactment of this important piece of legislation, while turning a blind eye to the immediate and long-term effects of the rapid environmental deterioration threatening the planet.
 
Also in recent months, the Ministry of Water emptied a number of dams to the dismay of a long-serving former water minister who criticized the move as being an error in management.
 
Even though “accountability” has been a much-repeated mantra in official circles over the past months, the government made no effort to address or investigate these serious allegations weighing on the water file.
 
Jordan cannot continue to be stuck in theory and in an endless list of plans to reform and modernize public administration. Governments must stop paying lip service to notions like accountability and start “walking the talk”, boldly and transparently.
 
Recently, the US Senate passed a historic climate and clean energy bill that promises to propel the US to the forefront of the global clean energy economy. The new legislation aims to cut greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent below 2005 levels by the year 2030, as well as double the country’s capacity of installed wind and solar solutions to produce clean electricity.
 
Soon, countries, like Jordan, are expected to follow the lead of both the US and EU in adopting transformative policies and legislation that view economic growth through an environmentally conscious lens.
 
Moving forward, senior officials at the top of the governmental pyramid will need to show a firm grasp of universally shared challenges, such as climate change. Having this level of awareness is imperative to help Jordan transition into the water- and food-secure country it deserves to be.
 
Our dwindling water supplies and deteriorating air quality are not distant problems for the next generations to fix. Decidedly, they are ours, and ours only, to confront.
 
 
Ruba Saqr has reported on the environment, worked in the public sector as a communications officer, and served as managing editor of a business magazine, spokesperson for a humanitarian INGO, and as head of a PR agency.
 

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