Amman’s Ayman Smadi on tackling climate change in the face of rapid urbanization

Ayman Smadi is the Director of Transportation and Traffic Management at the Greater Amman Municipality (GAM). Amman is the first city in C40’s South and West Asia region to receive support from C40’s recently launched Technical Assistance Programme.

By 2050, two thirds of the world’s population will live in cities. Climate induced migration will also force millions of people away from coastal, arid and vulnerable areas and into the world’s already densely packed urban areas. With this rise in population, a rise in greenhouse gas emissions is considered, for most, inevitable. Cities need to be able to understand and manage the sources of these emissions, and they need to do so at an increasingly urgent pace. Creating a greenhouse gas inventory is the first step.

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My city Amman, the capital of Jordan, is just one city already attempting to deal with the challenges of both climate change and a growing population. 9.5 million people live in Jordan, four million of which reside in Amman alone. The city is home to a rapidly growing number of immigrants and refugees; half a million Syrians now live in the capital, and our population has been doubling every ten years for the last three decades. Coupled with this growth in population is a rise in potential emissions sources; for instance, Amman is now home to 1.2 million vehicles, emitting around 1,803,689 tonnes of CO2 per year.

We know how important it is to manage and reduce these emissions, as well as adapt to the changing climate.  This is why Amman signed onto the Compact of Mayors last year, and we have since reached a significant milestone by completing a greenhouse gas inventory for the first time, with help from the C40 Technical Assistance Programme. Our inventory is compliant with the internationally recognized best practice GPC standard, making comprehension and comparison significantly easier.

We started by assessing what kind of data we would need, followed by an informative C40 workshop held here in Amman over three days. C40 also provided an inventory expert, who came to the city to provide assistance.  After assembling a team from various departments within the Greater Amman Municipality (GAM), we were then able to complete around 90% of the inventory ourselves, and were supported by C40 to complete the most challenging sections. Overall, the process was straightforward and extremely effective, and we were supported throughout.

Having this inventory has allowed Mayor Akel Biltaji and GAM to better quantify the environmental benefits of our projects, and communicate both the importance of, and reasoning behind, our projects both to our citizens and to policy makers. As a result, environmental awareness among our citizens has increased significantly, and this has helped create an environmental focus within the municipality; we are now dedicated to having a clean air plan and a climate plan, and later will involve setting targets, and we know that our citizens are behind us.

Communicating these environmental impacts and the benefits of changing behaviors and of our projects has been really powerful – for example, by setting out how many tonnes of CO2 the transport sector is producing and what switching some of these trips to buses means to the city.

It was essential for Amman to develop a GHG inventory. To cope with the level of growth in cities, we all need to learn how to be truly sustainable. Clearly the best method of learning is to learn from somebody who’s done it – that’s why we’re part of the C40 network, and why we’re part of the Compact of Mayors. We are able to learn from the experience of other cities, and others are able to then learn from us. It is this level of knowledge sharing that will help ensure a safe and sustainable future; only by acting now are we able to ensure that we are as prepared as we can be in the face of the growing challenges that the world’s cities face.

My advice to other cities in our situation is to not waste any time; you need to jump right in.