'Think about the actual costs'
Ahmad Bassam works full-time at Jordan’s Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Fund and volunteers as policy co-lead at YOUNGO, the UN climate convention’s youth constituency. In an interview ahead of the Seventh GEF Assembly, he discussed what motivates him to work and volunteer in this area, and shared a message to today’s political and business leaders.
Where did your interest in climate change come from?
I started to work at 14, as a lot of teens coming from humble backgrounds in Jordan do. I used to sell, iron, and sew altered second-hand clothing in a small street stand/shop in downtown Amman.
In 2014 I was studying in the University of Jordan and was a hard-working student of energy engineering. I felt like things were finally looking up for me. Then one day, there was a flash flood that washed away our street stand, making it absolutely nothing. We nearly drowned and it was very frightening. It was at that time that I took the decision not only to stand up for those who are facing the climate change aftermath, but also to push to prevent it from escalating in the future.
I started making more noise about this and joined multiple volunteer groups in the university and in the community. A few years after that I volunteered at a local climate event and was introduced to YOUNGO, the official youth constituency of the UN climate change convention. I got involved and eventually became the policy team member of the youth representatives at the UNFCCC COP 26 in Glasgow, focused on energy and climate finance and advocating for the demands of youth about the climate policies they want to see on the ground.
What does your work entail?
I work on sustainable energy projects and policy development and finance in Jordan’s Renewable Energy & Energy Efficiency fund, JREEEF. This involves working with local and international stakeholders to support large projects that support the implementation of Nationally Determined Contributions related to climate change – some examples include funding for 1,400 solar water heaters for underprivileged families, and support for energy efficiency upgrades at industrial facilities and hotels. These projects can have major effects to reduce carbon emissions and overall energy consumption. I have also been involved in producing reports and policy recommendations related to sustainable energy market development.
Outside of my “day job,” I am also a co-lead in YOUNGO’s policy team and the COY18 Liaison for the Conference of Youth, which will occur before the Dubai climate headline event of the year (COP28) in November. I enjoy these efforts as an opportunity to work alongside hard-working youth volunteers – not only at major international events but also between them. For instance, I worked on the Glasgow climate summit COP26 Global Youth Statement, which was drafted in consultation with more than 47,000 young people from more than 135 countries even during COVID times. The document was used in the party negotiations and was acknowledged in the Glasgow climate pact in paragraphs 63-64; the next year in the Sharm el-Sheikh Implementation Plan in paragraphs 55-57; and in the Action on Climate Empowerment Action Plan decisions 23/CP.27 and 22/CMA.4.
If you could say one thing to today’s political or business leaders, what would it be?
Please stop making decisions about what is the most economical short-term option without taking environmental impacts into consideration. Think about the actual costs to all of us.
What do you like to do in your spare time, if you have any?
I just finished a graduate diploma course at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government on leadership, organizing, and action. I have a great deal of interest in literature about organizing and leadership. I am also genuinely interested in the technical aspects of sustainable energy and its impacts on the environment, following my electrical engineering degree.
Beyond this, I have a very keen interest in support for refugees, not only because more than 30 percent of Jordan’s residents are refugees. I also spend time working with volunteer groups to support refugees and strengthen their resilience and access to healthcare.
I also have some weights at home, and enjoy playing some sports to relax and blow off some steam, haha!
What are you looking forward to at the GEF Assembly?
I am looking forward to many moments on the Seventh Assembly agenda including the youth leaders exchange, the Inclusive Assembly Challenge Program, and more. It is great to see young people and young voices in so many prominent places. I’m also looking forward to meeting other young people working on the ground in different parts of the world – it is exciting to think about connecting and seeing what kind of future we can build.