Articles News & Interviews Books Editorials Home
      اللغة العربية    
Editor in Chief - Environment And Development
Secretary General - AFED
About Gallery Videos Contact
Selected Editorials

Amman cars cleaner, by the power of law

Najib Saab, Issue 231, June 2017

Awareness and ethics are essential to environmental protection, but they are not enough in the absence of policies, laws and regulations that provide incentives and impose sanctions. Some environmental groups weren't too happy when we wrote that what protects the environment are string laws not garbage collectors. That was a comment on the campaigns undertaken by some NGOs to clean beaches and roads, only for the garbage to return the next day. We concluded that actually it is more effective to impose a penalty and apply it to anyone who dumps dirt on a street, forest, or beach.

I recalled this during a visit to Amman last month. I was surprised this time by the increasing number of electric and hybrid cars. I was picked up at the airport by Mohammed Abu Oqab, from the Abdul Hameed Shouman Foundation, in a Nissan Altima hybrid, which ran on the battery for most of the distance to the city. Mohammed told me that his own small car, a Nissan Leaf, runs on electricity, and insisted, when we arrived at the Foundation headquarters, to show it to me and proudly explain how it worked. He told me that he bought this electric car because it is completely tax-free, and that the charging expense is lower than gasoline with no harmful emissions. Curious to test his knowledge, I asked him what were the real benefits, if the source of electricity to charge the car was polluted fuel anyway. He replied with confidence: "The power plants are far from the cities, while the biggest problem of air pollution is within cities, and the use of electric cars helps clean the air in Amman. Not to mention that the production of electricity from wind and clean solar energy is spreading quickly in Jordan, and there will come a day soon when the cars will be charged by electricity generated from solar energy."

I was surprised at the level of Mohammed's awareness and knowledge of scientific matters. Tax breaks on electric cars and high taxes on other cars must have been the reason for his choice. This is what drove him to learn how the electric car works and what its benefits are. In this case, legislation and laws were the catalyst for awareness.

The next day, Ahmed Ramadan, from the department of transportation at Petra University, drove me back to the airport. The guest car he used was a Toyota Camry hybrid. He told me that the university president's car was of the same type. Moreover, the entire electricity consumed at Petra University comes from solar panels.

This prompted me to look for more information. I found that half of the cars registered this year in Jordan are either fully electric or hybrid, running on both electricity and fuel. This development, unique in the Arab region, was the result of tax policies to encourage the transition to cleaner cars. This has resulted in savings in fuel and improved air quality, especially in the capital Amman.

Since the introduction of the law in 2009, more than 100,000 hybrid cars have been registered. Among these are more than 33,000 cars in 2016, up from 5,000 in 2009, when the first exemption law was passed. The total number of registered electric vehicles increased from 336 in 2015, the first year of total tax exemption for this type, to 885 in 2016. Of the 43,100 cars registered in Jordan in 2016, 44 percent were hybrid and electric cars. The percentage is expected to surpass 50 percent in 2017.

The Jordanian cabinet decided in 2009 to exempt hybrid cars from taxes, followed by a decision in 2015 to exempt electric cars from the full tax and registration fees, as part of a plan to save fuel and reduce emissions. The law passed in 2009 exempted hybrid cars from all tariffs, regardless of the size of their engine. This led to the registration of around 12,000 hybrid cars in 2009 and 2010, about 9 percent of the cars that entered the market during this period. Because the exemption law did not put limit on the size of the engine, a large number of luxury cars with hybrid engines operating on eight cylinders or more and with capacity exceeding six liters, were imported. This was contrary to the goal of the exemption, as hybrid cars with large engines emit more pollutants than small and medium-powered vehicles that run on fuel.

Instead of revising the law by putting controls on the capacity of hybrid engines to prevent it from being exploited in order not to pay taxes on some large luxury vehicles, the exemption was completely discontinued in 2011. This resulted in a significant drop in the number of imported hybrid cars, from 6360 in 2010 to 558 in 2011. It was obvious that awareness alone was not enough to drive people to buy hybrid cars at higher prices, due to the absence of tax exemption.

In 2012 and 2013, the government approved new regulations for exemptions on hybrid cars, depending on the size of the engine, followed by full exemption from fees for electric vehicles. This led to a rapid rise in the number of hybrid and electric cars, reaching about half of the cars registered in 2016.

Significant changes in environmental protection are linked to tax measures involving incentives and sanctions, leading to the promotion of cleaner practices and limiting polluting ones, by imposing higher fees on them.

Environment is eventually protected by fair and deterring laws.

Arab Environment in 10 Years
ARAB ENVIRONMENT IN 10 YEARS crowns a decade of the series of annual reports produced by the Arab Forum for Environment and Development (AFED) on the state of Arab environment. It tracks and analyzes changes focusing on policies and governance, including level of response and engagement in international environmental treaties. It also highlights developments in six selected priority areas, namely water, energy, air, food, green economy and environmental scientific research.
Environmental Agenda
Environment in Arab Media
News & Interviews Photo Gallery Videos