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Speech of Ambassador Luigi Soreca during the certification Annual Conference of People’s Advocate of Albania 2021 “The Rights of Future Generations and Climate Change”

20.12.2021
Tirana, Albania

Your Excellencies, Dear partners, Dear participants, 

It is a great pleasure to participate in this conference today.    

Climate change affects nearly every aspect of today’s world, from geopolitics to economy and migration. It shapes cities, people’s quality of life and, above all, the future of generations to come. At the COP26 summit, world leaders acknowledged that the goals set in Paris are not being met and that we must speed up the fight against climate change.  

Environment and climate change are key priorities for the EU, at the heart of the EU Green Deal but also of the Green Agenda for the Western Balkans. A clean, healthy and functional environment is integral to the enjoyment of human rights, such as the rights to life, health, food and an adequate standard of living. Climate change and environmental degradation are also key challenges to justice and peace within countries and across borders.  

Environment is therefore one of the benchmarks against which the EU assesses candidate countries’ progress towards EU membership. Candidate countries must demonstrate in a credible way that they are implementing fundamental reforms, and this includes climate change.   

For now, as underlined in the European Commission annual report for 2021, Albania is only moderately prepared in most areas related to the Green Agenda. Once negotiations start, the pace of change will have to pick up. 

Chapter 27 is known to be one of the most difficult chapters of the EU acquis to implement. It requires massive capital investment, policy transformation, strong enforcement and, and perhaps most difficult of all, a cultural change. At the same time, the EU enlargement process offers Albania a big opportunity: it gives a ready-made world-class roadmap and support along the process.   

The EU has and will continue to support the green agenda in Albania: Over the past 10 years, the EU provided EUR 210 million in this area. An additional funding of €69M is earmarked to support three new programmes in the following years: EU for Circular Economy and Green Growth (€30.9M), EU for Nature ($6M) and EU for Water (€30M). 

Albania has important assets in the field of climate action, such as its fully carbon-free domestic power generation (mainly hydropower) and its vast potential for expanding the use of other renewable power sources, such as solar and wind.  A positive step is the raise of the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) from 11.5% to 20.9% for the period 2021-2030, aiming at climate neutrality by 2050.   

At the same time, in Europe, Albania is among the most vulnerable countries when it comes to the impact of climate change. Recurrent wildfires, floods and droughts, warming seawaters and stress on human health are already affecting the human rights of the population and of the most vulnerable in particular. This – if left unattended will impact negatively on equity, justice, and social peace. 

Albania needs to step up its administrative capacity and advance its alignment with EU acquis, especially regarding waste management and climate action. Adequate financial, technological and human resources need to be mobilised to adapt to climate change and efficiently implement the “Action plan on the green agenda for the Western Balkans 2021-2030”.  

The State is the duty bearer of the human rights obligation to prevent the foreseeable adverse effects of climate change. The State must ensure that those affected by it, particularly those in vulnerable situations, have access to effective remedies and means of adaptation to enjoy lives of human dignity. This also means to protect human rights from climate-related harms including through transboundary and international cooperation, and to safeguard human rights in all mitigation and adaptation activities.  

Private actors also have obligations to address the human rights implications of climate change. They should be guided by the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, ensuring respect for human rights in all their activities.  

Adaptation to cope with environment and climate change challenges is a shared responsibility. Everyone has a role to play at national and local levels, from state institutions to individuals, encompassing municipalities and local communities.  

The rights of youth are especially intertwined with the policies and the action that we will take during this decade. I encourage youth, and active citizens in general, to engage with these issues, to put them on the government’s priority agenda. And the EU will support them: an amount of 1.8 million euro for the next two years has been earmarked by the EU Delegation to empower youth and civil society to engage in, advocate for and monitor climate change action in respect of the rights of the people. 

Today’s event is part of much wider eco-system aiming at a Green Albania, involving key actors of change in the successful implementation of reforms and the integration. This is for the youth and by the youth of Albania of today for tomorrow.  

Thank you.