Prime Minister Edi Rama’s remarks at the world leaders summit COP26:
I am probably the tallest here, but I come from one of the smallest countries, Albania. My fellow citizens and I look up to your countries as models of good governance. At an important event such as this one today we are told what to do, we tend to listen and take notes. So, I have listened and I have taken my notes, but the question with which I came here has not been answered yet. Perhaps it hasn’t occurred to anyone, so I thought I would make it clear: How do the big polluters intend to help us, a non-polluter? Yes, a non-polluter!
Our energy production is based on renewable sources, 100%. Zero fossil fuels! We do not just pledge to meet the common challenge of commitments made and targets set. We do it, in 2021!
But we are not self-sufficient, so we have to import energy and therefore we import pollution. And our small country asks: “How long do we have to continue to do the right thing alone? How long do we have to pay the price first for the contribution to the climate change of the big guys and then for their failure to remedy its consequences?
We could have taken all the lucrative offers for coal thermal plants that we have received over the years. They would have helped us to balance our dry seasons in a country 100% relying on hydropower, when the lack of rain forces us to go to the market and purchase very expensive energy from the big guys. I am proud that we didn’t, but now my country looks at what is going on here, and sees how the biggest polluters also get the biggest chunks of money supposedly to assist us to deal with climate change.
Now as winter nears, our budget is bleeding, because we have to buy energy as prices skyrocket. Moreover, because it has been so dry, our hydropower plants cannot meet the country’s needs. And so we are caught between the Scylla of wishing to have rain for our electricity production, and the Charybdis of risking devastating floods that erode massive chunks of our small rural economy. The climate crisis in action!
So my small country says to itself: “You are 100% renewable? Yes! But what is the answer to the families and small businesses that cannot afford to pay higher bills for their electricity consumption? Are we paying a price for doing the right thing?”
We cannot wait around to see whether the markets move quickly in the right direction. I hope you will deliver on promises and pledged to financially support low and middle-income countries, starting with the clean energy role models like Albania. This financing must not come in the form of loans that entrap our countries in cycles of debt, but through grants that empower us to invest. And I hope the support will not continue to mean endless studies and strategies, which impact far less than it costs to pay people from rich countries to draft them.
It is a noble stance to refuse any mixing of fossil fuel with our 100% renewable energy production. Some of the guys here may be able to afford it. For us it is literally a daily struggle. The model is not affordable if it is not supported by richer and more powerful countries. I am aware that the future climate change initiatives do not depend on how they affect Albania or others like Albania, but the lack of action by the big polluters affects us many like us, who pay the price for the profits of the big polluters.
I started by saying that we look up to countries, big countries, as models of good governance. I hope we won’t come to realize that this was a big mistake. Thank you!