- Date submitted: 1 Nov 2011
- Stakeholder type: Member State
- Submission Document: Download
- Additional Document:
Greening the Economy and Making the Environment a Business Opportunity
ALBANIA Environment Protection and Sustainable Development
Current gaps and emerging challenges
In recent decades Albania?s environment has deteriorated as a result of a development policy un-correlated with concern for the environment.
Increasing demand for natural resources has led to increasing depletion and degradation. Deforestation; soil erosion; uncontrolled land use, including the rapid urbanization of productive arable lands; riverbed gravel removal; illegal hunting and degraded coastal and surface waters; all of these phenomena have rapidly spoiled Albania?s rich natural legacy. Furthermore, the impacts of climate change, as the changing in precipitation pattern, are already multiplying existing environmental problems.
Past policy has ignored environmental planning. Uncontrolled construction has put unmanageable burdens on resources, facilities and infrastructure leading to both the depletion of natural resources and the degradation of environmental quality. The enormous increase in motor vehicle traffic poses serious air pollution challenges all over the country. The waste management infrastructure has not kept pace with rapid economic growth and urban expansion; municipalities lack of wastewater treatment.
Albania has lately made visible progresses in developing the legislative and institutional frameworks regarding industrial pollution reduction and control, water and waste management, including hazardous waste, and the establishment of environmental impact assessment procedures in line with EU standards.
These progresses form a solid foundation on which to build a prosperous and successful future.
However, despite the positive developments, considerable implementation gaps and challenges remain with respect to providing resources for building national capacity, implementing legislative requirements, and financing necessary environmental infrastructures.
In the above regard the government is committed to a programme of environmental improvement as part of a wider political agenda to gain full EU membership for Albania. This will involve the implementation of an integrated planning approach to environmental management at a national, regional and local level.
It will require the education of the youth of the country in new skills which in turn will create new opportunities for them in the environment sector. This programme of educational reform will touch all facets of our education system, schools; universities; vocational training for industry & the Ministries as well as a variety of public awareness campaigns in order to keep the public informed of new initiatives in environmental protection and nature conservation.
The Government has committed both through national funds and funding contributions from international donors to a significant investment programme in terms of both human resources and infrastructure in order to support environmental protection and sustainable development initiatives.
Lastly and probably most significantly the government is committed to a legislative transposition programme to ensure that all of the EU Directives relevant to the environment are transposed into Albanian law.
Sustainable Development in Albania
Rapid and sustainable development is the fundamental objective of the Albanian Government.
The government goals and objective for achieving development are to manage and protect Albania?s environment and natural resources in an ecologically sustainable manner, consequently promoting environmental values and put them to the benefit of the Albanian society and the country?s economic prosperity.
Such a development will be guided by the Government vision and policies, which will ensure an integrated development of both rural and urban areas whilst supporting environmental protection. The Government goal will be attained through effective synergies of specific sector policies into a unique and integrated approach.
The government environmental protection and natural resources management efforts are guided by the following principles:
(i) Recognition of the link between improvement of citizens living conditions and the environment.
(ii) Recognition of the importance of an integrated approach to environmental planning and natural resources management.
Improve citizens living conditions and address environmental pressures
The government continuously faces two major and interlinked challenges: ensure better living conditions for population and addressing environmental pressures that, if not tackled, will undermine the country's ability to achieve economic growth.
The right answer to these challenges will not come from slowing growth, but rather from increasing sustainable economic opportunities to business community and individuals. This involves the establishment of the right regulatory framework, creating strong incentives for markets and innovation, leveraging financial resources, and promoting entrepreneurship and greater public private partnership.
It also involves the adoption of efficient financing mechanisms which would enable and support environment-related investments in the country.
Market-based instruments, such as environmental taxes, tradable permit systems or targeted subsidies for economic operators and individuals will be adopted in compliance with the principles of the free market. Fiscal incentives and economic instruments will be applied in order to drive up the cost of environmentally harmful activities, promote reduction of pollution by businesses and individuals, investments in cleaner technology, energy savings, efficient use of natural resources, and stepping up efforts to promote sustainable consumption and production patterns.
The revenues from pollution charges and green taxes will be used to provide, through an Environment Fund, loans and grants to municipalities and/or to local enterprises for the purchase of abatement equipment and the introduction of clean technologies.
The establishment of the Environment Fund is particularly important from the European integration perspective, as essential investments are needed in the fields of waste management, the improvement of water quality, and the enforcement of integrated pollution prevention and control in order to streamline domestically the EU acquis for the environment.
Strengthen the mechanisms to address environmental protection and sustainable development
Most of the environmental problems are not stand alone issues, but are mutually related and inter-dependent with economic growth. It is for this reason that environmental issues are cross-sectoral and different institutions have responsibility and implement activities that concern the environment.
The Government promotes an integrated and multi-disciplinary approach to environmental management and protection. This principle serves as the framework for addressing environmental priorities in all relevant sectoral policy areas (transport, energy, agriculture, tourism, etc.). One of the principal forums through which formal inter-ministerial dialogue can be pursued is the Environment Inter Ministerial Committee that the Government is designing to ensure the achievement of two key objectives in the environmental field, i.e. sustainable development and accession to the European Union. The Environment Inter Ministerial Committee shall be responsible for fostering the harmonious, balanced and sustainable development of economic activities which respects the need, in particular, of ensuring a high level of environmental quality, and to be the main engine related to the EU integration process in the environmental sphere
Improve environmental governance
When the rule of law fades, environmental unsustainable practices perpetuate, along with deterioration of the environment and the people?s health.
The government recognises the current limited capacity of implementing and enforcing environmental legislation and the need for strengthening the rule of law, not only for establishing a climate conducive to investment, required to achieve sustainable and equitable growth, but also for the consolidation of the respect for the law among population.
Poor implementation is due to a number of reasons: limited accountability for implementing agreed policies, limited ability to measure and monitor compliance; weak enforcement procedures; limited institutional and administrative capacity, insufficient human and financial resources, and a dysfunctional distribution of competencies among ministries.
The Government recognises the need for reinforcing and mainstream environmental protection and sustainable development governance within the state administration, inter alia by supporting environmental institution building of environmental organisations, and enhancing coherence and policy integration between institutions that implement environmental policy in practise and/or whose policy and administrative practise have an impact on environment.
A number of efforts are ongoing, including the strengthening of technical specialisation at the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Water Administration and other environmental organizations at national, regional, and local levels to effectively address the complex environmental issues of the twenty-first century; and the improvement of inter-ministerial and inter-institutional co-ordination so that environmental protection be seen in a different way and in a much wider context than earlier.
Poor implementation and weak enforcement are also due to the limited number of information and education campaigns that would increase public awareness and sense of responsibility.
The Government will increase environmental awareness and education with a view to building durable constituencies for the conservation, protection and sustainable management of natural resources.
Civil society and non-governmental organizations will be invited to offer their inputs in the drafting and implementation of environmental policies, and in particular for monitoring of environmental situation in the country. Environmental education of the public will be supported by specific programmes in cooperation with civil society. The Government will integrate environmental education into the schools and higher education curriculum to increase environmental awareness among teachers and students. Targeted campaigns will be implemented aiming at increasing public environmental awareness and improving proper public consultation on legislative initiatives strengthening transparency and enforcement.
Investing in the sustainable management of natural resources
Natural resources such as water, energy, land, forests as well as materials constitute the foundations of any economy and the primary source of people?s livelihoods. Consequently, natural resources are vitally important for poverty reduction and development.
The government goal is to safeguard natural capital: the stock of productive soil, fresh water, forests, clean air, seawater, and other renewable resources that underpin the survival, health and prosperity of citizens, ensuring that development potential of the nation is preserved for the future. In this regard, it is crucial to achieve a balance between maximising the productivity of natural resources on one hand and ensuring their conservation on the other, and integrating environmental protection requirements into other sectors development policies.
Water is one of the most valuable resources, fundamental to life and health, but also to the growth of many economic sectors, including agriculture and energy production. Over 90 percent of energy production is from hydropower plants, while agriculture is critically dependent on irrigation. However Albania's water sector is plagued by a variety of problems including high consumption, wastage and misuse, illegal connections, below-cost tariffs, inadequate revenue collection, and inadequate maintenance and investment in physical infrastructure. Consequently, despite Albania's abundant water resources, there is a lack of reliable water supply which hampers private investment becoming a key constraint to many economic activities.
The government is undertaking a water sector policy reform, focusing on cost recovery and private sector and community participation. The government has also prepared a comprehensive Water Supply and Sanitation Strategy foreseeing the participation of private in water related service provision. This is expected to improve the management of the water utilities and thereby achieve better quality of service and higher operating efficiency.
Sea water resources, if managed in a sustainable manner, represent an important and durable opportunity for the economic development of the country. The development of the fishery sector is an important factor of the economic development and the tourism sector has a great potential and investment opportunities.
However, the marine environment along the Adriatic and Ionian seacoast faces several threats. Besides the preservation of the biological and geographical diversity, the main challenges include: the depletion of the fish stocks, the realisation of municipal infrastructures, such as water supply, sewage and waste water treatment infrastructure and waste management infrastructure, and the management of rapid tourism development.
Some of these issues are trans-boundary and need to be addressed with neighbour countries, some other are domestic and need to be addressed through the establishment of a comprehensive multiple-use plan for effective coastal management. The government is committed to the preparation of such a plan aiming at preventing further degradation of the coastal environment degradation rather than rehabilitating it later. This will be achieved by integrating environment concerns with economic opportunities.
Forests are a delicate component of the country's ecosystem, providing important functions such as protection of soil, water and biodiversity.
Good forestry management minimises environmental impacts such as green house gas emissions, promotes efficient use of resources, and provides a sources of new materials such as bio-based plastics. In this context the conservation and sustainable management of forests is crucial so as to play an important role for rural employment, industrial development, and environment preservation.
However, Albania is one of the few European countries where there has been a decline in forest area in recent decades, due to clearance for agriculture, overgrazing and cutting for fuel-wood, in particular during the transition period (around 1990).
The government is committed in the effort to increase the area of protected forest in order to preserve the rich biodiversity and the landscape. The government will develop its capacity not only to better manage those areas designated as protected for bio-diversity conservation, but also to boost their development through appropriate environmental and market instruments.
The sustainable use of land is vital to minimizing land degradation, rehabilitating degraded areas and ensuring the optimal use of land resources for the benefit of present and future generations. The government encourages and supports the maintenance of biodiversity and the general health and resilience of natural life-support systems, including their ability to assimilate wastes and withstand stresses such as climate change and ozone depletion.
The government is committed to develop coherent policies and actions that contribute to efficient and socially desirable management of land resources while enhancing the positive and mitigating the negative effects of agriculture on the environment.
Waste management can be a valuable economic development opportunity through the recover, recycle and reuse of materials. However, waste, if not properly managed, is also a vehicle for environmental and health risks.
The development of waste management infrastructure and institutional capacity in Albania has not kept pace with rapid economic growth and urban expansion. Waste recycling is at poor levels, there is no separate collection of wastes and the only method of waste treatment is dumping.
The Government is introducing legislation in line with that of the EU to manage solid and liquid wastes. National discharge standards are being set and compliance and monitoring systems developed and established.
The Government has adopted a National Waste Management Strategy based on four policy pillars: planning, education, re-sourcing, and legislation. The Government has also developed a National Waste Management Plan providing a pathway to the implementation of a fully integrated national waste management system in compliance with all EU Directives, including organisational restructuring and capacity building. The plan envisages a move away from the traditional waste management solution of land-filling and promotes the use of segregated waste collection systems, recycling, composting and waste to energy.
A key element of the Government policy will be to promote environment awareness of the harm caused by the unmanaged discharge of pollutants.
The national energy sector provides secure, reliable, environmentally safe, and sustainable energy supply almost exclusively from hydro power plants. The Government?s goal is to continue addressing the population needs as well as the economic development needs of the country supplying energy from renewable sources at reasonable and affordable price. In this respect, it encourages the exploration and development of all national resources, which are socially and environmentally acceptable, and the efficient use of energy and energy conservation. In doing this it recognises that the energy policy is not an end itself, but is an instrument that is in consonance with an overall sustainable development framework that includes policies on climate change adaptation and mitigation, agriculture, industry, health, education, infrastructure, communications, and pollution control.
Increase private sector involvement
A major and integral part of sustainable development is efficient provision of environmentally sound infrastructure, such as water supply and sanitation, waste management, energy supply, transport, and telecommunications.
Environmental improvement is of particular concern in Albania because of the legacy of poor environmental management covering a range of sectors including antiquated water supply systems, wastewater sewerage facilities, contaminated industrial sites, lack of urban waste disposal infrastructures, and the lack of facilities to deal with hazardous waste. In order to alleviate Albanian people from the pressing needs of satisfactory environmental infrastructure meeting European standards, large scale financial resources would need to be mobilised. Reliance on public funds alone will not be sufficient to ensure that development of the needed environmental infrastructures can take place within a reasonable timeframe; rather, public financing will have to catalyse and leverage much greater private investment. It is the government?s opinion that boosting the participation of private sector will be essential to achieve efficiency and increased sustainability of infrastructure projects.
This will require a move from the traditional approaches to public financing, enabling in the country the development of innovative financing arrangements. Private sector participation in infrastructure may extend from management contracts to leasing arrangements and licensing/franchising concessions, as well as built-operate transfer and private-public sector partnerships.
The government is committed to remove all the obstacles to private sector participation through adoption of adequate legislation for private sector involvement and enforcement of property rights and contracts, and fight bureaucratic inertia.