A new climate and nature protection action plan demonstrates the efficiency of Hungary’s Conservative Green Policy, argues Judit Varga.
Judit Varga is the Minister of Justice of Hungary.
There is growing momentum for a level playing field on green issues. It is high time that Conservatives sustained their own green narratives as the topic has so far been largely monopolised by the liberal left.
The term populism was mentioned while describing Hungarian environmental policy actions. However, as Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said in his 22nd annual State of the Nation address on 16 February: a populist is someone who makes unfounded promises while those keeping their promises are called democrats.
Accordingly, the already achieved results and the new green plans of the Fidesz Government can successfully refute this allegation. The newly adopted Climate and Nature Protection Action Plan further strengthens and expands the volume of Hungary’s green policy.
Concerning any criticism of Hungary’s environmental record, the answer is quite simple: let’s stick to the figures. Hungary is one of the only 21 countries worldwide that have managed major economic growth while reducing carbon dioxide emissions.
Since 1990 greenhouse gas emissions dropped by 32% and energy consumption was reduced by 15%. In the meantime, we were able to remain competitive while still keeping energy prices low.
In 2018 Hungary achieved an outstanding 4.9% GDP growth while also reducing its GHG emissions by 0.6%. Energy and carbon intensity of GDP in Hungary has seen a declining trend since 2000 and we are committed to following this path further.
Unlike other EU member states often referred to as climate champions Hungary not only managed to fulfil the 2020 GHG reduction target of the EU, but also significantly exceeded it. Thirteen other member states could not reach this target.
Currently, 60% of our electricity production is CO2 neutral, and our goal is to increase this share to 90% by 2030. The Hungarian Government has so far invested €77.6 million to improve the energy efficiency of households.
Our climate protection goals are strongly backed by Hungarian citizens: as a recent survey of the European Commission confirmed, 96% of Hungarians regard climate change as a serious problem and support action.
We believe that the transition to a carbon-neutral economy has to be conducted in a planned and systematic way, otherwise, it could impede the economic and social well-being of the Hungarian people, the competitiveness of the country as well as of the whole EU.
As Prime Minister Orbán underlined: we need to give calm and well-founded responses to the challenges posed by climate change. Such a conservative, methodical approach, along with consideration for sustainable development principles can contribute to the transformation of the economic structure.
Thus, solid early planning can bring about much more effective results than typical end-of-pipe climate protection solutions.
To this end, the Hungarian Government has launched a Climate and Nature Protection Action Plan which builds on previous efforts and provides a set of well-defined climate protection tools. Under the plan, a deposit return scheme for glass and plastic bottles and cans will be introduced, and single-use plastics will be banned.
Starting from 1 July the Government will eliminate illegal landfills. Rivers will be cleared of accumulated waste, in order to preserve them for future generations.
In this process we will greatly benefit from a new complex installation technology, which is a Hungarian innovation currently in the pilot phase. Ten new trees will be planted after each newborn Hungarian citizen, which will amount to circa 1 million trees annually.
Thereby the size of forest lands in Hungary will be increased to 27% forest cover in the next decade. The solar power plant capacity of the country will be expanded six-fold by 2030. Multinational companies will be required to apply environmentally-friendly technologies.
The Government will provide €95.5 million to foster the renewable energy production of SMEs. The production and purchase of cheap electric vehicles will also be supported. From 2022 only electric buses will be allowed in Hungarian cities.
A green government bond will be introduced, following the example of the first sovereign green bond issued by Poland. All returns from the bonds will be spent on climate-friendly programmes.
We set an ambitious new exit date to end coal power in the country: by 2025, the last big lignite power plant of Hungary, Mátra will phase out coal use.
Hungary places the well-being of present and future generations at the core of its Conservative green policy. Pursuant to the Fundamental Law, the Hungarian nation is an alliance between Hungarians of the past, present and future.
The Fundamental Law highlights the environmental and cultural values of Hungary and stipulates that it is the obligation of everyone to protect these values for the interests of future generations. We believe that an effective climate and green policy is our Christian and patriotic duty.