Hungary amongst four countries blocking EU carbon neutrality as Government prioritises utility price reduction program

At the European Council summit held on Thursday, Hungary was amongst the four countries blocking the European Union's plans to become carbon-neutral by 2050 along with Estonia, Poland, and the Czech Republic.

"For the Government of Hungary, environmental protection and the fight against climate change are important, as we all want clean water, cleaner air and a climate which sustains more liveable conditions."

That is how the press release by the Hungarian Government Information Centre begins, and it goes on to explain why the Hungarian government decided to block the EU's 2050 climate target along with their Polish, Czech, and Estonian counterparts. 

The plan for the European Council Summit was for member states to agree to become carbon-neutral and only emit as much CO2 as they are able to remove from the atmosphere, thus achieving net-zero emissions. Due to objections made by Orbán and others, this part was omitted from the final version of the agreement that now only contains a general reference to the Paris Agreement.

The Hungarian Government's reason to block the EU's carbon-neutrality plans is basically to protect their "utility price reduction" program.

Their what?

In a nutshell, the "utility price reduction" is the government's program introduced in 2013 to control the prices of household utilities in several steps. This was an important talking point of the 2014 Fidesz campaign, and it remained so ever since; by law, all utility bills in Hungary have to include the exact amount of money the Government saved for the consumer in the given month and the accumulated savings since 2013.

The measures in connection with this program did result in lower costs for the consumer, though along the years, the reduced revenues have also caused issues in chimney-sweeping services and waste management. 

The Hungarian government statement says:

Ne maradjon le semmiről!

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"Hungary will honour its commitments to be fulfilled by 2030. Through the combined use of renewable and nuclear energy, by 2030 up 90% of Hungary’s electricity production could be carbon-free. The goal of climate neutrality (or carbon neutrality) by 2050 would, however, result in enormous costs, and would impose massive burdens on the Hungarian industry. We are unable to support the proposal for this until we know how much funding the European Union is able to make available for the modernization of industry. Household utility costs in Hungary are among the lowest in Europe, and the Government of Hungary has a responsibility to maintain these costs borne by Hungarian families at a low level. If electricity production had to be achieved according to the proposed criteria, however, the electricity bills of Hungarian families would rise by between 30% and 40%."

According to the diplomatic source cited by EurActive, Angela Merkel finally submitted to the will of these four countries and let go of the 2050 carbon neutrality goals despite supporting them for much of the talks behind closed doors. 

According to Greenpeace, EU leaders "blew it" as a "climate neutral EU is relegated to a footnote." In the meantime, Fridays For Future Hungary is planning their 18th demonstration on Kossuth square in Budapest on Friday to call attention to the importance of the fight against climate change. As their event description states:

"We have to alarm our fellow human beings and the decisionmakers that a systemic change is necessary: Economic growth and materialism can no longer be a priority, otherwise we will have to face a severe climate disaster."

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