Budapest climate emergency is a political manoeuvre, says Hungarian President János Áder

2020.01.06. 16:55

There is no right-wing or left-wing climate change, Hungarian President János Áder stressed during his interview on state radio on Sunday morning, urging public consensus, a "national minimum" on the matter. The President also said that the climate emergency declared by the General Assembly of Budapest is just a rhetorical, political manoeuvre, Budapest Mayor Gergely Karácsony says there are issues with the intelligence Áder receives.

As MTI summarized, the President noted that he consciously avoided the use of the term "climate protection" in his New Year's Eve address, as protecting the climate is only a small fraction of protecting the creation, as climate protection does not concern the "imminent water crisis," the recycling of plastic waste, protecting fertile soil, biodiversity.

Áder thinks he spent a lot of time emphasising the importance of the issue, as the scope of these problems extends beyond the term of a government or a municipality - these questions fundamentally determine the future of upcoming generations, "we are all affected," the President noted. 

Áder: Australia has an emergency, Budapest does not

"Why can't there be a public consensus, a national minimum upon which we can all agree, so we could work together on this matter?" Áder asked rhetorically, then went on to say that the Budapest announcement of the climate crisis is a "political rhetorical manoeuvre," a mere declaration.

Áder elaborated that when there is an emergency - for instance as there is in Australia right now because of the fires - people are evacuated and extraordinary measures are introduced, however, no such thing happened in Budapest. As Áder summarised, all that the decision in Budapest entails is that there will be two studies examining what to do in case of a crisis and in its aftermath.

But while at its present stage, the climate emergency declared at the inaugural meeting of the new Budapest General Assembly in November is mostly symbolic, it does include a commitment to make the municipality of Budapest and its companies carbon neutral (albeit without a deadline, a plan has to be ready by the end of 2020) and an obligation for the city of Budapest to prioritise climate protection in all decisions that could have an effect on carbon emissions. Read our earlier piece for details on the decision here:

Paks nuclear plant is needed to reach the Paris Accord goals

Áder also said that Hungary is one of the 24 countries that, since 1990, managed to decrease energy consumption and carbon emissions while achieving significant GDP-growth. The President stressed that emissions have to be reduced even further in the coming years, as Hungary has to maintain this position.

He added that in Hungary, the debate on carbon-free electricity was reduced to a debate around the new blocs of the Paks nuclear plant, but without nuclear power, the goals of the Paris Accord cannot be achieved, as OECD, the International Energy Agency, and at the end of the year, even the European Union stated. Áder said that when the two new blocks at Paks are built and the other four are operational as well, then 90% of the electricity produced in Hungary will be carbon-free.

Áder also touched upon the plans of Hungary purchasing majority shares in the Mátra Power Plant, a business interest of oligarch Lőrinc Mészáros. The Mátra Power Plant produces electricity from burning coal, however, the European Union is planning to help the transition of its fifty coal regions with a fund that could be as big as a hundred billion Euros, and the power plant and the lignite mines supporting it will be one of these regions. According to the plans, the plant will switch over to burning gas, garbage, and biomass, remaining an important piece of the Hungarian energy mix while significantly lowering emissions through infrastructural developments by 2030.

Karácsony: Strange approach from a President claiming to be green

"This is not the first time I get the baffling feeling that there are issues with the intelligence the President receives," Gergely Karácsony, the opposition Mayor of Budapest responded to Áder's remarks on Facebook, adding that it is a "rather strange approach from the President who strives to present himself at the vanguard of the fight for the green cause." 

Karácsony reminded that more than 1250 organisations including governments, cities, and even the European Parliament had made similar declarations worldwide, affecting more than 800 million people. Karácsony explained that the declaration of the climate emergency commits Budapest to climate protection which implies "both the reduction of emissions (mitigation) and protecting people and ecosystems from its effects as much as possible (adaptation)," quipping that while he agrees that there is indeed no right-wing or left-wing climate crisis, "there are differences between being responsible and irresponsible, informed and uninformed."

(Cover image:  President János Áder holding a lecture on climate change in his former school, the Révai Miklós High School in Győr on 7 December 2019. Photo: MTI / Csaba Krizsán)

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