Sunday

16th May 2021

Opinion

Hungary: Why we oppose carbon price, but back gas

  • Hungary, and its region, has specific characteristics and needs and, as with many EU policies, the streamlining, one-size-fits-all concept does not work (Photo: Axel Schmidt)

The European Union's greenhouse gas emissions make up less than 10 percent of global emissions, but EU member states, including Hungary, are committed to setting a good example for other countries by taking real action based on the specifics of each region - while avoiding a bidding war.

Every well-intentioned person wants to live in a clean, liveable environment, protect the earth, and ensure the balance and diversity of nature for future generations. If we do not change our current habits and reexamine the technologies we use, this endeavour could easily fail.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

  • Secretary of state Attila Steiner: 'Because of its geography, Hungary stands among those EU countries most impacted by the effects of climate change' (Photo: Twitter)

Because of its geography, Hungary stands among those EU countries most impacted by the effects of climate change. We need to address the potential risks posed and assess how such a seemingly unfavourable situation could be turned to our advantage.

'If you can't beat 'em, join 'em' – and when you do so, try to come out ahead. That's exactly what we're doing.

We urgently need a programme that can win the support of the people because it will directly affect their lives. Thus, affordability, security of supply and competitiveness must be kept in mind.

Hungary was first in the European Union to enshrine in law the historic 2019 EU climate neutrality target, demonstrating that even during a pandemic, the Hungarian government makes it a priority to take action on these critical issues.

Hungary was also one of the first in the EU to ratify the Paris Agreement and has reduced its emissions by 33 percent compared to the 1990 baseline year.

EU greening efforts in Hungary — clean, smart and affordable energy — are already well underway, and the Climate and Nature Protection Action Plan, announced just a year ago, has already produced tangible results.

Hungary's National Energy and Climate Plan aims to increase renewable energy from the current 13 to 21 percent by 2030.

By modernising our last coal-fired power plant, Hungary's carbon dioxide emissions will be drastically reduced - a huge step towards carbon neutrality.

We have also joined the Powering Past Coal Alliance alongside 33 other countries.

Paks nuclear plant

A diversified and balanced energy mix remains crucial. Due to an increase in solar power and the reliable output of the Paks nuclear power plant, Hungary is well on its way to fulfilling commitments.

Plus, the EU now recognises that meeting goals is only possible with nuclear energy and renewable sources.

Approximately 40 percent of Hungary's energy production is provided by Paks, and Paks 2 will guarantee this in the long run, safely, in accordance with strict EU regulations and mandates from the commission' Joint Research Centre report.

From 2022, new buses in big cities will be electric only, and the Hungarian government subsidises the purchase of electric cars, scooters and bicycles. Hungary has also bolstered production of batteries for e-vehicles.

Our comprehensive hydrogen strategy should also be completed this year. Hydrogen is an important solution for transmission and can play a significant role in the integration of renewable electricity generation, strengthening domestic security of supply, and contributing to decarbonisation goals.

We have high hopes for the upcoming discussion of EU leaders on the enabling framework, but for Hungary, key issues must be taken into account.

Together with several other central and eastern European (CEE) countries, we do not support the introduction of a single EU carbon price for all sectors because this could significantly increase the overhead costs for CEE households.

Among other technologies, natural gas is critical to ensure a secure energy supply and is key as a transitional solution.

If the 2030 climate target is increased, an increase in the Modernisation Fund would be warranted, as the CEE region will face higher costs relative to GDP to achieve climate neutrality.

The Visegrad Four countries, plus Bulgaria and Romania, now enjoy close cooperation since the publication of the commission's proposal in September 2020 to raise the 2030 climate target.

The region has specific characteristics and needs and, as with many EU policies, the streamlining, one-size-fits-all concept does not work.

Not least because, in the wake of post-coronavirus economic recovery, the central and eastern European region could become one of the EU's key economic powerhouses.

In light of all this, the Hungarian government intends to represent Hungarian interests in close cooperation with the other countries in the region during the upcoming climate protection debates.

One point, however, is not up for debate: all member states must make a proportionate effort to achieve the ambitious 2050 target and set a good example for other continents to follow.

To this end, the European Union can now do its utmost not to hold a tender but to take concrete action and establish the appropriate regulatory framework. Hungary will be a partner in this.

Author bio

Attila Steiner is Hungary's secretary of state for the development of circular economy, energy and climate policy.

Disclaimer

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

Will Romania be EU's Green Deal laggard?

Of the €30bn allocated to Romania under the EU recovery fund, just four percent is slated to go to renewable energy and energy-efficiency. Despite the pressing need to decarbonise Romania's heat and power sectors, this is not an investment priority.

EU opts to protect gas in energy treaty reform

The EU's proposal for reform of the controversial energy charter treaty pushes for a 10-year phase-out for protection of fossil-fuel investments. But gas gets a more lenient treatment.

MEPs agree carbon border tax - heavy industries protected

Green groups warned that if heavy industry continues to receive free allowances even after a carbon border levy is in place, this would essentially be a double subsidy for those sectors. "The European Commission must correct this," the WWF warned.

Austria sues Commission over Hungary's nuclear plant

Anti-nuclear Austria takes the EU Commission to court over Hungary's controversial Paks II nuclear plant, financed and built by Russia. But it is the Euratom treaty itself that could be on trial.

News in Brief

  1. No EUobserver newsletter on Friday 14 May
  2. Germany stops Facebook gathering WhatsApp data
  3. Italy rebuts reports of EU deal with Libya
  4. MEPs demand EU states protect women's reproductive rights
  5. At least nine dead in Russia school shooting
  6. Bulgaria interim government appointed until July election
  7. German priests defy pope to bless same-sex couples
  8. New EU public prosecutor faults Slovenia

Column

'Sofagate' was more about power than sexism

Sexism may have played a role, but the deeper meaning of Ursula von der Leyen's humiliation in the palace of Turkish president Erdoğan is political and geopolitical.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council enters into formal relations with European Parliament
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen more active in violent extremist circles than first assumed
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersDigitalisation can help us pick up the green pace
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOVID19 is a wake-up call in the fight against antibiotic resistance
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region can and should play a leading role in Europe’s digital development
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council to host EU webinars on energy, digitalisation and antibiotic resistance

Latest News

  1. EU aims at 'zero pollution' in air, water and soil by 2050
  2. French police arrest Luxembourg former top spy
  3. Vaccine drives spur better-than-expected EU economic recovery
  4. Slovenia causing headaches for new EU anti-graft office
  5. 'No place to hide' in Gaza, as fighting escalates
  6. EU chases 90m AstraZeneca vaccines in fresh legal battle
  7. Fidesz MEP oversees FOI appeals on disgraced Fidesz MEP
  8. Belgium outlines summer Covid relaxation plans

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us