Hungary

   

Environmental Policies

#24
Key Findings
Lacking evidence of a strong climate-change policy, Hungary falls into the middle ranks internationally (rank 24) in the area of environmental policies. Its score on this measure has declined by 0.3 points relative to 2014.

Environmental policy has suffered from a lack of commitment, institutional fragmentation, and weak implementation and coordination. After initially seeking to discredit green activists as disguised communists, the government has sought to give itself a greener image.

Low energy prices have led to very high levels of household energy use. Energy supply is largely dependent on fossil fuels. After declining through 2014, CO2 emissions have begun to rise again. Weak local oversight has led to contaminated water and produced a countrywide waste crisis. Some progress has been made in the areas of waste recycling and recovery.

The country has signed the Paris Agreement and adhered to EU agreements. However, it has fought to weaken the EU’s environmental ambitions, arguing that it needs higher emissions quotas as a less-developed country, and blocking the EU plan to become carbon-neutral by 2050.

Environment

#28

How effectively does environmental policy in your country protect and preserve the sustainability of natural resources and environmental quality?

10
 9

Environmental policy goals are ambitious and effectively implemented as well as monitored within and across most relevant policy sectors that account for the largest share of resource use and emissions.
 8
 7
 6


Environmental policy goals are mainly ambitious and effectively implemented and are monitored within and across some of the relevant policy sectors that account for the largest share of resource use and emissions.
 5
 4
 3


Environmental policy goals are neither particularly ambitious nor are they effectively implemented and coordinated across relevant policy sectors.
 2
 1

Environmental concerns have been largely abandoned.
Environmental Policy
5
As the 2011 constitution incorporated “green” values, the constitutional basis for environmental policy in Hungary is strong. However, environmental policy under the Orbán governments has suffered from a lack of commitment, institutional fragmentation, and weak implementation and coordination. Since 2010, no independent ministry for environmental policy has existed and environmental issues have largely been dealt with by a department in the Ministry of Agriculture. Confronted with increasing public sensitivity to climate issues, especially among young people, the Orbán government initially focused on discrediting green activists as disguised communists. As this strategy has failed, the government has tried to give itself a greener image.

Resource efficiency is low. While Hungary has made progress in waste recycling and recovery, more than half of the country’s waste is deposited in landfill. According to the Hungarian Energy Efficiency Institute (MEHI), Hungary uses 87% more energy than the EU average for a unit of GDP. This is partly due to low energy prices, especially for households, which have featured prominently in the government’s “utility price reduction” program. The megalomaniac construction activities of the government have led to a serious “deforestation” in Budapest and other cities.

While air quality has increased, environmental pollution in Hungary is still relatively high. Energy supply has remained largely dependent on fossil fuels. CO2 emissions declined in Hungary from 1990 to 2014, but have started to increase since 2014 as a result of using the Mátra carbon-based power station, which is owned by the influential oligarch Lőrinc Mészáros. As a result of the tight finances of municipalities and weak oversight, cases of contaminated drinking water and mismanaged garbage sites, which have poisoned local environments, have increased. The problems with waste management have turned into a countrywide waste crisis, resulting in the proliferation of rats, especially in the capital city.

While the government has softened its campaign against “climate hysteria,” its climate policy has suffered from a lack of ambition. In the EU context, the government has argued that Hungary, as a less developed country, needs higher emission quotas in order to catch up. The government has been reluctant to expand renewable energy sources. Incentives for people to invest in small, private solar or wind energy projects are ineffective due to being improperly set, or excessive legal or administrative hurdles. The extension of the Paks nuclear power plant has been one of the biggest bones of contention between the government and the opposition, since the Danube may not be sufficient in cooling the hot water produced by Paks-2.

Hungary has a well-developed network of protected areas covering over 22% of its territory, exceeding the respective international target. However, the management of these protected areas suffers from a lack of resources. While progress has been made in integrating biodiversity considerations into policymaking for the agricultural, forestry and fisheries sectors, efforts to integrate biodiversity protection into energy, transportation, tourism and industry strategies have been limited.

Citations:
European Commission (2019): The Environmental Implementation Review 2019. Country Report Hungary. SWD (2019) 121 final, Brussels.

OECD (2018): Environmental Performance Review Hungary 2018. Paris (http://www.oecd.org/environment/hungary-2018-9789264298613-en.htm).

Global Environmental Protection

#19

To what extent does the government actively contribute to the design and advancement of global environmental protection regimes?

10
 9

The government actively contributes to international efforts to design and advance global environmental protection regimes. In most cases, it demonstrates commitment to existing regimes, contributes to their being advanced and has introduced appropriate reforms.
 8
 7
 6


The government contributes to international efforts to strengthen global environmental protection regimes. It demonstrates commitment to existing regimes and occasionally contributes to their being advanced and/or has introduced some appropriate reforms.
 5
 4
 3


The government demonstrates commitment to existing regimes, but does not contribute to their being advanced and has not introduced appropriate reforms.
 2
 1

The government does not contribute to international efforts to strengthen global environmental protection regimes.
Global Environmental Policy
5
Hungary signed the Paris Agreement and has adhered to EU agreements. Within the European Union, however, the Hungarian government has fought for weakening the European Union’s ambitions. It has argued that Hungary, as a less developed country, needs higher emission quotas in order to catch up. At the European Council summit held on 21 June 2019, Hungary was among the four countries to block the European Union’s plans to become carbon-neutral by 2050, along with Estonia, Poland and the Czech Republic. Hungary has also joined forces with countries like the Czech Republic and France to try to include nuclear power in the calculation of European climate change policies.

Citations:
Bolcsó, D. et al. (2019): Hungary amongst four countries blocking EU carbon neutrality as Government prioritises utility price reduction program, in: Index, June 21 (https://index.hu/english/2019/06).

Kovács, Z. (2019): Hungarian President ahead of UN Climate Action Summit: Hungary has a smaller responsibility for climate change, in: Index, September 20 (https://index.hu/english/2019/09/20/un_climate_action_summit_janos_ader_president_hungary_responsibility_climate_change/)
Back to Top