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Hungary to ease rules on logging in face of energy emergency

Last week, the Hungarian government adopted a controversial decree relaxing the rules on logging to ensure firewood for the upcoming heating season. The new law suspends some existing nature protection rules which could be disastrous for the environment.

In July, Hungary’s government declared an energy emergency in response to supply disruptions and skyrocketing energy prices in Europe. Preparing for a tough winter heating season in Europe and uncertain Russian gas deliveries, Hungary’s government decided to increase its domestic energy production capacities to ensure supply security.

The Hungarian government considers forests an essential part of the solution to the ongoing energy crisis. The government has already instructed state forestries to work out plans for increasing firewood production and indicated that firewood should replace gas in the upcoming heating season wherever this is possible. However, the government insists that the new measures won’t lead to the destruction of forest ecosystems.

“Logging won’t lead to deforestation or deteriorate the condition of the forests,” said the Ministry of Agriculture in a statement explaining the government’s new decree. According to the ministry, there is enough firewood in Hungary for the next heating season, additionally, the government decided about an export ban on firewood.

The ministry underlined that wood is an essential renewable raw material, but in the past decades, Hungary relied less and less on this energy source than the actual production capacity of forests.

The government emphasised that it remains committed to sustainable forest management. However, many argue that the new decree, which abolishes almost all restrictions on logging is seriously worrying and can lead to disastrous consequences.

According to WWF Hungary, the new rules represent a huge setback, as such measures have only been introduced in much more critical periods of the past century.

The lack of a residential energy efficiency program, which should have been introduced a long time ago, is now striking, according to WWF Hungary, since many are practically heating the streets with the excess wood.

The European Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy has also warned about the false promise that burning forest wood can replace Russian fossil fuels arguing that burning trees for so-called “carbon neutral” energy is disastrous for the environment, which cannot represent a credible energy alternative.

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