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Improving competitiveness and protecting the environment must go hand-in-hand, says Hungarian minister

At a meeting of the parliament’s sustainable development committee, Péter Szijjártó, the Hungarian Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, said measures aimed at improving competitiveness and environmental protection must go hand-in-hand, arguing that upsetting the balance between those two objectives could do more harm than good.

According to state news agency MTI, Minister Szijjártó noted that Hungary’s National Energy and Climate Strategy calls for a 50 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 compared with 1990 levels. Emissions, he added, had fallen by 32 per cent so far, while the country was achieving “huge economic records” each year. According to him, Hungary is one of just 20 countries that has managed to increase its GDP while reducing its harmful emissions.

Meanwhile, the Minister underlined the importance of guaranteeing energy security even during the country’s transition to green energy. “This requires that we treat the green cause as a grounded issue rather than some sort of political and ideological monopoly,” he said.

Mr Szijjártó said European Union member states were set to see a 50 per cent increase in their electricity consumption by 2030. Thus, for him, nuclear energy is the only source that allows for a safe, cheap and sustainable way of producing energy while helping the country to stay relatively independent of the fluctuations of international energy markets. Fully 65 per cent of Hungary’s energy production is carbon neutral and 80 per cent of that is provided by nuclear energy. The Minister said that the ecological footprint of nuclear plants relative to their lifespans was no greater than that of carbon-neutral technologies. Also, the upgraded Paks plant will enable carbon dioxide emissions to be reduced by 17 million tonnes and gas use by 3.5 billion cubic metres annually, he added, noting that Hungary’s transport sector produces an annual 12 million tonnes in CO2 emissions, while the country’s forested areas absorb 6 million tonnes of CO2 a year.

Concerning solar power, Mr Szijjártó said the capacity of solar panels operating in Hungary reached 4,000 megawatts (MW) last year, accounting for 13 per cent of electricity production, among the three best ratios in the EU. Solar power capacity has reached 5,400 MW by October this year, with over 2,100 MW generated by home solar panels, the Minister said. He said this meant that Hungary was on pace to reach a solar power capacity of 6,000 MW well before the original target year of 2030 and that it could also move up its goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2050 to 2040.

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