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Turning ambition into action: how to catalyse sustainable change

The target has been set. In line with the European Green Deal, Hungary committed to the overarching goal of achieving climate neutrality by the middle of the century. Now it’s time to turn ambitions into action and fill the strategies with concrete solutions and steps. The Climate Neutral Hungary 2050 Conference organised by the Green Policy Center and Equilibrium Institute convened stakeholders to discuss the way forward.

András Huszár, Director of the Green Policy Center underlined that global action is always a sum of national actions and each country must take their shares to reach our common climate goals.

“Hungary made its first steps on this path when just a year ago the Parliament adopted the country’s first climate law, which is a major milestone committing Hungary to become carbon-neutral by 2050,” said Mr Huszár adding that now that we have set the goal, we have to act as we have less than 30 years to live up to this ambition.

On an international level, the COP26 climate summit that will take place this November in Glasgow will provide another chance for countries to raise their climate efforts if they are to reach the Paris Agreement’s goal of limiting global temperature rise by 1.5 degrees.

Frances Way, Managing Director of the High-Level Climate Champions Senior Leadership Team highlighted the four key goals of the COP presidency. First, the mitigation of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, as we need to ensure global net-zero by 2050 and halve emissions by 2030. The second goal is adaptation action to protect vulnerable communities. Then she pointed out that goals must be met by adequate financing and finally, all this must be realised involving all stakeholders based on a broad consensus. Mrs Way underlined that governments, business and civil society must work together to transform the way we power our homes, grow our food, develop our infrastructure and transport ourselves. This is where the UN High-Level Champion come into the picture.

To connect the work of governments with the many voluntary and collaborative actions taken by cities, regions, businesses and investors, nations decided to appoint two high-level champions. One of the main focus of the champions is the race to zero campaign which is a multi-stakeholder global campaign, with over 2000 businesses, 700 cities, 163 investors, 24 regions, 600 universities who joined already the initiative. The criteria for joining the race to net-zero includes the so-called 4 Ps: pledge, plan, proceed and publish.

“I encourage you to join the race to net zero to read the climate action pathways and influence the discussions on what you need from other stakeholders in terms of demand signals, policies and supply,” concluded Mrs Way.

Referring to the 4 Ps, Deputy Secretary of State for Climate Policy Barbara Botos, who has been actively involved in the UNFCCC and EU climate negotiations, underlined that Hungary is well-advanced and has already taken the necessary plans to put the economy on the path of climate-neutrality. As she pointed out Hungary pledged to reduce its GHG emissions by at least 40 per cent by 2030 compared to 1990 and to become climate-neutral by the middle of the century, carefully planned the steps of this transition in long-term government strategies and proceeded with the implementation of the projects set out by the Climate and Nature Protection Action Plan.

In the overarching framework of governmental strategies, the corporate sector has a key role to play in effectively implementing mitigation and adaptation policies. The COVID-19 epidemic could also provide an opportunity to rebuild the economy in a greener way.

Sustainability has long been considered a regulatory issue exclusively belonging to the competencies of the government, but now the business sector’s role in climate mitigation has increased significantly, said Attila Chikan, CEO of renewable energy company ALTEO Group and President of the Business Council for Sustainable Development in Hungary (BCSDH). He underlined that as we aim to shift towards a sustainable economy we need concrete actions and solutions regardless of the sector, and the business sector has huge resources in innovative solutions that we must exploit. Regarding concrete steps, Mr Chikan said that one of the top priorities this year for ALTEO is to strengthen the ESG aspects in the operation of the company, setting an example for energy market participants to follow as a new generation energy provider. As he pointed out steps towards sustainable transformation also translates to competitive advantage in the market.

The transport sector accounts for around one-fifth of global carbon dioxide emissions, therefore the industry’s alignment with climate targets will be crucial to tackle climate change. László Urbán, Deputy CEO of Suzuki Hungary underlined that the automaker has a long-term vision toward tackling environmental issues planning to reduce the CO2 emissions of their new vehicles by 95 per cent by 2050 compared to 2010. By 2030, the group hopes to have already reduced emissions by up to 40 per cent as part of their Milestone 2030 target. Mr Urbán pointed out that the effective cooperation of the government and the business sector will be crucial to catalysing sustainable transformation, which can happen even sooner than 2050 if the necessary support schemes are provided.

The financial sector is also undergoing transformative changes. As Jelasity Radován, President of the Hungarian Banking Association put it: there are two ways to trigger transformation in the banking sector: the strategy sticks or carrots. He also underlined that policy ambitions must be matched with adequate financing. The banking sector is ready to make a move, however, at this point, many questions are left open regarding practical implementation.

Anett Pandurics, President of the Association of Hungarian Insurers agreed with this noting that the insurance sector is a natural expert on the risks of climate change. As she explained the new risks require new and innovative solutions and under the EU’s Green Deal many new initiatives are being introduced. For instance, the Commission’s proposal for a Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD) that envisages the adoption of EU sustainability reporting standards applies from this March. However, while the regulatory framework is already in place, many details and definitions are still unclear, Ms Pandurics said that it will be the task for the upcoming years to clarify these missing parts while avoiding overregulation as well as greenwashing.

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