The progress of Hungary’s environmental sustainability agenda

A recently published report by the OECD introduced the main developments and challenges in Hungary’s move towards environmental sustainability. Here are the key points.

Beeld: ©Peter Bori

Greenhouse emissions (GHG)

The OECD Environmental Performance Report aims to assist member states and partner countries to improve the way they manage their environment. The report about Hungary highlights the progress the country has made in the past years, but notes that a lot of improvement is still needed.

When it comes to the source of energy, Hungary will likely exceed its national 2020 renewable energy target of 14.7 per cent. However, over 70 per cent of the country’s energy supply still comes from fossil fuels. While GHG emissions have decreased by 35 per cent since 1990, a recent economic surge in the agricultural and transport sectors have again led to an increase in emissions.

Air and water pollution

Hungary’s mortality rates due to air pollution rank one of the highest amongst OECD member states. While wastewater treatment is improving, with 78 per cent, this still counts as below standards in the OECD.

Environmental authorities

The broad, multi-phase, administrative reform of the past decade has also had a major impact on the institutional capacity in the environmental domain. This includes the elimination of environmental inspectorates that hamper with the implementation of environmental law and use of good international practices. The report recommends the introduction of risk-based planning and promotion of compliance and green business practices through sector-specific activities.

Green taxes

According to the report, Hungary needs to invest more in residential energy efficiency, renewables and waste management. To do so, the OECD recommends scaling back state aid to environmentally harmful sectors and making better use of economic instruments.

Waste management and recycling

The rate of recovery and recycling has increased since 2006 in Hungary. However, more than half of the country’s waste still ends up in landfills. To improve resource efficiency, the Hungarian government should not limit their perception of a circular economy solely as an aspect of waste management. Rather, a whole-of-government approach could steer the country towards a proper circular transition.

Protected areas and biodiversity

Hungary has done exceptionally well when it comes to protected areas. It is one of the few countries that has surpassed the Aichi target and has a protected area of over 22% of its territory. However, National Park Directorates are often underfinanced and need alternative income sources (like ecotourism and organic farming) to cover management operations.

The country is also progressive when it comes to mainstreaming biodiversity into strategic plans. For example, in agriculture, the implementation of the National Biodiversity Strategy requires additional measures to curb pesticide use, limit cultivation of flooded land and significantly increase the share of organic farming.

To find out more and to read the report, click here.  

Peter Bori - Policy Advisor Agriculture