Matra currently supplies 17% of Hungary’s domestic energy demand.
Peter Kaderjak, the state secretary for energy affairs and climate policy, also said the government plans to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2030 from 1990 levels. Renewable energy sources will account for at least 21% of Hungary’s total energy mix by 2030, up from the current 13% level.
However, Erzsebet Schmuck, an environmentalist and member of the opposition LMP party, said the government’s climate targets were inadequate. She noted that carbon emissions have been rising again for the past five years.
She further said her party wants the Matra coal-fired power plant shut down by 2025.
Some Hungarian leaders have linked saving the environment to Christian beliefs. Orban has said “the protection of the created environment and of nature just on a biblical basis is an especially Christian democratic policy.” Kaderjak added: “conserving nature for our children and grandchildren can be imagined as conserving something that was created by God. It’s a general principle but the strategy’s concrete objective is to create a clean sustainable country where you can have a good life.”
However, Orban’s ruling right-wing Fidesz party has not embraced climate activism in recent years.
Last year, one of Orban’s senior ministers described Swedish environmentalist Greta Thunberg as “a sick child, exploited by some.”
But now it appears Orban is committed to environmental issues.
“Orban doesn’t want climate change to be solely a leftist topic, either in Hungary or in Europe,” said Agoston Mraz, an analyst with the Nezopont Institute in Budapest. “He is trying to build up conservative right-wing green politics as a counterbalance.”
Last year, Orban himself had initially rejected the EU’s carbon neutrality goals for 2050, until he received assurances from Brussels that Hungary could continue to rely on nuclear energy.
“Without Paks [Hungary’s sole nuclear plant], we cannot have our climate protection,” Orban said at the time.
“Without atomic energy, there is no climate neutrality,” Palkovics added.
Hungary gets more than 20% of its power from nuclear energy and the Paks plant is due to build two more reactors.
Peter Szijjarto, Hungary’s foreign minister, also spoke up for nuclear energy as a means of achieving climate neutrality by 2050.
Szijjarto called on the EU to promote nuclear energy, and insisted that nuclear power plants can produce electricity safely and cheaply.
But some quarters in Hungary strongly oppose nuclear power.
The opposition LMP has even proposed referendums to ban nuclear energy in Hungary and to switch over completely to renewable energy sources.
Schmuck criticized the government for seeking to upgrade the Paks nuclear plant. Mate Kanasz-Nagy, a senior official of LMP, has called for the cancellation of any upgrades at Paks and a shutdown of the entire plant.
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