The Planet Budapest 2021 Summit addressed actionable responses to nine key sustainable development challenges facing Central Europe.
Participants discussed what can done in the four countries of the Visegrád region: Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia.
At its current pace, the UNECE region will achieve only 23 of 169 SDG targets by 2030, but the V4 have ranked among the best performing countries in achieving the SDGs.
The Planet Budapest 2021 Summit addressed actionable responses to nine key sustainable development challenges facing Central Europe. Participants discussed what can done in the four countries of the Visegrád region (the V4): Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia.
The Planet Budapest 2021 Summit took place in Budapest, Hungary, from 30 November to 2 December 2021. The nine focus areas were: sustainability in a post-COVID world; climate change; circular economy; energy efficiency and security; smart cities; water and food security; transport; financing sustainable development; and waste management.
On circular economy, participants said:
- Creating the right governance conditions is key to advancing the circular economy;
- Targets, standards, and methodologies must be harmonized across countries to increase circular practices;
- Circular economy is crucial to reaching Hungary’s goal of carbon neutrality by 2050, and Hungary plans to substantially revamp its waste management system by 2023;
- Citizen engagement can be fostered with subsidies for buying electric vehicles and apps to report on illegal waste disposal;
- Ecosystem deterioration equals 10% of global GDP, but consumer prices do not reflect products’ impacts on forests and other aspect of nature; and
- To reach net zero emissions a company must both decarbonize and pursue circularity, such as by recycling waste and equipment, decarbonizing business partners, and recovering and donating used items.
Another session addressed whether nuclear energy has a place in countries’ energy mix. Some said nuclear energy allows a country to ensure it can meet energy demand regardless of weather and without needing costly energy imports, and that it is necessary to achieve global carbon neutrality by 2050. Others focused on meeting demand with other energy sources. The Latin American Energy Organization said 61% of Latin American energy is renewable, including hydropower, and that producing hydrogen, storing renewables, and solar could increase the regional share of renewables to 100%. Panelists stated that making “the invisible fuel” of energy efficiency visible will require: regulatory efforts, efficient policies, carbon pricing, financial resources, and trust.
A session on waste highlighted that the “waste hierarchy”: prevention, reduction, reuse, recycling, composting, and, finally, landfill. Participants noted that: the EU intends to put only 10% of its waste into landfills; Romania is transitioning from national waste management strategy based on production to one based on preventing waste generation; and the African Union has called for its member states to seek a 50% recycling rate at a time when they are experiencing rapid urban growth. It was also suggested that the private sector must ensure its materials can be reused economically, in order for reuse and recycling to succeed, and that consumers should pay for waste collection and disposal, as an incentive to live a more circular lifestyle.
The Summit also included a debate about whether Central European countries are leaders or laggards in the pursuit of climate neutrality and the SDGs. The discussions highlighted that:
- At its current pace, the UNECE region will achieve only 23 of 169 SDG targets by 2030, but the V4 have ranked among the best performing countries in achieving the SDGs;
- Economic growth and a green transition do not have to be “decoupled” and can work together to provide citizens with better lives and a better global future in a world with a growing population; and
- Without a circular economy, the Paris Agreement’s goals cannot be achieved.
Following the Summit, the Planet Budapest Sustainability Expo showcased solutions from companies and technology providers based in the four Visegrad countries. The event aimed to raise public awareness of adverse environmental, social, and economic practices and their impacts. and argued that these negative changes are still reversible. [Earth Negotiations Bulletin coverage of Planet Budapest 2021 Summit]