It is closing in on two years since the ground-breaking Paris Agreement was reached. That document, hammered out in December 2017, went into force in 2016 when the threshold of member countries ratifying the agreement was met with the threshold crossed when the European Commission and Britain ratified the deal on the same day.
At that point, 96 countries, representing two-thirds of the world’s carbon emissions polluters had formally agreed to the terms in their capitals.
The accord left open the individual goals of each country on emissions reductions, but mandated transparency on the goals and the country’s achievements in reaching them.
That means that each country – 196 countries agreed to the landmark accord, although the United States has since pulled out – will soon be held accountable for their emissions reduction goals.
Whether they meet their goals or stumble on their way, the media will, in theory, have the information they need to praise or denounce each country on the progress they are making – or not making – on controlling the No. 1 environmental issue of the decade; an issue that will be with us for a long time.
The International Energy Agency (IEA) in Paris, is in a position to keep that transparency transparent. On Thursday, the agency released a 176-page report documenting Hungary’s efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions, noting that the move to renewable power sources had stalled in the country.
The IEA noted that Hungary had formulated own groundbreaking energy strategy in 2012 with a National Energy Strategy to 2030. The agency also stated that Hungary’s goals included supporting a sustainable energy sector “while supporting the competitiveness of the economy.”
This second factor – the concept of turning away from traditional energy sources, such as coal and natural gas in favor of wind, solar, hydro, geothermal and nuclear power, while not derailing economic growth, is a thorny topic. Can we save the planet and not throw economies in the dumpster at the same time?
The IEA said that Hungary is “mindful of high energy costs and their impact on family incomes.” With this in mind, Hungary began a policy of mandatory price cuts in the energy sector. “While the short-term impact has been a reduction in energy bills, in the long term, this policy may damage national competitiveness,” the IEA said, highlighting the delicate balance needed to allow pollution control to be economically based.
For example, while reducing energy bills, a depression of energy prices could scare away solar or wind power companies who are leading the charge into the future.
Notably, the IEA said, renewable power saw significant growth in Hungary in the last decade – in the years before the Paris Agreement – but recent growth in the sector had slowed. “Recent reforms and the introduction of a new support system for electricity from renewable sources could arrest this slowdown,” the IEA concluded.
That has global implications. Big oil and big nuclear power companies in many countries, know that “new support” for renewable power means economic favoritism in the form of subsidies, loans, tax breaks and other incentives for their competitors.
The report attempts to put a positive spin on progress made. “Greenhouse gas emissions have declined as the economy has become less carbon-intensive,” the IEA said. “Nonetheless, the country could adopt more ambitious targets for emission reductions.”