Viktor Orbán: Environment

Viktor Orbán

Orbán has not been quick to call climate change a hoax. As a matter of fact, Hungary was one of the first countries to ratify the Paris Accord, but climate action has not been a priority of the leader`s government. Hungarians on the other hand, take climate change pretty seriously. According to the Eurobarometer Survey, around 85% now believe this is a “very serious” problem. Actually, as Greta´s school strikes began to gain traction in December 2019, Hungarians took to the streets outside the Parliament in Budapest to protest the lack of policy regarding the environment of Orbán´s government. However, the chants went unheard. 

Still, Orbán’s avoidance of the issue does not amount to denial on scientific grounds, but instead to ideological rejection of the issue. As Jávor, a Hungarian green politician and former MEP stated, “Orbán has decided to position Fidesz on the populist extreme right and to oppose those new challenges to the political structure posed by the climate movement and Greens,”. More than climate change itself, Orbán sees climate activists and the green party, belonging mostly to the opposition, as a sort of leftist conspiracy. However, given the amount of power he has when it comes to decision making, his disregard of the topic is reflected in the lack of environmental policies in Hungary. While there is some hope that the opposition mayor of Budapest, Gergely Karáscony, can implement some policies to make the city greener, the extent to which this can be implemented will be determined by the powerful central government. 

Another example of Orbán’s pseudo skepticism of climate change was seen in Brussels. In June 2019, Hungary, along with Poland, Estonia and Czech Republic, blocked a text which targeted net-zero emissions in Europe by 2050. The main criticism was aimed at the due date 2050 and special emphasis was given to nations like China that do not show a firm commitment to the issue of carbon emissions. The government said the opposition to the target was made solely due to financial considerations. Orbán’s spokesperson stated the country is not against climate goals and the Prime Minister is not a climate skeptic. However, given the urgency of the climate crisis, when a leader is as unconcerned as Orbán, lack of action and skepticism have the same result: no actions where actions are called for.