13th October 2017

Hungary Today’s interview with János Áder

„Morally unacceptable”: János Áder, President of Hungary, on Trump’s withdrawal from th Paris Climate Agreement – exclusive interview

Last month, Hungary Today had the unique opportunity to sit down for an interview with János Áder, Hungary’s President, during his time spent in New York for the UN General Assembly. During the interview, which took place at Hungary’s UN Mission in Manhattan, Áder discussed the state of Hungarian communities worldwide, the ongoing water crisis facing the world, as well as Donald Trump’s controversial and widely derided decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris Climate agreement.

This interview has been edited for clarity and concision. and translated from the original Hungarian. In addition, the interviewee made edits to the original discussion prior to its publication.

– What was the purpose of your visit to New York, Mr. President, and what will your role be during the current UN General Assembly?

– There – were several reasons for our arrival this week: on the one hand the UN General Assembly was in session. One and a half years ago, the then UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon, and the President of the World Bank convened a panel consisting of heads of state and government to discuss problems of the water crisis threatening the world, and to come forward with proposals. We assessed the work so far during our meeting, and also discussed what the main messages should be for our report that will be prepared by next spring.
In addition, I also received an invitation from Mike Bloomberg. We had met here in New York in July, at which point he invited me to the Global Business Forum, which was organized earlier this week in New York. Executives of multinational companies, politicians, and the representatives of various NGOs gathered to discuss opportunities offered by the global economy, issues related to sustainable development, the implementation of the Paris [climate agreement] pledges, as well as tasks stemming from this.
Also, partially related to this, the Danish Prime Minister’s Office organized a forum on how best to support water infrastructure related investments, because we have significantly fallen behind. I was asked to deliver the keynote speech at that forum.
Thus, all three events focused on the theme of environmental sustainability. The world has reached a turning point: we cannot follow the same path that brought us here. We need to change, because the lifestyle we have created for ourselves is no longer sustainable. We do not want to give up on any of our comforts, and are not ready to give up on any developments. What should we do then? This is what these events were about.

– Mr. President, why do you consider the water crisis to be one of the most significant problems facing humanity? What developments occurred in the domain of water-related issues during this week?

– This may sound like a banality, but water is the source of life. Many people say that water is our most important natural resource. Despite this, in some places, in some cultures, in certain geographical regions, it carries no value. We use it irresponsibly, while visibly there is less and less of it, especially if we talk about good quality, potable water. Furthermore, agriculture also needs water, humanity needs more water as it grows in population, industry needs water, sprawling cities need water, we need water to generate energy, and so on. Without water, we are practically unable to maintain the conditions necessary for human life. Despite this, we waste water, we pollute our waters and, if we continue this, then we are basically squandering one of the most important preconditions of life. This is why I continue to raise awareness about this problem and talk about it at forums at which I am invited to speak.
Let’s look at how this is relevant to Hungary. If we look at the map from our domestic perspective, or if we recall our geography studies, then we will see that Hungary is a country that is relatively rich in water. But while this may be true, it is also true that 90% of the water in Hungary arrives to us from abroad. We are thus left at the mercy of our neighbours, who, if they build a reservoir, if they dam or pollute the water – and unfortunately there have been precedents for all of these – could leave us with no water or only bad quality, polluted water, which obviously limits our possibilities. In some parts of our country annual precipitation levels are among the lowest in the whole of Europe. If things go on like this, it is possible that these areas will fall into the category of semidesert.
A study has found that the Carpathian-basin, and Hungary at the centre of it, are among the most vulnerable in Europe from a climate protection point of view. The impacts of climate change manifest much sooner, and much more intensively, than in other parts of Europe. Hungary suffers from the effects of climate change in many ways, a significant part of which – some 80% according to scientists – is manifested through water. For us, the primary objective is water management, it is about preventing pollution, expanding the area of irrigated lands, cultivating drought resistant plants, it is about a country with an increasingly dry climate adapting to the changed circumstances. We wish to continue to grow plants on our land, we do not want to give up all the fruits, vegetables, the grapes and last but not least all the wine, that we can produce in good quality in Hungary. For this we will increasingly need water. Unfortunately, this divine blessing comes less and less frequently, and when it does it arrives in ever increasing quantities. As such, this is hardly a blessing, but rather the cause of serious problems, which we have seen examples of in recent weeks as well.

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