14th September 2018

Speech of President of the Republic János Áder at the closing plenary session of the Global Climate Action Summit in the Moscone Centre, San Francisco

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

When Mr. Jerry Brown, the Governor of California invited us to this conference, he made it very clear in his invitation: no one should come to San Francisco to deliver yet another speech about inspiration or commitment. He asked us all to come with tangible undertakings.

Furthermore, Jerry Brown set the standards high with what he announced in recent days, I am sure that you are all aware of these two decisions. California has committed itself to 100% zero carbon electricity and total, economy-wide carbon neutrality by 2045. These were the decisions that the Governor of California welcomed us with.

In the past few days many people have discussed in many ways the threats of climate change we are facing. If we were to summarize all that has been said here in one sentence and respond to the question about the message of this climate summit, then this single line message for me would be: the question is no longer what is happening with Earth’s atmosphere, it is the future of our civilization that is at stake. It is worth taking this message along to the next climate conference in Katowice as well.

Let us now turn to Hungary. Hungary is a small country in the heart of Europe, with a population of ten million, with one thousand years of history and with emission that is evidently insignificant to that of the United States or China. Despite this, we are one of the 21 countries in the world, which has increased its GDP by 50% since 1990 while energy consumption has fallen by 15% and GHG emissions by 32%. This is the past.

Let us talk about the future. The Hungarian government has adopted the National Climate Strategy. This is a voluminous, 200-page document, but the most important target stipulated therein, is Hungary’s intention to reduce GHG emission by 85% before 2050, compared to 1990 as the baseline. 85%. We also have another commitment, which designates a shorter deadline by 2030. This aims to have Hungarian power generation become 90-95% CO2-free with the help of nuclear and solar energy.

The momentum gained in Paris has been lost. If we look at Marrakesh or any of the other climate conferences, we can say that during the past two-and-half, three years it was subnational organizations that managed to maintain the momentum of Paris. This is why nearly three years ago, I proposed and stood behind the initiative wholeheartedly, that the capital of Hungary, Budapest should join the Under2 Coalition. And just two days ago another 23 cities joined this coalition. This map shows you the small green dots that all represent Hungarian cities, with the larger green dot being Budapest, the capital of Hungary. You can clearly see on this image that these settlements represent around 40% of Hungary’s population.

May I add that when we were preparing for the Paris Climate Summit, I suggested to the UN Secretary-General, that subnational organizations, like the Under2 Coalition should be allowed to join the Paris Agreement, if not there in Paris, then at a later time. It seems that the wheels are turning much slower at the UN, because although the UN Secretary-General approved of this idea at the time, nothing has happened since. I hope that this will happen, and we can soon welcome the Under2 Coalition as a signatory party to the Paris Agreement.

What is it that I still have in store for you? I would like to inform you about two Hungarian inventions. Both can influence us as consumers but can also be relevant to those working in the agriculture sector, as farmers. Those present here will know that agriculture is responsible for 17% of GHG emissions, the majority of this being caused by animal husbandry. Thanks to 20 years of research, there is a new Hungarian invention which in the case of ruminant animals can reduce methane emissions by 80%, while the quality of meat and milk actually improves.

70% of all our water consumption is related to the agricultural sector, we can say that every drop of water counts. The question for the 21st century is this: how can we produce an increasing amount of food for an increasing number of people on a decreasing size of land from the same quantity of water? There is another Hungarian invention, which I would like to offer for your attention, an environment friendly solution, which improves the water retention capability of soil by as much as 40-50%, thereby reducing drought damage, while not being detrimental to the environment.

Esteemed Ladies and Gentlemen,

The time we have to act is less and less, while our responsibility increases with the passing of time. Thanking you for your attention, I would like to leave you with a thought from Mark Twain: “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do, than by the ones you did”.

Thank you.

(Edited version.)

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