On Friday, just as in countless other cities around the world, thousands of (mostly) students took to the streets of Budapest once again, as part of the latest student climate strikes organised by a movement called Fridays For Future.
At around noon, demonstrators first gathered at Batthyány Square, and made their way through Margit Bridge to Kossuth Sq., in front of Parliament, where a number of speeches and additional programs were held. Both liberal HVG and Index put the number of participants to “several thousands.”
According to one of the organizers, Levente Pribéli: “we are destroying the environment and climate at an increasingly frightening pace, which is a huge mistake, a sin (…) this can’t go any further.” He also criticized Black Friday as, “the unnecessary celebration of consumption” and argued that “instead of objects, we need nature,” urging politicians not to stand in the way of change and to take action immediately.
Activists of Extinction Rebellion. Image by MTI/Balogh Zoltán
In his view, it is not true that the Hungarian government manages climate change well, and Hungary isn’t doing well either in mitigating the crisis or in adapting to it. He demanded the government to declare a climate emergency and prepare an action plan.
Péter Vígh, the author of Másfél fok (1,5 degree), a Hungarian website communicating climate change issues, painted a dark picture about the future and claimed that “we are not here because we want to be here, but because we can’t do anything else. (…) Doctors will soon have to deal with exotic, never-before-seen illnesses over here, and current laws don’t deal with future climate refugees. What is culture worth, if civilization collapses?”
According to the organizers, 14 other Hungarian municipalities saw similar demonstrations.
Karácsony: Budapest is last; immediate action is needed
A number of politicians have also been spotted among the demonstrators, including Momentum president András Fekete-Győr, Democratic Coalition leader Ferenc Gyurcsány and Gergely Karácsony. The new Budapest mayor, whose city announced a climate emergency last month, said that “…the situation is critical, it can’t be swept under the carpet anymore (…) it requires immediate action.”
Image by Fridays For Future- Facebook
He mentioned three possible, concrete steps to fight climate change on the part of the capital: the implementation of congestion charge, the increase of urban green spaces, and a sustainable and more widely used urban transport. “Our mission is to make the city livable,” he said, adding that “the city has a lot to do, and Budapest is in the last place in the fight against climate change.”
Ministry: Hungary exemplary in fighting climate change
According to the innovation and technology ministry (ITM), Hungary is making good progress on meeting its climate targets and has been taking “exemplary” measures to combat climate change. In their Friday statement, the ITM argued that Hungary has put in place a firm action plan on climate change. “The country is on board with the European Union’s 2030 climate targets,” noting that the bloc had the plan and resources needed to meet them.
The ministry added that Hungary’s targets were even more ambitious than those of the EU, noting the goal of making 90% of the country’s electricity production CO2-free by 2030. Concerning Hungary’s progress in reducing its carbon emissions, the ministry noted that greenhouse gas emissions were down by one-third since 1990.