Hungary

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Hungary is located in central Europe and is a landlocked nation. Hungary has fertile soil and was an agricultural nation until 1948, when Communists came to power and began to industrialize the country. By the last years of Communist rule, nearly 40 percent of its citizens resided in places where air pollution was above accepted international standards. Coal-burning power plants and cars were responsible for most of the emissions. Inadequate sewage systems and industrial waste polluted the nation's rivers, including the Danube, and ground water. Alarmed by these problems, the Hungarian government passed new environmental regulations and received loans from the World Bank to implement controls. Another major shift in Hungarian history came in 1990 when a non-Communist government was elected and Hungary began the transformation to a free-market economy.

In the early years of changing from a centralized economy to a market economy, Hungary's pollutants decreased. Greenhouse gas emissions fell by 33.5 percent 1990-2000. The trend reversed itself 2000-04 as emissions rose by 2.5 percent. Hungary, a signatory to the Kyoto Protocol, joined the European Union (EU) in 2004. The country remained confident that it could meet the 6 percent reduction in emissions that the protocol required, although the economic advantages of EU membership made exceeding the goal likely.

However, real concerns about the effects of global warming on the nation's resources pointed to the need for more effective national strategies. The first four summers of the 21st century were hotter than normal and rainfall was lower than usual. The combination drained millions of gallons of water from Lake Balaton, central Europe's largest freshwater lake. The changes to the lake posed a direct threat to tourism, which was central to the region's economy. The Danube was also at its lowest levels in over a century, and Hungary's wheat crop was at two-thirds of its expected yield. Hungary signed the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification agreement in 1999. By the time the agreement was formally announced in 2003, the problem had intensified, particularly in the Homokhatsag district in southern Hungary where ground water levels had fallen nearly 10 feet since the 1970s.

A 2006 Yale University study ranked Hungary in the second quintile according to its overall environ mental health, but dependence on fossil fuels, high transport emissions, and a poor development of renewable energy sources were weak areas. The third item became especially significant when the European Union announced in 2007 that its member nations by 2020 should obtain 20 percent of their total energy from renewable energy sources, with 10 percent coming from biofuels. Hungary's Ministry of Economics and Transportation and the Ministry of Environmental Protection announced a 10-point action plan to slow global warming. The plan calls for the establishment of a National Energy Council, environmentally friendly tax changes, and a commitment to renewable energy and meeting the EU standard.

SEE ALSO: Deforestation; Desertification; European Union; Kyoto Protocol.

BIBLIOGRAPHY. Central Intelligence Agency, "Hungary," www.cia.gov (cited October 2007); Kevin Hillstrom and Laurie Collier Hillstrom, Europe: A Continental Overview of Environmental Issues (ABC-CLIO, 2003); World Bank, "Hungary," www.worldbank.org (cited October 2007); Yale University, "Pilot 2006 Environmental Performance Index" www.yale.edu (cited October 2007).

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