Future generations, sustainability and profitability, as well as Hungary’s biggest environmental event to date, the Planet Budapest 2021 Sustainability Expo and World Summit, were among the topics we discussed with István Joó, Government Commissioner.
Budapest has hosted several world events this autumn; with world-class exhibitions taking place one after the other. When did the idea of Planet Budapest 2021 first come up?
Planet Budapest 2021 was preceded by three very successful Budapest Water Summits, initiated and presided over by President János Áder as the main patron. After the 2019 World Water Summit, the idea arose to organize a much broader event offering opportunities for Hungarian companies, as the World Water Summits have helped the Hungarian water industry to break into international markets. Taking into account the results of these events and considering that the sustainability aspects are becoming more and more widespread in many fields and industries, we aimed to create an event that would not only attract the general public interested in water safety, but also offer something to all actors who want to take action for the protection of our environment and for sustainability.
What are the success stories of Hungarian water companies entering the global market?
The commissions received by Hungarian companies generated much more profit than the money we used to organize the events. In Southeast Asia and Africa, water treatment, wastewater treatment and irrigation management projects are being carried out with the involvement of Hungarian companies.
If we have a look now at the list of invitees, there are a lot of European and American guests. Has the focus changed?
The focus has not changed. Speakers come from a narrower geographical area due to the pandemic, but we have invited representatives from over 120 countries from South America to Asia to Budapest.
What was the preliminary international reception of the event?
Because of the Budapest Water Summits, we were even somewhat expected to make a follow-up. These events were not only successful from a business point of view, but also from a diplomatic one. The reception was clearly positive and, despite the pandemic, the interest is considerable, as the issue of sustainability has never been more important. The public is paying attention, there are expectations from companies which the corporate sector has understood and reassessed. This is also reflected in the numbers, as nearly 180 exhibitors from the region will be present over 20,000 square meters.
Where Glasgow failed, are they now trying to accomplish in Budapest?
We are modest, but our aim is to show that Central Europe’s environment and sustainability industry is unique and mature, with concrete results.
Speaking of results, how established is the credibility of our country and the region?
Over the past decade, we have managed to reduce our emissions while increasing our economic performance—something few in the world can claim. Hungary is playing a very important role in the field of electromobility; we have launched a climate and environmental protection action plan; and by 2030, 90% of electricity generation will be carbon neutral. At regional level, we also have less food waste and more Natura 2000 sites than the EU average.
Policymakers, diplomats, representatives from business, academia, sustainable development funding institutions and ordinary visitors. How does this diverse group add up to a complete whole?
In the framework of Planet Budapest 2021, we are looking for the answer to a short question: how can we preserve the world for our children and future generations? We don’t want to shock visitors, but to show the state of our planet in a clear and understandable way, and what can be done to make it more sustainable. We expect that people who come to Planet Budapest will already be engaged or open to sustainable development, and that’s a good starting point. Our aim is not to compare the climate or environmental performance of different countries, but to show what politics can do, what a city or a municipality can do, and what I can do as an individual if I want to act for my future. We want to present a positive perspective, to provide guidance and to encourage action. We will present to the public the sustainability goals that we believe are the most important in Central Europe through 66 interactive installations in eleven locations. Protecting our water, affordable and clean energy—one of the most important issues of our time—health and well-being, responsible consumption, decent work and economic growth, to name but a few. The event is entirely free to attend, with pre-registration and an immunity card required.
What programs will be on offer for the generations shaping the future?
The Heroes of the Future Youth Program is aimed at young people aged 10-16, with 156 classes and 4680 young people expected to participate. A mix of live theatre, adventure playground and escape room will be one of the most exciting elements of the event for the younger generation, which will show how everyday choices can have negative or positive consequences for sustainability.
What resources are being mobilized by the event? How profitable can the project be, including indirect benefits?
Planet Budapest 2021 has a budget of HUF 10 billion. We truly believe that this is a very good investment that will pay off. If you just look at what it would have cost the 180 exhibitors to travel to dozens of countries and showcase their technology, as opposed to us bringing potential customers and clients to them. Not to mention the fact that nearly 5,000 students can learn and gain knowledge about sustainability for free using very unique technologies. The Budapest Water Summit has paid off many times over, and we are counting on this again.
Sustainability aspects at Planet Budapest 2021
Use of electric buses and cars: free electric buses will run to the event venue from several locations in Budapest, reducing carbon emissions and helping to protect the environment by greening transport. In addition, visitors who arrive with GreenGo and MOL Limo electric cars will be able to use the car-sharing vehicles at a discounted rate.
Discounted public transport: VOLÁNBUSZ Zrt., MÁV-START Zrt. and GYSEV Zrt. offer 50% discount for all travelers to the event, and free travel on all their trains for school groups and their accompanying persons visiting the “Heroes of the Future” youth experience program.
Digital content instead of printed material: the constantly updated mobile app provides visitors with up-to-date and complete information about the event, helping to minimize paper use.
Green and plastic-free event: the Sustainability Expo stands are made from recyclable and environmentally friendly materials, helping to protect the environment and reduce waste. Environmentally friendly, plastic-free materials are also preferred for all other equipment. The use of plastic bottles will be avoided for the whole duration of the event
Electric garbage trucks: electric garbage trucks will take away the garbage from the event site.
Separate waste collection: separate waste collection will be fully provided throughout the event. The recycling rate of the waste generated will therefore reach 80%.
Tree planting program: the organizers are launching a tree planting program to reduce the ecological footprint of the event.