Planet Budapest 2021 Sustainability Expo and Summit – Let’s shape our future together!
Creating a sustainable future is our shared responsibility, the first step of which is to adopt a common set of values in order to preserve natural assets. Furthermore, achieving sustainable future requires cooperation. Based on these values, the Planet Budapest 2021 Sustainability Expo and Summit will be one of the most significant sustainable development events in Central Europe.
However surprising, sustainability can be easily integrated into our daily lives as it does not involve too much sacrifice or many inconveniences and it is not necessarily more expensive than our current lifestyle, in fact, in many cases it can even result in significant cost savings. We can also see that the stakeholders of the business world are making gradually more public commitments to sustainability through actions like reducing waste, investing in renewable energy, and supporting organizations that work towards a more sustainable future.
In this spirit, in the heart of Europe between 29 November and 5 December at the Hungexpo Budapest Congress and Exhibition Center, Planet Budapest 2021 will present state-of-the-art innovations of the sustainability related sectors by lining up a number of professional exhibitors from the Visegrád Countries, who can promote sustainable development through their technological developments, innovative products and services. In general, the event provides opportunity for all participants and stakeholders from the scientific, political, diplomatic and business fields as well, to connect with each other, exchange knowledge and to enrich themselves with new thoughts. Thus, innovative ideas might transform into practical solutions and scientific concepts might become concrete, implementable recommendations for action. On the other hand, Planet Budapest 2021 also aims to raise awareness of adverse environmental, social and economic practices among the general public, especially young people, and to show that the negative changes that overshadow the future of humankind are still reversible and can together be slowed down significantly.
What “Sustainability” is about in theory and in practice
Sustainability is a widely used expression, but it’s worth taking a closer look at what it actually means. According to its most widely recognized definition, the concept of sustainability is about meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. It is composed of three pillars: an economic, an environmental, and a social one, or as often referred to in other words: profits, planet, and people. Even though it might sound like an abstract concept, in practice it’s very logical and easy to perceive. Let’s imagine the situation of a family which has more expense than income. Obviously, such budget management will soon become unsustainable for the family and so it is the situation with planet Earth, as well. If we use up more natural resources for our social and economic development than can be regenerated by nature, our development will not be sustainable. Based on present trends, human demand on the Earth's ecosystem is projected to exceed nature's capacity to regenerate very soon, which means that by 2030 we would already need two Earths to meet human demands. It needs to change; we have to develop in a way that is sustainable. In 2015, the 17 Sustainable Development Goals were set up by the United Nations for this reason, as well.
The landscape of business consequently also changes, sustainability can already be considered as a distinct competitive advantage for any business. This is well illustrated by the growth of the sectors involved in the development of sustainable technologies. Among others, areas such as carbon footprint reduction technologies, solutions to make life in cities more sustainable or water treatment processes are expected to play an important role in the economy of the future. Consumers, especially the younger generations, increasingly prefer products from sustainable, local sources and these consumer decisions influence the economic trends more and more intensely. By 2030, these sectors are expected to grow by 25% annually and more than 50% of the investors have already started to take environmental, social and corporate governance considerations into account in their financial investment decisions. Accordingly, green transition is expected to create 24 million new jobs worldwide by 2030.
Even though currently COVID-19 is at the centre of attention, sustainability and environmental protection will be the most urgent economic, social and environmental issue of the 21st century. Moreover, as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, sustainable development has become even more timely, as the current situation highlighted the need to use our available resources as carefully as possible. It seems now, that our recent experiences will increase global commitment to sustainability, and will also encourage all stakeholders to develop new practices. Correspondingly, nations and companies that prove to be successful in terms of the implementation of sustainable development, might obtain competitive advantage which will also determine the success of the post-coronavirus economic recovery. It is a social investment that determines long-term competitiveness and from which everyone benefits directly or indirectly. The Planet Budapest 2021 Sustainability Expo and Summit also aims to demonstrate this trend, by emphasizing that sustainability is not only a challenge, but also an economic opportunity.
Hungary and the Visegrad Group
Despite the fact that Hungary and its region is rarely mentioned in connection with sustainability, Hungary is one of those 21 countries in the world where since 2000 the GDP has grown continually while carbon dioxide emissions were reduced. During this time, Hungary has become the 34th largest exporter in the world, and all this has been achieved as a country with a population of less than 10 million. Even despite the difficult economic situation caused by the epidemic, the Hungarian GDP is expected to grow by at least 3.5% in 2021. Nevertheless, we can proudly say that in recent years more and more green bonds have been issued by the government, the annual value of environmental expenditures of companies, households, and state institutions in Hungary has exceeded 735 billion HUF, the number of people working in environmental industries reached 42,000, and one of our major commitments for the near future is to increase the share of carbon-free electricity production to 90 percent in our energy mix by 2030.
Domestic companies with relevant technologies in the field of sustainability have already implemented Hungarian-led projects worldwide, for instance solar power plants in Bulgaria and Albania, waste treatment plants in Serbia, and water management technologies or wastewater treatment plants in Africa and Southeast Asia. What is more, we expect that the value of the Hungarian environmental industries’ export will be multiplied within a few years by the means of further innovations and with the involvement of new investors. The Hungarian society is also interested in the issue of sustainability. According to a survey carried out on the initiative of Planet Budapest 2021, 43% of Hungarians are willing to spend more on environmentally friendly products, and 80% of the society thinks that individuals, as well as state representatives and stakeholders of the business community, all has to take action in order to be able to achieve the transition to a green economy.
Sustainability and environment protection are areas where international and regional cooperation is of paramount importance. In Central-Eastern Europe the Visegrad Group is a form of partnership that might become a good platform for sustainability related collaboration, as well. The countries of the region are connected by jointly owned natural resources, a common historical past, moreover by economic structural and cultural similarities that all constitute a good base of regional cooperation. Given the coincidence in time with Hungary taking over the annual Presidency of the Visegrad Group this summer, Planet Budapest 2021 will also have a special focus on the matter of sustainability cooperation in the region and of displaying the sustainability performance of the countries concerned.
Buliding on the successes of the Budapest Water Summits
Due to our geographical situation, Hungary has had to face a number of water-related challenges, including major floods and droughts. Furthermore, over 90% of our surface water resources originate from sources that are extraneous to Hungary. Despite these hydrological and geographical obstacles, Hungary has – over the past decades – managed to overcome these challenges by amassing a significant amount of expertise in the area of water management. Water diplomacy assumes a central position in Hungary’s foreign policy; we attach great importance to the implementation of the water related sustainable development goals. Within this context, Hungary has already organised three successful Budapest Water Summits, in 2013, 2016 and in 2019.
The Budapest Water Summit in 2013 contributed on its own way to averting the global crisis through its role in the formulation of a stand-alone Sustainable Development Goal in the 2030 Agenda. Three years later, the Budapest Water Summit 2016 represented a milestone in the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 6, involving water and sanitation. The Summit identified the water-related tasks that we are to carry out in the coming fifteen years. Two years ago, the event of 2019 provided a platform for political decision-makers, representatives of the business and finance sectors, as well as the academic community to discuss the way ahead from understanding challenges, to evaluating results attained so far and ways of getting closer to a water-secure world. A total of 2.400 visitors attended the event from 118 countries and even Pope Francis greeted the guests in a personal message addressed to the President, meanwhile António Guterres, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, welcomed the participants via video message.
Welcome to a better world – Planet Budapest 2021 Sustainability Expo and Summit
As explained above, Hungary has noticed ahead of time that solving problems related to the use of environmental resources and water will be one of the most important issues of the 21st century, in terms of the development of economic and social processes, as well. The Budapest Water Summits reinforced that Hungary is ready to face these problems, thus also to offer solutions and new opportunities both regionally and internationally.
In 2021, we are already aware of the most urgent concerns about sustainable development. Planet Budapest 2021 goes beyond re-identifying the problems already known, it aims to present them and also to answer the questions of „What is the next step?”, „What can we do?”, „What can international politics, a local company, or even a single person do?”, „What kind of solutions can we offer for the problems and how can these ideas be implemented?” Thus, we strive to provide platform for those who want to think about the future of our Planet in a sustainable way. We would also like to present concrete solutions for the already recognized problems, and also wish to expand and exploit the related market opportunities. Planet Budapest 2021 aims to outline a positive perspective on sustainable development, and also wants to play an active role in raising awareness towards relevant issues of everyday life, and in presenting a „toolbox” available, affordable to all in order to create a sustainable life.
Thematic event groups
In line with the already mentioned objectives, Planet Budapest 2021 is built around four thematic event groups. Through these four thematic event groups, Planet Budapest 2021 outlines a livable vision about the future, which takes into account the environmental, social and economic contexts of sustainability, addresses the society as a whole and also encourages dialogue and action. These thematic event groups are the following:
Universe of Sustainability – Summit
During the Summit, nearly 100 invited speakers (heads of state and government, decision-makers, prominent scientists and representatives of the business world) will discuss topics such as sustainable water management, food production, smart cities, waste management, energy and transport. It aims to provide tangible, accessible and cost-effective solutions to the challenges of sustainable development.
Nature Friendly Development – Sustainability Expo
The Expo is intended to present innovations that support sustainable development and are based on the knowledge and expertise of the Visegrad countries. From start-ups to large companies, all kinds of businesses will have the opportunity to showcase how they contribute to sustainability and provide new solutions for a more livable future in terms of energy, agriculture, transport, water and waste management and the development of “smart cities”. We expect more than 150 exhibitors in a total exhibition area of 20,000 m2.
Your Planet – Interactive Public Programmes about Sustainability
Visitors can learn about the vision of sustainable development through this educational experience center presenting widely applicable, innovative solutions that allow participants to experience the everyday life of the future. Everyone will have the opportunity to discover what the home, school, city or food supply of the upcoming centuries will be like.
Heroes of the Future – Youth Programme about Sustainability
This special adventure park, featuring the latest digital solutions, offers a leisure programme for elementary and secondary school students between the ages of 10 and 16, in which the dissemination of knowledge and fun time goes hand in hand. One of the key objectives of the programme is to raise awareness among teenagers about the importance of living sustainably through showcasing the positive and negative future effects of their decisions made today.
Planet Budapest 2021 is intended to be held in person and in full compliance with the strict COVID-19 pandemic regulations. In Hungary, owing to the outstandingly successful vaccination program and the ever-higher vaccination rate, the epidemic situation is currently improving, accordingly, protection measures are being phased out. However, given that the legislation in force regarding the Covid-19 pandemic is subject to continuous change, participants and everyone interested in the event will be provided with in-depth information foreseeably at the beginning of autumn 2021. Moreover, it must be emphasized that the event will be held in the renovated and spacious buildings of Hungexpo Budapest Congress and Exhibition Center, therefore the venue will make it possible for the participants to maintain the adequate physical distance, in case the pandemic situation would require to do so.
More information and constantly updated content about the event can be found on the official website, (https://planetbudapest.hu/en) available in Hungarian and English, as well. Come and join us in Budapest, let’s shape our future together!
Photo: All images courtesy Planet Budapest 2021 Sustainability Expo and Summit