Hungary's Viktor Orban vows to plant 10 trees for every new child

Prime minister makes announcement in state-of-the-nation address

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban delivers his annual 'State of Hungary' speech in the Varkert Bazaar conference hall of Budapest, Hungary, Sunday, Feb. 16, 2020. (Zsolt Szigetvary/MTI via AP)
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Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban on Sunday vowed to plant 10 trees for every newborn child to address climate change.

The announcement was part of the "climate action plan" the government adopted last week.

"We will plant 10 trees for each newborn, which will increase the country's forest area by 27 per cent by 2030," the nationalist premier said in his annual state-of-the-nation address.

Mr Orban last month described the climate plan as a "Christian democratic" approach to tackling global warming, a label he often uses for his policies, including his fierce opposition to immigration from Muslim countries.

The National Energy and Climate Plan sets out targets including 90 per cent carbon-neutral electricity production by 2030, mostly from nuclear and solar energy.

The strategy is part of a recent change of tone by Mr Orban and his ruling Fidesz party, whose politicians have often seemed to be ambivalent on climate change.

Last year, one of Mr Orban's senior ministers called Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg a "sick child" and her street movement "repellent" to ordinary Hungarians.

Pro-Orban media commentators often cast doubt on the link between human-induced global warming and extreme weather events.

After initially vetoing the EU's carbon-neutrality goal for 2050, Mr Orban signed up in December after securing a concession from Brussels over the EU member's reliance on nuclear energy.

On Sunday he pledged to eradicate illegal landfills by July, ban disposable plastics, have only electric buses in cities by 2022 and financially "support the greening of small and medium-sized enterprises".

In an unsurprising stab at EU leadership, Mr Orban praised Hungary's "achievements" under his 10 years in power and railed against "the tired-out Brussels elite".

"We used to think that Europe is our future. Now we know that we are Europe's future," he said.

In his speech last year, he announced a package of tax breaks and subsidies to encourage families to raise more children, a move he called "Hungary's answer" to its falling population instead of increasing immigration.