French President Emmanuel Macron has been dealt a blow after his environment minister resigned unexpectedly during a live radio interview.
Nicolas Hulot, a former TV presenter and environmental activist, quit on Tuesday, Aug. 28, following what he called “an accumulation of disappointments.”
“I don’t want to lie to myself any more, or create the illusion that we’re facing up to these challenges,” Hulot said on radio station France Inter. “I have therefore decided to leave the government.”
He did not inform Macron before the announcement.
“This may not be the right protocol, but if I had warned them they might have talked me out of it yet again,” Hulot said.
Hulot was chosen by Macron to lead efforts to combat global warming following the Paris climate deal in December 2015.
But Hulot was frustrated by what he saw as a watering down of Macron’s campaign pledges on the environment, such as cutting nuclear power contributions to electricity by 50 percent and boosting renewable energy.
In the interview, Hulot said he still had an “immense friendship” with Macron’s government.
“But on a challenge this serious, I find myself resigned to it every day, adapting to it a little more each day, even though the global situation with a planet that’s becoming a sauna requires us to change our scale, change our scope, change our thinking,” Hulot said.
Disappointed by Lack of Political Response
Government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux expressed bemusement at Hulot’s departure, which the government “regretted.”
“The fight for biodiversity, the environment, energy transition is a long one, you don’t get results in just a year and Nicolas Hulot knows that,” Griveaux said. “It takes time to transform our agricultural model. You don’t transform the French agricultural model by clicking your fingers, in 18 months.”
Griveaux added, “I would have liked him to stay because he brought his own voice, his own convictions, his history of campaigning, so I regret that he’s going and above all I regret the fact that we haven’t been able to demonstrate everything he’s done over the 14 months that he’s been in government.”
Hulot was also disappointed by Macron’s lack of commitment on banning the weedkiller glyphosate, which is sold as Roundup.
Hulot said his doubts about remaining in government had grown following a lack of political response to devastating droughts over the summer, and hoped his exit might “provoke deep introspection in our society about the reality of the world.”
Greenpeace France Director Jean-François Julliard echoed Hulot’s concerns, saying that while Macron had “made some fine speeches” on climate change he had “never turned these words to concrete action.”
“There is still no energy transition policy in France,” Julliard said.
Former prime minister and presidential contender Alain Juppé said he was impressed by Hulot’s “high-mindedness and by the nobility of his act.”
“Beyond the inevitable political buzz, I hope this decision encourages us all to think and to change,” he said on Twitter.
Reuters contributed to this report.