Emmanuel Macron’s environment minister quits live on air, questioning president's green credentials

Recruiting Nicholas Hulot had been a major coup for Mr Macron

Jon Stone
Europe Correspondent
Tuesday 28 August 2018 10:00 BST
Emmanuel Macron’s environment minister Nicolas Hulot quits live on French radio

Emmanuel Macron’s environment minister has dramatically quit the French government live on air, questioning whether the administration is truly committed to green issues.

Nicolas Hulot, a high-profile former television personality, told France Inter radio on Tuesday morning that he no longer wanted to give the impression “that we’re up to standard on these issues and so I am deciding to quit the government”.

In an emotional address, the long-time environmentalist said his tenure had been an “accumulation of disappointments”. He also claimed he felt “all alone” in pushing for environmental priorities in government.

“It’s a decision of honesty and responsibility,” he added, stating that it was “the most difficult decision of my life”.

Mr Macron’s recruitment of Mr Hulot was seen as a coup for his environmental credentials because the sought-after activist had previously refused to be a minister for presidential predecessors Jacques Chirac, Nicholas Sarkozy and Francois Hollande.

The resignation is a blow for the French president, who has presented himself as the defender of the Paris climate agreement on the world stage.

The outgoing minister said that he had not told his cabinet colleagues about his resignation beforehand as they would only have tried to dissuade him from quitting. The radio presenter on the programme the minister was appearing on also appeared not to know about the resignation, asking him: “Are you serious?”

One thing I don’t do well is lying – especially to myself

Nicholas Hulot earlier this year

Mr Hulot said despite the policy problems both Mr Macron and the prime minister Edouard Philippe were “always affectionate and loyal to me” during his tenure.

Responding to the resignation, a spokesperson for the French government said: “It’s his way of doing things. I think the most basic courtesy would have been to warn the president of the Republic and the prime minister.”

Mr Hulot had previously warned that the government’s ambitious environmental agenda had been a flop. In May of this year he warned he would consider his position over the summer, telling the French media: “One thing I don’t do well is lying – especially to myself. By this summer I will have enough elements to be able to evaluate if I can actually contribute to this societal transformation.”

Setbacks the minister has faced have included ditching an objective to reduce dependency on nuclear power, while he has been successful in getting the government to scrap plans for a polluting new airport.

Mr Macron’s already low approval rating dropped to a new record low over the weekend. An Ifop poll for Le Journal du Dimanche published this Sunday showed 34 per cent of the public had a favourable opinion of the president, down five from last month. His dissatisfaction rating meanwhile rose five points in a month to 66 per cent.

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