PARIS (AP) – France's high-ranking environment minister announced surprisingly Tuesday his resignation on national radio on Tuesday and deplored the government's lack of decision-making on environmental issues. This move is a major blow to President Emmanuel Macron's environmental credibility.
Nicolas Hulot was obviously emotional and said he had not even told his wife, let alone Macron or his prime minister, to quit his decision. The longtime environmental activist lamented France's slow progress on green issues and its own lack of power to force change.
His resignation on France Inter Radio was so unexpected that the first reaction came from an interviewer: "Are you serious?"
"I do not want to lie anymore," Hulot said. "I do not want to create the illusion that my presence in government means we are standard on these issues, and that's why I choose to leave the government."
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Recruiting Hulot as Minister had been a coup for Macron, who tried to position France as a champion in the fight against environmental degradation and as a counterweight to US President Donald Trump's climate change attitudes.
The sudden loss of Hulot will force a ministerial reshuffle and cast doubt on the strength of Macron's commitment to "rebuilding our planet." Macron's office confirmed that there would be a reshuffle, but said that would not happen
Hulot expressed the hope that his resignation would get French politicians and the public moving, calling it "mobilization."
"I do not think so anymore," said Hulot. "The planet becomes an oven, our natural resources are exhausted, biodiversity melts like snow in the sun and it is not always treated as a priority theme."
He condemned Macron's reign with low praise as he uttered his resignation surprise.
"France does more than many other countries, do not let me say it does enough, it does not do enough, Europe does not do enough, the world does not do enough," he said.
Never a career politician, Hulot accepted a role in the government in the hope that he could make real progress on environmental issues from an in-house position, which he alarmed for a long time. He was one of only two ministers to receive the special title of Minister of State. The other is the Minister of the Interior, who leads the police and France's domestic fight against terrorism.
At France Inter, Hulot said short-term pressure has priority in the French government over the longer-term need to reverse environmental destruction. He described himself as "quite alone" and said, "I have some influence, but I have no power and no resources."
"We are my troops, who do I have behind me?" He asked.
Hulot said he had been thinking about his resignation for several months, but one of the last straws was a Monday meeting with Macron about the hunt. Hulot was dismayed to see that a hunted lobbyist was allowed to attend, even though he was not invited, and saw this as a symbol of the influence of lobbyists in French power corridors.
Macron's critics seized Hulot's departure to beat the president, whose popularity has dropped in recent months.
Left-wing leader Jean-Luc Melenchon tweeted that "Macronism is beginning to decompose."
AP author Sylvie Corbet in Paris has contributed.