Nicolas Hulot, France’s energy and environment minister, resigned suddenly this morning, saying in a radio broadcast that President Emmanuel Macron’s administration had frustrated his environmentalist efforts.
The green activist and TV presenter, a vocal critic of nuclear power, said “I don’t want to lie anymore,” during a live interview public radio channel France Inter, adding that Macron’s administration had taken only “mini-steps” towards improving environmental protections.
“This may not be the right protocol, but if I had warned them they might have talked me out of it yet again,” said Hulot.
Hulot said that he has not forewarned Macron or French prime minister Edouard Philippe about his decision to leave the post, which he was appointed to in May last year. He was one of Macron’s most popular and well-known ministers, but said the President had not done enough to tackle pesticide usage, prevent land destruction and improve protections for wildlife.
France is preparing to unveil an energy plan for the coming decade, which will aim to reduce the country’s reliance on nuclear power.
Hulot said nuclear was “useless madness, economically and technically”, but added: “I haven’t managed to convince in all those issues”.
A shift away from nuclear power, which produces almost three-quarters of the country’s energy, has been a key Macron policy, but one which the President has sought to water-down. Hulot, though he has advocated for a “medium-term target” to end the use of nuclear, nonetheless previously suggested pushing back a target to cut the proportion of nuclear power used, saying rushing the shift could result in power shortages.
Last year, Hulot put pressure on 85-per cent-state owned energy provider EDF by suggesting it should be made to transition to renewable energy. EDF is building two new nuclear reactors at Hinkley Point C in Somerset, which have been wracked by safety concerns. Macron has given the project his backing, despite issues.
Alain Juppe, a conservative former French prime minister and presidential contender, said he was impressed by Hulot’s “high-mindedness and by the nobility of his act”.
“I hope this decision encourages us all to think and to change,” he said on Twitter.