Macron loses environment minister in surprise resignation

FILE - In this Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2017 file picture Environment Minister Nicolas Hulot, looks on, as French President Emmanuel Macron delivers his speech during a meeting at Rungis international food market, near Paris, France. France's high-profile environment minister, former TV personality Nicolas Hulot, has unexpectedly announced his resignation live on national radio, dealing a blow to the lofty green ambitions of President Emmanuel Macron. (AP Photo/Francois Mori, File)

PARIS — France’s high-profile environment minister, former TV personality Nicolas Hulot, unexpectedly announced his resignation live on national radio today, lamenting a lack of decisive action on green issues.

The move deals a stinging blow to the environmental credibility of President Emmanuel Macron.

Clearly emotional, Hulot made clear his frustrations at what he said was France’s slow pace of progress on green issues.

The long-time environmental advocate told France Inter radio that he no longer wants to give the impression “that we’re up to standard on these issues, and so I have decided to quit the government.”

Recruiting Hulot to his government had been a coup for Macron, who has sought to position France as a champion in the fight against environmental degradation and as a counterweight to the climate change attitudes of U.S. President Donald Trump.

Losing Hulot so suddenly, just as the government is resuming work after France’s August vacation, is likely to force a ministerial reshuffle but also casts doubt on the strength of Macron’s commitment to “make our planet great again.”

Hulot damned Macron’s government with faint praise as he sprang his resignation surprise.

“France is doing more than a lot of other countries. Do not make me say that it is doing enough. It is not doing enough. Europe is not doing enough. The world is not doing enough,” he said.

Never a career politician, Hulot accepted a role in Macron’s government in the hope that, from an inside position, he could make real progress on green concerns that he has long sounded the alarm about.

But on France Inter, Hulot said short-term pressures were taking priority in government over the longer-term need to reverse environmental destruction. He described himself as “all alone” and said: “I have a bit of influence but I have no power and no means.”

Hulot said he’d been mulling his resignation for several months but one of the last straws was a government meeting Monday about hunting. Hulot was dismayed that a hunting lobbyist was allowed to take part despite not being invited, seeing his presence as a symbol of lobbyists’ influence over French government.

“I no longer believe,” Hulot said.

Meanwhile, Macron arrived today in Denmark for a two-day visit, hoping to build the relationships he needs to push France’s agenda of a more closely united European Union.

Macron wants Europe to take more responsibility for its own defense, saying the continent’s security shouldn’t rely so much on the United States.

Denmark has a defense opt-out in its EU ties, meaning it does not taking part in military matters. The Danish government and a majority of lawmakers want the defense waiver to be removed but are hesitant about calling a referendum on it.

In a 1993 referendum, Danes won opt-outs from key parties of European Union policies, including defense matters and the shared euro currency. Several Danish governments have been in favor of getting rid of the defense opt-out and referendums on modifying the opt-outs have been held twice — and rejected both times.

After being greeted by Denmark’s Queen Margrethe at Copenhagen Airport, Macron will have talks with Danish Prime Minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen.