French Environment Minister Hulot quits government, denouncing weight of lobbies

French Ecology minister Nicolas Hulot leaves the Elysee palace after the weekly cabinet meeting in Paris, France, 9 August 2017. [Christophe Petit Tesson/EPA]

France’s Minister of Ecological Transition, Nicolas Hulot, resigned from office, he announced on Tuesday morning (28 August) on French public radio France Inter. reports. 

On top of dealing a blow to President Emmanuel Macron, the departure of France’s favourite minister is a scathing criticism of the French government’s environmental policy.

Nominated as France’s favourite public personality when he joined the government in 2017, Hulot declared he did not want to resign himself to a policy of “small steps” on environmental issues.

When the European Parliament voted to ban palm oil imports as of 2021, France instead gave the go-ahead to a Total biorefinery, thus prompting fierce criticism in the country.

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Bitter pills 

Hulot, who made a name for himself as an environmental and climate advocate, strongly denounced France’s approval of the refinery. But it was just one of the many bitter pills he had to swallow since joining the government, including a number of trade-offs between private interests and the environment.

“Have we started to reduce the use of pesticides? The answer is no! Have we begun to stop the erosion of biodiversity? The answer is no!” he said.

He added that he did not communicate his decision to President Macron or to Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, who would have otherwise tried to dissuade him.

The day before, Hulot attended a meeting at the Élysée on new hunting rules. He was shocked to see a lobbyist was there to attend the meeting.

The French hunters were trying to extend an already exhaustive list of 64 types of birds they can shoot, as opposed to the 14 threshold which prevails in most other European countries. The list includes the chaffinch and greylag goose.

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