France’s environment minister and former TV celebrity Nicolas Hulot unexpectedly announced his resignation on live radio on Tuesday, claiming he had felt “all alone” in advocating for the environment.
“I am taking the most difficult decision in my life, I don’t want to lie any more. I don’t want to give the impression that my presence in the government means we are facing up to the challenge [of global warming]. Therefore, decided to quit the government,” the former minister said on France Inter radio.
Mr Hulot made his frustrations clear at the beginning of the programme, when he described global warming as “a tragedy waiting to happen”.
Asked why he was still part of the government despite his frustration at France’s slow pace of progress on green issues, the long-time environmental advocate replied announcing his shock resignation.
The TV personality was lured into government last year as President Emmanuel Macron sought a high-profile figurehead for the environmental agenda. Mr Hulot’s announcement threatened to overshadow Mr Macron’s latest initiative to secure more European integration. The French leader was in Denmark to sell his EU ideas on Tuesday.
The resignation also comes at a time in which the 40-year-old centrist leader is facing issues on several fronts, including slow economic growth and a failure to heal transatlantic rifts with US President Donald Trump.
Following the announcement, government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux reflected the shock in government circles. He said that “the most basic of courtesies would have been to warn the president of the republic and the prime minister”.
Mr Hulot said his admiration for Mr Macron was unchanged but that he chose to keep the decision from him in fear he might be persuaded to stay in office.
“This is a decision I took alone, no one was aware of it, not even my wife,” he said.
Asked what prompted it, Mr Hulot said that everything he had said in past years he did not believe in any more. “This is the gravity of the situation,” he added.
Formerly best known as the presenter of the Ushuaia Nature TV programme on French television, Mr Hulot was criticised as ineffective this month by former actress Brigitte Bardot, who described him in an interview as a “first-class coward … who is good for nothing”.
The actress then said in a tweet that the environment minister had called “in rage”, accusing her of being “a coward” who aims to flatter the president.