29 august 2018

With Hulot’s resignation, Macron loses his green fig leaf

Popular environment minister has doubts about the intentions of the French Pesident

Kleis Jager, Financieel Dagblad, 29 August 2018
[4C translation from the Dutch]

The French Minister for Ecology Nicolas Hulot resigned yesterday from frustration. He believes that President Emmanuel Macron has an insufficient understanding of the perilous state of the planet.

Hulot made his announcement unexpectedly in a radio studio. Emotionally, one of France’s most valued public figures threw in the towel. Painfully for Macron, he said “I don’t want to continue to lie to myself. I don’t want to give the impression that this government is up to the enormous challenge before us.”

“Will we soon be using fewer pesticides?” asked the 62 year old Minister vocally after this admission. “And have we even begun to does something to stop the deterioration of biodiversity? The answer is no.”

The still youthful-looking Hulot was ready to compromise. But the way that Macron and his prime minister Edouard Philippe repeatedly gave preference to vested interests over environmental concerns became too much to tolerate.

For instance, Hulot had to witness the ruination of a plan to diminish drastically the share of nuclear energy in the French energy supply. Hulot himself found the original target – in 2025, 50% of France’s energy needs would still come from nuclear power – too optimistic. But with Macron and Philippe (the former communications chief for the nuclear power company Areva), he was unable to obtain any specific commitment for the closure of even the oldest reactors.

The simple idea of putting more vegetarian options on the menus of school and company cantines failed to get governmental support because the interests of the meat industry were given priority.

The Green Party EELV (Euope Écologie Les Verts) is not at all surprised by Hulot’s resignation. The popular ex-tv presenter and environmental figure had simply allowed himself to be used, in the opinion of Yannick Jadot, a member of the European Parliament. “They needed him to conceal the dictation of policies by lobbies like the nuclear power one. Hulot could not accept that indefinitely.

The decisive indignity was probably a meeting last Monday with the hunters’ lobby at the Elysée Palace. With the European election coming on, Macron tried to appease the hunters (a million voters) with among other things a cheaper hunting license. Difficult questions, such as an eventual prohibition of the mass slaughter battue were postponed. Witnesses said that Hulot was visibly irritated during the meeting.

After the news about Hulot’s resignation, Libération, the French daily revealed that the French Minister was seriously considering whether he should stay on at the beginning of August. Macron and Philippe did everything to keep him, including promising him offshore wind turbines. The newspaper cites Hulot as saying, “the problem is that they did not do this out of conviction but only to prevent me from leaving.”

In the last analysis, Macron and Philippe did not understand the most important thing, Hulot told Libération. The core of the problem is “the economic model”, the way we consume. To clarify this, Hulot cited the seventeenth century religious writer Bossuet: “We express our disgust for the consequences, but we continue to cherish the causes.”

According to the right-wing opposition leader Laurent Wauquiez, the departure of Hulot exposes the inconsistency of Macron. “You can’t be the friend of everybody. There are more French people than Hulot who are disappointed because promises have not been kept.”

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