French Environment Minister Hulot: ‘I give myself a year’
France’s environment minister, Nicolas Hulot, is giving himself a year to judge whether he is having any impact on government policy, he told Le Monde newspaper.
In an interview published Saturday, the hugely popular former nature show host said he had joined President Emmanuel Macron’s government in order to be “useful”, and was aware that he would “not be able to pull off any miracles overnight.”
“I have not given myself a date, but I give myself a year to see if I am useful,” said Hulot, having warned last month that he would quit if he was failing to influence the government.
For Macron, who is the first president to recruit Hulot into government despite attempts by his predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy, the star minister’s promise should come as a relief.
Hulot is under intense scrutiny from NGOs Greens party activists and MEPs who expect him to use his clout to weigh on Macron and push his government to embrace more ecological positions on issues ranging from nuclear power to glyphosate and fracking.
Yet Hulot — an early riser who finds his lifestyle as a minister draining, according to French media reports — has had to accept compromises, notably on the use of herbicide glyphosate.
While Hulot wants to ban glyphosate and other insecticides completely, France has told the European Commission it would accept a maximum four-year extension on the product’s authorization while agencies review scientific evidence about its potential harmfulness.
Hulot was also opposed, on ecological grounds, to the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA).
Yet on Wednesday, he had to announce that France would ratify the accord in the second half of 2018.
On nuclear power, Hulot won a commitment from government to reduce France’s dependence to 50 percent of total electricity usage from 75 percent by 2025.
But he’s yet to map out a timeline for shutting down 17 reactors, saying that “some” will have to be closed and that the dates would be given in the latter part of 2018.
To Le Monde, Hulot acknowledged that he was still learning about power dynamics within government — and how to work with leaders of very different backgrounds, namely Emmanuel Macron and Prime Minister Edouard Philippe.
“Look at the difference in culture between Edouard Philippe and myself, Emmanuel Macron and myself,” he said. “We come from different planets!”
“Now and then I have to be aggressive, to press my point, to show a bit of bad mood, but all of this is very classic.”
Hulot added that in the first half of 2018, he would present a so-called “green deal” to “support the energy transition, energy efficiency, and to develop renewables and new industrial sectors.”