The surprise resignation of Nicolas Hulot, French Minister of Environment and celebrity environmentalist, is a loud wake-up call for Macron’s government as well as for all European leaders to recognise the current climate crisis and to take genuine steps to tackle environmental challenges. But it leaves important forest initiatives engulfed in uncertainty.
Merely one year ago Macron committed to “make our planet great again” and to fully address the impacts of climate change. Macron has so far failed to live up to his promises regarding cutting emissions, pesticides bans and wildlife protection. Lack of vision, ambition and political will to accelerate the ecological transition agenda made Hulot quit publicly on 28 August 2018.
More than 100,000 French citizens who marched for the climate on 8 September and more than 200 celebrities who signed an open letter to save the planet echoed Hulot’s indignation. It remains to be seen whether Hulot’s successor, François de Rugy is given sufficient power to help address the current climate crisis and to prioritise fighting deforestation in Europe and tropical forest countries.
It is essential that the new Minister acts now to adopt and implement an ambitious National Strategy to Fight Deforestation (SNDI), and to fully support implementation of the recent French law on due diligence (Loi n° 2017-399 relative au devoir de vigilance; FW 237).
Within the EU, de Rugy must continue to lead the effort previously championed by Hulot to develop and adopt an EU Action Plan to Protect Forests and Respect Rights. If the EU is serious about its 2020 commitments regarding deforestation, immediate action is required. To push it beyond the May 2019 EU elections would be a mistake for the planet.