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Biden Commits U.S. to Cutting Emissions as Much as 50 Percent by 2030; More Than a Third of U.S. Adults Fully Vaccinated; White House Advisor: CDC to Issue Guidelines for Vaccinated Americans Soon; Study: Pregnant Women with Covid Have Higher Risk of Poor Outcomes, Death; Senate Votes on Anti-Asian Hate Crimes Bill; Hopes Rise on Capitol Hill for Police Reform Compromise. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired April 22, 2021 - 13:30   ET




ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: President Biden speaking at a climate summit with dozens of world leaders today, laying out a very ambitious goal for the U.S. to cut America's greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: By maintaining those investments and putting these people to work, the United States sets out on the road to cut our greenhouse gas emissions in half, in half by the end of this decade. That's where we're headed as a nation.


CABRERA: CNN's chief climate correspondent, Bill Weir, is joining us now, along with CNN's chief national affairs correspondent, Jeff Zeleny.

Bill, let me come to you first.

Can you put this goal into perspective for us?

BILL WEIR, CNN CHIEF CLIMATE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. It is like President Kennedy calling for a trip to the moon and World War II and the Industrial Revolution all packed into one promise, essentially.

This country, as the world is, is so addicted to fossil fuels. It's cheap. It's abundant. It has built the modern world. But at the same time, it's destroying a livable planet.

So to unwind 100 years of industrialization, right now, in nine years will be the toughest engineering infrastructure challenge in human history, really.

It means coming up with new forms of cement and aviation. And it means tightening construction to make homes more efficient. It means moving the fleet of cars in this country, which is less than

2 percent electric, up to a much greater number.

And the clock is ticking. And the scientists say this is the make-or- break decade. Because once you reach certain feedback loops in the Arctic and with melting ice sheets and deforestation, that is a planet nobody wants to live on.

CABRERA: It's no question. Or I guess what the answer is, and that is this a necessary thing to happen.

But, Jeff, it's such an ambitious goal, more ambitious than even the commitment President Obama made when the U.S. first entered the Paris climate agreement.

How did Biden come up with this specific goal, to cut admissions by 50 percent to 52 percent in less than 10 years? What makes them think this is doable?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: That's the question, is this doable or not.

One thing the White House has not done, they certainly articulated the reason why this is necessary but have not given a road map for how this will be done.

As Bill was saying, this is a dramatically, sweeping set of proposals to change the U.S. economy by the end of the decade.

By convening this summit of world leaders, 40 world leaders, what the Biden White House is trying to do is show leadership, show a commitment.

Show that they are serious, this president is serious about doing something the last president was not, and that is, acknowledging, of course, climate change and doing something about it. He's trying to bring other countries along.

White House officials tell us they reached specific numbers after much calculations and studies and conversations with business leaders as well. That's how this formula was devised.

But it's aspirational at best. This is something that really is the beginning of this conversation.

But the fact that President Biden was convening this world summit of 40 world leaders here on Earth Day is a continuation of his campaign promise.


He rejoined the Paris climate agreement on his first day in office. But this was a convening of the world leaders.

So he's trying to reassert the United States on the world stage here as a leader on climate. Now we'll see if these specific formulas can be reached. It's very


CABRERA: But we have Russia and China at the table as part of those 40 leaders participating in the summit. How significant is that, Jeff?

ZELENY: Very significant. Vladimir Putin and President Xi Jinping, from Chia, clearly have been at odds with the U.S. on many fronts, climate first among them.

The question is, though, the argument among business leaders, why should the U.S. take these steps when China is not necessarily. So the fact they were at this summit certainly important.

But there's certainly no agreement in terms of all of these big world leaders and countries moving forward.

Of course, the next conversation on this will be in November when there's likely an in-person summit on climate in Glasgow.

CABRERA: And, Bill, as Jeff mentioned, this is the administration trying to put the U.S. at the center of the global effort to fight the climate crisis, hoping it might spark competition with other world leaders, that competition being the motivator for the world's biggest polluters to follow suit.

Do you think it will work?

WEIR: Great question. The president is trying to use more carrots than sticks, trying to lay out the potential for a trillion-dollar boom in new industrial revolution 2.0.

Off-shore wind, green hydrogen to completely revolutionize steel. Fortunes will be made in these next years on the front of this.

But the cost of inaction is equally scary. A big reinsurance company, Swiss Re, the kind of company that ensures insurance companies and just studies risks, says, if nothing is done, GDP will take a 20 percent hit and drive so many people into desperation as well.

Again, promises and actions, two different things.

President Xi, China, just put more coal-powered plants online than the rest of the world took off last year.

President Putin is eager to start drilling in the Arctic since it has melted and much more accessible, all while he's making these plans, promises today to maybe tinker around with a carbon pricing scheme.

Ultimately, that's the biggest lever right now to watch for, is a carbon tax, to put a price on how much it will drive the price down.

And will you take that dividend and give it back to folks who will have to pay more at the pump in the short-term is another debate.

But as Jeff said, the beginning of a very complicated conversation. CABRERA: Taking that price of carbon conversation a step further,

Bill, I'm curious about this proposal by ExxonMobil, the largest U.S. oil company. Exxon wants to make money off capturing and storing carbon emissions.

What do you make of that idea?

WEIR: First of all, carbon capture is unproven at scale. It's the most expensive idea anyone's come up with to fix this.

You know, weatherproofing your home, efficiency, capturing methane around oil wells is much cheaper. You can actually make money off those sorts of things.

But, yes, the American Petroleum Institute, big lobbies, big oil companies are saying we should tax carbon.

But you should be weary when they want a seat at the table because, often, part of the negotiation is they want is to be completely indemnified. They want immunity from lawsuits that are now popping up.

In fact, today, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio announced they will be suing, major lawsuits over green washing, essentially, and selling us all a product they knew was destructive while fluffing up the environmental work they're doing.

Yes, but it's a huge sea change that oil companies are now saying we need a carbon tax. It's a sign of the times, for sure.

CABRERA: Bill Weir and Jeff Zeleny, thanks gentlemen. Good to see both of you.

A quick programming note. Tomorrow night, CNN's Dana Bash will host a special town hall, "The Climate Crisis." She'll talk to U.S. special presidential envoy, John Kerry, as well as White House climate team members, including Gina McCarthy, Michael Reagan and Jennifer Granholm.

You can watch all of it right here on CNN at 10:00 p.m. Eastern.


We're back in a moment.


CABRERA: Right now, more than a third of adults here in the U.S. are now fully vaccinated. So nearly 260 million vaccine doses have been administered altogether.

And new CDC guidelines for vaccinated people are likely coming soon.


ANDY SLAVITT, WHITE HOUSE SENIOR ADVISOR FOR COVID RESPONSE: I think they're in the process of putting together further guidance. You know, they're not always going to be as fast as everybody wants

because they like to study the data and make sure they're, generally speaking, not putting things out that they will have to take back.

But I'm quite confident that over the next couple weeks and months those questions will be answered.


CABRERA: And I'm sure you are very anxious to get those answers if you have already received your vaccine. I received my first shot. My second is tomorrow. I'm looking forward to that.

Our CNN senior medical correspondent, Elizabeth Cohen, is with us.


Elizabeth, there are some concerns because vaccine enthusiasm seems to be dwindling and we haven't reached herd immunity.

But I wonder, could updated CDC guidelines for vaccinated people be a way to help counter that?

DR. ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: It's possible, if it's done right, that it could be part of that.

Let's look at the numbers to show some of this enthusiasm, the number of people in line, is going down.

If we look at the number of vaccine doses administered daily, it is a little over $2.5 million. That is down 9.24 percent compared when you look at the past seven days over the week before that. So that's not great.

What we're seeing is that the people who want to get vaccinated, like you mentioned, yourself, are getting vaccinated.

Now the trick is how does the CDC convince people, hey, we know you're not so enthusiastic but here are some reasons. If you get vaccinated you can do X, Y, Z.

They want to do that. But they also don't want to tell people to go nuts after they get vaccinated. And that's the balancing act they're trying to figure out right now.

CABRERA: That makes sense.

I want to ask you about another headline today. We're learning today pregnant woman who have COVID-19 have a significantly higher risk of poor outcome, even death, compared to pregnant women who don't have COVID-19.

This is according to a study publicized in the "Journal of Pediatrics." What more are we learning?

COHEN: We've always known that COVID-19 is a real threat to pregnant women and they pregnant women are vulnerable to complications.

Let's take a look at what the study found. They actually looked at it and they quantified what happened.

They really did find women with COVID-19 had a much higher incident of all sorts of complications, including preeclampsia, pre-term birth and maternal death.

This is another reason women especially need to get vaccinated.

I know there's a lot of question marks of people who are wondering, I'm pregnant, should I get vaccinated, should I.

The answer, according to the CDC is, yes, you should be vaccinated if you're pregnant. And in fact, here's especially why you should be vaccinated if you're pregnant.

CABRERA: Elizabeth Cohen, always good to have your reporting. Thank you.

Bipartisanship might be alive after all. The Senate taking on anti- Asian hate crimes. Voting on legislation any moment. We're live on Capitol Hill.



CABRERA: Breaking right now, the Senate, as we speak is, voting on a new anti-hate crimes bill. You can see the live images there on the side of the screen.

The bill is called the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act. It calls on the Justice Department to expedite the review of coronavirus-related hate crimes against Asian-Americans.

And it aims to give local law enforcement more resources to respond to anti-Asian violence.

Senate majority leader, Chuck Schumer, says this legislation will make it easier to go after bigots.


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): This bill has a one-two punch, to assure the Asian-American community we're going after the bigotry against them. And to tell the American people, particularly those bigots, we're going after you, in a legal way, of course.


CABRERA: Let's go to Capitol Hill now and CNN's chief congressional correspondent, Manu Raju.

So, Manu, this is expected to pass with bipartisan support? MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, no question

about it. I mean, this passed with more than 90 votes in the Senate, at least opened debate on this measure.

That is a clear sign that this is ultimately going to pass. A rare bipartisan accomplishment here, coming in the wake of a rise of anti- Asian violence and hate crimes throughout the country.

What this bill would do is essentially expedite reviews at the federal level of potential hate crimes, bolster channels for how these hate crimes are reported, create new guidance that would be provided surrounding these incidents as well.

This came in the aftermath of discussions that were occurring on a bipartisan basis to change how this language ultimately was structured.

What it would do initially was focus on COVID-related hate crimes against Asian-Americans. Instead, that was essentially changed to essentially focus on Asian-Americans itself to broaden the people who would be affected by this legislation.

So, ultimately, Ana, we will see a bipartisan agreement here and a robust vote, on a bipartisan basis.

Ultimately, it will be sent to the House, with final passage. Then it's expected to Joe Biden's desk who's expected to sign it into law.

CABRERA: What about negotiations on a new police reform bill? Any progress there?

RAJU: Talks are occurring. There are still some key hurdles ahead. Namely, how to deal with individual police officers.

There are two issues in particular that negotiators are trying to deal with.

One is on the issue of so-called qualified immunity, which refers to civil lawsuit protections that exist under federal law on individual officers. Democrats have sought to gut that standard.

Tim Scott, the Republican, has proposed an alternative to allow police departments to be sued in civil court, not police officers. Democrats are not fully there yet so they're negotiating that.

And also an issue about criminally prosecuting individual officers as well. Democrats want to lower that standard to make it easier to criminally prosecute police officers.

Republican Tim Scott has pushed back on that idea. And he is the main negotiator on the GOP side.

Democrats are still haggling over that. But Karen Bass, the Democrat in charge of the negotiations on the House side, Cory Booker, on the Democratic side in the Senate, they are still in negotiations with Tim Scott. There's still optimism that they can get a deal but a lot of

differences remain between the Republican version that tries to incentivize states to take these actions.


Democrats are trying to pose more national standards. Whether they can get there is an open question.

But the hope among the Democrats is to try to get a deal by the time of George Floyd's death anniversary on May 25th.

CABRERA: Manu Raju, on Capitol Hill for us, thank you.

And thank you all for joining me today. I'll see you back here tomorrow. In the meantime, you can follow me on Twitter, @AnaCabrera.

NEWSROOM continues next with Alisyn and Victor.

Have a great afternoon.