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Tokyo 2020 Olympics Will Take Place Amid COVID Cases Rising; Asia Battling the Delta Variant; Concern in U.K. and Wales Over an COVID-19 App; Italy and Israel to Mandate Green Pass; Impact of Vaccinations in Africa; Japan under pressure to host safe Olympics amid COVID surge; China flooding: Survivors recused after days without food, water; Australia pushes back on possible in danger rating. Aired 2-2:45a ET

Aired July 23, 2021 - 02:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[02:00:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN HOST: Hello and welcome to our viewers joining us all around the world. I am Michael Holmes. Appreciate your company. Coming up here on "CNN Newsroom," officials for the Tokyo Olympics say today's opening ceremonies will take place as planned, but will the games turn into a superspreader event? We are live in Japan, coming up.

Also, a new trend in the COVID outbreak that has people in the U.K. concerned about the pingdemic. We'll have a report from London on the NHS test and trace app.

Also, with half of Europe underwater and parts of America still burning, what needs to be achieved at today's meeting of G20 environment and energy ministers? I'll discuss with an expert.

After a yearlong delay and enumerable obstacles, the long awaited summer Olympic Games officially begin just 5 hours from now. But, the opening ceremony for Tokyo 2020 won't have its director. He was abruptly fired, the fourth Olympic official to be forced out.

Now, COVID has been, of course, and will be a constant threat throughout the 16 days of the Olympics. For the first time, the competition will be held without spectators in most venues. That's because, of course, new cases in Japan are spiking again too alarming levels. As you can see there on your screen, about 20 athletes so far testing positive and having to drop out. Still, the emperor wants the games to go on.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

EMPEROR NARUHITO, EMPEROR OF JAPAN: It is my hope that through their performances, the games will be a beacon of hope for a new future.

(END VIDEO CLIP) HOLMES: Now, Don Riddell with CNN World Sport is standing by here in Atlanta, but let's begin with Blake Essig there in Tokyo. And yes, Blake, so despite everything, the show goes on.

BLAKE ESSIG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, you know, Michael, it honestly feels a little bit surreal. I wasn't sure that this day would actually come, but today is the day after a one year delay, months of uncertainty, and the general population that doesn't want the games to happen, you know, including dozens of protesters that gathered outside of where the final torch relay event was held earlier today.

But, the opening ceremony, an official start of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games is just 5 hours away. At the same time, COVID-19 cases here in Tokyo are surging even with the state of emergency in place. Nearly 2,000 new cases were reported yesterday. That is the fourth highest daily total in Tokyo since the pandemic began.

Now, Olympic-related infections are also rising and 21 Olympic hopefuls are out. Still, the games are already underway and the opening ceremony albeit a subdued affair, is set to take place tonight. For athletes, typically, the opening ceremony is a huge deal. But, this year, given the circumstances, only a fraction will be participating.

Now, I recently spoke with Tony Azevedo, a 5-time Olympian and silver medalist, a water polo player for Team USA. He says that participating in the opening ceremony is the greatest feeling in the world, but if he was competing this time around, there is no way he would walk.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TONY AZEVEDO, FIVE-TIME U.S. OLYMPIAN: It would be different. I mean, you can't intermingle or meet your other athletes. You are still going to be on your feet walking, and there is not thousands of fans in the stands. Like, I'm just giving you my -- if it's me, there's no way I'm going, right.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ESSIG: The national stadium where the opening ceremony is being held can seat 68,000 people. But, we know now that 950 dignitaries will be the only ones to see it in person. That includes U.S. First Lady Jill Biden. Only one person that will not be, there is the former Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, who played a big role in bringing these games to Tokyo.

Now, Michael, it's a national holiday here in Japan, and for the most part, the streets around Tokyo are relatively quiet and it's been that way for months. I will say that we spent a little time outside of the national stadium just off in the distance behind me, and there are a lot of people, a lot of foot traffic around there.

[02:05:00]

People gathering to take pictures of the stadium which is unusual. It is really the first sign of that buzz and excitement that we had expected throughout these games. But, we have been talking to people throughout the day to gauge their level of incitement.

And generally speaking, it's health, safety, and surge in cases, not the Olympics, that dominates the conversation. People are telling me that it's hard to get excited about these games, they say, even though they are here happening in Tokyo. It doesn't really feel like it. Michael?

HOLMES: All right, Blake Essig there in Tokyo. Thanks so much for that. I want to bring in Don Riddell here who is here in the studio with us and talking a little bit more about this. And the thing I want to ask you about this, you know, how COVID has impacted the sports itself. But, also, the athletes, the individuals, some of whom are already out after years of preparing for this.

DON RIDDELL, CNN WORLD SPORT: You know, sport can be very cruel, right? You prepare for four years for the Olympics, five years in this case. We all know everyone has had to wait an additional 12 months. You know that when you get to the tournament, you might be injured or you might be beaten by a better opponent and you've got to deal with that.

But in this case, COVID is a wildcard. We have already been saying in the show with the last few minutes that 21 athletes have tested positive, and therefore effectively out of the games. Ten of those tested positive before they even got on the plane. And that was it. They didn't even get to Tokyo.

I would argue, it's even more cruel for those that did get to Tokyo because they now have to isolate in their hotel room for seven days. They can't even speak with the media during that time. One would imagine they would pass the time watching the Olympics, possibly even the events they would have been in before they have to get back to the airport and fly out of there and get home. I mean, it's just -- it's a really tragic situation for those athletes who've put in so much. And many of them are vaccinated, but they're still positive, no Olympics.

HOLMES: It would be absolutely gutting, wouldn't it? I mean, the COVID impacts aside, are you excited about, I mean, it's going to be a TV event, of course. It's going to be a TV (inaudible). But it's interesting there is some new sports coming in. There is skateboarding. There is surfing. There is climbing, I think?

RIDDELL: Yes, yes. I mean, look, there is certainly a lot of support and a lot of great athletes to be excited about. It's obviously going to take some adjusting to watching these events with no fans and empty stadiums, although we've seen plenty of that in the last year or so. But, yes, these new sports, I think, are going to be really cool.

Certainly on World Sport, we've spent quite a lot of time in the last couple of years profiling some of these sports and some of these athletes and they are exciting, as you say. I mean, sport climbing. I mean, when you see these events, I mean, these guys just fly out the wall. I mean, it's absolutely brilliant.

Surfing, clearly very exciting, skateboarding very cool, the Olympics trying to move into a slightly new direction. They're trying to appeal to younger fans, younger athletes, also. And I think there is going to be a lot of fun to watch. It's going to be interesting to see how the surfing plays out there because --

HOLMES: Not known for its waves.

RIDDELL: -- Japan is not known for its surf. So, those will be the athletes hoping for a storm in the next couple of weeks. Fingers crossed for them.

HOLMES: Exactly. A little hurricane would be handy, yes. Japan is not really on the world surfing tour at the moment. It's good to know. I mean, we'll enjoy it as we can. I really do feel for those athletes so as you're saying. All right, Don, good to see you my friend. Don Riddell here in the studio with us.

And Don is going to have much more on the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. Stick around for that, World Sport will be coming up in about 40 minutes or so. Now, when the opening ceremony kicks off in just a few hours, it will launch an Olympic event unlike any in the past. CNN's Will Ripley with more from Tokyo.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As the opening ceremony clock ticks down, COVID cases are ticking up. In Tokyo, a new six- month high, close to 2,000 cases on Thursday. The number also climbing among Olympic hopefuls. At least five Team USA athletes are out. At least 16, from other nations.

COVID related cutbacks at the opening ceremony, now, just hours away. Far fewer athletes, in the parade of nations and a new scandal. The shows director, Kentaro Kobayashi, the fourth Olympics official fired or forced to resign. Japanese media uncovering past anti-Semitic statements about the holocaust. Tokyo 2020's president offering a rare public apology.

SEIKO HASHIMOTO, TOKYO 2020 PRESIDENT (through translation): I would like to express my deepest apologies for the inconvenience and concern that this situation has caused to the many people involved. To the citizens of Tokyo and the public.

RIPLEY (voice-over): With problems piling up, an injection a very public support from U.S. First Lady, Jill Biden. Dr. Biden arriving in Tokyo, her first solo trip abroad as First Lady. Japanese Emperor Naruhito, meeting with IOC president Thomas Bach, recognizing the enormous challenge of holding the games during a global pandemic.

[02:09:56]

NARUHITO: The managing of the games, while at the same time taking all possible measures against COVID-19, is a far from easy task.

RIPLEY (voice-over): Bach seemingly backtracking on whether political activism is allowed at the games. Several women's soccer teams taking a knee prior to their matches, including Team USA. THOMAS BACH, INTERNATIONAL OLYMPIC COMMITTEE: It is allowed. It is no

violation of the Rule 50. This is expressively what has been mentioned in these guidelines.

RIPLEY (voice-over): The 32nd Summer Olympiad, shaping up to be like none other. The U.N. secretary general putting a positive spin on a game some fear could spin out of control.

ANTONIO GUTERRES, U.N. SECRETARY GENERAL: We are all in mourning for those lost to the COVID-19 pandemic. Every athlete in Tokyo has overcome enormous obstacles and demonstrated great determination. If we bring that same energy to our global challenges, we can achieve anything.

RIPLEY (voice-over): Will Ripley, CNN, Tokyo.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOLMES: All right. Let's take a closer look now at the scaled down opening ceremony, and how many countries are cutting back on participants, not surprisingly. Now, Australia's team says it will have about 63 athletes in the parade of nations. A fraction of the teams 472 athletes.

South Korea says that 26 out of 232 athletes will be participating. India says that 19 out of 119 will take part. Canada says 30 to 40 athletes, that's out of 370 team, sized team will participate. And then, the United States, they're going to have more than 200 athletes walking in the ceremony. That is out of 613 in the team.

So, you can see the impact that is already being had. Now, over the course of the games, we can expect more than 11,000 athletes to participate. They're going to be taking part in 33 different sports. And there will be 339 Olympic events held at 43 venues. Plenty of good stats, there isn't it?

And then, the Paralympics a few weeks from now, there is expected to be more than 4,000 athletes participating, in that across 22 sports. Now, for more perspective on just how different the Olympics will be this year, I am going to be speaking with an Olympic historian this hour, next hour, rather. He is experiencing, firsthand, the impact COVID is having in Tokyo, and is being told to quarantine in his hotel. It's not what he expected. Do stick around for that interview, next hour.

Meanwhile, we'll take a quick break here on the program. When we come back from the pandemic is born, pingdemic. A government app is pinging people in parts of the U.K. who might have been exposed to COVID. And those pings are causing a lot of problems.

Also still to come, Indonesia tightens restrictions amid soaring COVID case numbers and a look at how other Asian nations are dealing with a recent rise in infections. All that and more when we come back.

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[02:15:00]

HOLMES: Now, with the Olympic Games kicking off in just a few hours, of course, a lot of people are being fearing that there could be a big COVID outbreak. Cases are already surging in much of Asia fueled by that highly contagious delta variant.

South Korea has announced it will be extending its toughest social distancing measures in the greater Seoul area for another two weeks. CNN's Cyril Vanier has a look now at how other Asian nations are coping with new infections.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CYRIL VANIER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Lockdown in Indonesia. Emergency restrictions in place until July 25th. More than 54,000 new cases were reported Wednesday. The island nation now surpassing India with the most daily infections as the government struggles to vaccinate its population.

Not surprisingly, the delta variant will be the dominant strain over the next few months says the World Health Organization. The highly contagious strain is already in 124 territories.

Like in Bangkok, this was the scene there Tuesday. Hundreds of people, lining up to get the vaccine at a bus station, no social distancing possible here. Thailand is facing its worst COVID outbreak so far.

BAE KYUNG-TAEK, KOREA DISEASE CONTROL & PREVENTION AGENCY (through translation): Currently, South Korea is in the middle of the fourth wave and the outbreak of more than 1,000 patients per day continues for more than 15 days.

VANIER (voice-over): This is what hospitals in South Korea have been dealing with. It's also their worst outbreak. The government says it may expand lockdown restrictions in Seoul.

More than 500 flights were canceled at a major airport in eastern China. Seventeen cleaning workers tested positive for the virus. The city says it's now on a soft lockdown as it tests all of its 9 million residents.

Oxygen cylinders are hard to come by in Myanmar. Patients are being turned away at hospitals due to a bed shortage. The ruling junta, reporting a steep rise in cases. This, as the country remains in crisis after February's military coup.

Coronavirus misinformation, now a big problem in India. One radio station uses the airwaves to raise awareness.

ARCHANA KAPOOR, FOUNDER, RADIO MEWAT: The radio really took it on itself to communicate to the community that this is a problem, it's a global problem, there is a lot of fake news, do not follow that.

VANIER (voice-over): Getting ahead of the problem, convincing people to get the vaccine, just as important is tackling the disease itself. Cyril Vanier, CNN. (END VIDEOTAPE)

HOLMES: Now, in parts of the United Kingdom, there are growing concerns over what's being called, a pingdemic. A record number of people across England and Wales were pinged by the NHS' test and trace app and told to self-isolate because they had been in close contact with someone who has COVID.

Almost 620,000 users were pinged from July 8th to the 14th. It's a lot of people. Now during that same period, more than a quarter million people, tested positive for COVID, a 33 percent increase from the previous week. And that marks the highest weekly number of new infections since January. CNN's Anna Stewart picks up the story.

ANNA STEWART, CNN REPORTER: Monday was so-called Freedom Day here in England. Many restrictions were also lifted in England and Wales and it was hope that this would be a boom for businesses who spent well over a year now in and out of lockdowns.

Unfortunately, though, they are spacing staff shortages due to the so called pingdemic. And it all relates to this. This is the NHS test and trace app which pings its users if they have been in close proximity to someone who later test positive for COVID-19 and advises that user to self-isolate for up to 10 days.

Advises is actually not legally binding. However, this app has been in overdrive in recent weeks. The latest weekly data show that over 600,000 people in England and Wales were advised to self-isolate by the app. They were pinged and that has resulted in many businesses either having to close.

The cafe around the corner for me had to close due to a lack of staff, and also supermarkets is where we are seeing it really quite visibly. Empty supermarket shelves in some areas. We've spoken to Co-op, Lidl, Tesco here behind me, and they say the staff in their shops or their warehouses are being pinged or is down to the lorry drivers that they rely on for their deliveries.

And that's as you're putting added pressure that those drivers were already facing as a result of Brexit. There is a growing sense of despondency here in London. Some people have told us they never downloaded the app. Some people said they did but they have since deleted it. And some people said they simply wouldn't heed its advice.

UNKNOWN: A lot of it is voluntary. So, even if you get the notice to isolate, it's almost voluntary. I mean, it's not like they're going to re-check on you after they ping you.

[02:20:01]

UNKNOWN: Yes, I don't see it being effective, to be honest because even when people do get messages, people don't, you know, they don't isolate anyway.

UNKNOWN: And I know a few people that do abide by it, but apart from that, I don't see why. I mean, if you don't want to, you don't have to really I guess.

STEWART: The government plans to replace contact self-isolation with testing for those who are fully vaccinated, but not until the second half of August. Some business associations like the CBI, the Confederation of Business Industry would like that to be brought forward, and some associations just received their sector exempt so whether that's retail, or meat processing.

Nearly 70 percent of the U.K.'s adult population are now fully vaccinated. But COVID cases are high and they are rising rapidly and the pings keep on coming. Anna Stewart, CNN, London.

HOLMES: Italy and Israel are fighting a surge in cases of the delta variant with green passes that will keep people who are not vaccinated out of public venues especially those who are indoors. The Israeli prime minister plans to reinstate them in about a week pending a formal approval from the government.

Now, they would apply to everything from synagogues to sporting events, to tourist attractions. Also now, Italy planning to make the green pass mandatory in two weeks. Journalist John Allen reports from Rome on how it might work.

JOHN ALLEN, JOURNALIST: Italy is facing a worrying rise in COVID cases. The government announced some 5,000 new cases today. That's double the weekly total -- the daily total rather of just a week ago. In response, the government has announced that beginning on August 6th, a green pass will become mandatory for accessing most indoor venues in the country.

So, bars, restaurants, concert hall, sports stadiums, swimming pools, gyms, basically any place people gather indoors. So to give you an example of how this is going to work, if you want to go out to a restaurant like the one I'm standing in front of, if you want to eat outside and frankly, most Italians do during the summer, you are fine.

But if you want to go in, you're going to have to have the green pass. And that is proof that you've been vaccinated or proof of a negative COVID test within the last 48 hours, or proof that you've had COVID and recovered within the last six months.

And, you know, in terms of what the agenda here is, what the government is trying to achieve, I think they've made it as clear as humanely possible. Health Minister Roberto Speranza today said that the effort here can be expressed like this; get vaccinated, get vaccinated, get vaccinated. Reporting for CNN from Rome, this is John Allen.

HOLMES: The World Health Organization, meanwhile, calling on African countries to prepare to go all out on vaccinations. Sixty million vaccines expected to arrive on the continent in the coming weeks and when they do, the group says the rollout must pick up speed by at least five times to keep up with this third wave of COVID there. Larry Madowo with more.

LARRY MADOWO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The major issue for low and middle income countries like these in Africa, is that of access and supply of vaccines. There are way more people that need vaccines than those available. So far, the World Health Organization says only 1.5 percent of Africans are vaccinated.

And now, the UNDP, WHO, and the University of Oxford say that vaccine inequality will have a lasting and profound impact for socioeconomic recovery here unless urgent action is taken. And when you look at the latest data, with the exception of South Africa, cases are still up in Africa for the ninth straight week.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MATSHIDISO MOETI, WHO REGIONAL DIRECTOR FOR AFRICA: Let us be under no illusions. Africa's third wave is absolutely not over. A small step forward offers hope and inspiration, but must not mask the big picture for Africa. Many countries are still at peak risk and Africa's unprecedented third wave surged up faster and higher than ever before.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADOWO: The WHO's latest data actually indicates that cases are surging in 21 African countries and this (inaudible) what the director general, Dr. Tedros, has been saying, that vaccine inequality is the biggest obstacle to ending the pandemic and recovering.

And for Africa, that is still a long way off because only vaccines provide that protection. And as one leading doctor, Dr. (inaudible) has been saying repeatedly, a vaccine delayed is a vaccine denied. The end is still far for many in the continent. Larry Madowo, CNN, Nairobi.

HOLMES: Tokyo 2020 just hours away from kicking off. Ahead, the final preparations underway in an attempt to keep the games going as COVID cases surge. You are watching "CNN Newsroom." We'll be right back.

[02:25:00]

HOLMES: And welcome back to our viewers all around the world. I'm Michael Holmes. You're watching "CNN Newsroom." Now, we got more on our top story for you. Just hours away now from watching an Olympic opening ceremony like no other as athletes prepare to march into a stadium almost devoid of spectators.

After years delayed, what should be a world unifying event being overshadowed by fears of COVID. The virus of course raging across Japan. Tokyo reporting nearly 2,000 new infections Thursday, its highest number since January.

And the number of cases linked to the games is rising, at least 110 infections have been detected including several from the Olympic Village. Now as Olympian's gear up to take center stage, so is Japan. The world watching how the country will host the world's biggest sporting event amid this surge in virus cases. CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta looks at the challenges it faces.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) SANJAY GUPTA, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was never going to be easy, the Olympic Games in the middle of a pandemic in a city now in a state of emergency. The usual fanfare, muted, making way for concerns over COVID-19.

(On camera): While it is true that no country in the world was really prepared for this pandemic, Japan fared better than most. They are an island nation. It wasn't that hard to get people to isolate here. People wore masks without much difficulty. And they also have hundreds of these, hokenjo's. Think of them like hundreds of CDC's all over the country.

(Voice-over): I spoke with the director of one of these hokenjo's, Dr. Itaru Nishizuka.

ITARU NISHIZUKA, DIRECTOR, SUMIDA HEALTH CENTER (through translation): We have been preparing for 7 years to prevent risks for the Tokyo Olympics.

GUPTA (on camera): According to a poll, about 80 percent of residents here in Japan did not want the Olympics to happen here at this time. What about you? What do you think?

NISHIZUKA (through translation): In 1964, the last Tokyo Olympics, because Japan lost the war, the games worked as an opportunity for us to come back. In this Olympics, we have Fukushima.

GUPTA (voice-over): He is talking about the nuclear disaster triggered by a magnitude 9.1 earthquake that claimed nearly 20,000 lives. But coronavirus has been a different type of disaster, putting constant pressure on Japan to battle rising infections and to get vaccines into arms as fast as possible.

[02:29:58]

TOSHIRO MUTO, CEO, TOKYO 2020: The coronavirus cases may rise or fall. So we will think about what we should do when the situation arises.

[02:30:00]

GUPTA: Canceling the Olympics at this point seems inconceivable. But there is one thing Dr. Nishizuka does worry about.

Dr. NISHIZUKA (through translator): I think Japan can be rated as C for its measure against COVID-19. He says while there are 400 ICU beds in Tokyo, only half are available for COVID-19 patients. That combined with the rising number of cases and hospitalizations, doesn't leave a lot of room for a surge in a city of 14 million.

GUPTA: Is there a criteria by which you would start to become concerned?

DR. BRIAN MCCLOSKEY, COVID-19 ADVISER TO THE INTERNATIONAL OLYMPIC COMMITTEE: Sure, mostly what we look at is changes in patterns. So let's say if we started to see infection in people who weren't part of a close contact group, if we started to see a rising number of cases, if we started to see the cases doubling more - more rapidly than we thought, and particularly if we started to see cases appearing in the local population that seemed to be linked back into the village or vice versa.

GUPTA: So far, that hasn't happened. But for the head of the World Health Organization, the Olympics is a balance. The physical health of a nation versus the mental health of the world.

DR. TEDROS ADHANOM GHEBREYESUS, W.H.O. DIRECTOR GENERAL: May the message of hope resound, resound from Tokyo around the world, in every nation, every village and every heart.

GUPTA: Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN, Tokyo.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN HOST: And you can follow the games with CNN's instant coverage on our website. Just point your browser to cnn.com/Olympics. Now still ahead, the battle over the Great Barrier Reef. Australia and the United Nations clash about how to protect this natural wonder. Plus what can G20 leaders accomplish at their climate talks this week in Italy. We'll talk to an expert about that and more next on CNN Newsroom.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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HOLMES: Welcome back. Search crews are still hard at work more than three days after deadly flooding in central China. Some survivors are being trapped in their homes without food, water or electricity. The flooding killing at least 33 people. Hundreds more missing or stranded across Henan province. And you want to know why the authorities weren't better prepared as the region got a year's worth of rain in just three days.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOLMES: UNESCO is scheduled to vote soon on whether to officially label the Great Barrier Reef as endangered. In Australia, they are lobbying hard against the move which could threaten the site's World Heritage status. CNN's Anna Coren is following developments live from Hong Kong.

It's extraordinary. I mean, what are the chances of it being put on this list and tell us about why anyone would want to oppose something like this that would protect the reef?

[02:35:00]

ANNA COREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's a perfectly reasonable question, Michael. I think you know if you are of sound mind, you would say exactly the same thing that this is a living treasure. It's the largest you know, infrastructure, living infrastructure in the world that can be seen from space. It's one of the seven natural wonders of the world.

Why wouldn't you want to do everything in your power to protect it? Well, the Australian Government is going out of its way to do the opposite. UNESCO obviously wants to list it as in danger. And the Australian Government has been fighting that. They've sent their Environment Minister, Sussan Ley on an eight day trip around the world, in a government plane spending God knows how much you know, taxpayer dollars, let alone carbon emissions, to lobby other members on the UNESCO committee.

Now, if you listen to the Australian Press, they will say that the government has got the numbers to push this decision out to at least 2023. But I spoke to Professor Terry Hughes, from James Cook University up in Queensland. His life's work is the Great Barrier Reef and he says he's not so sure, he's definitely believes that it's going to be closed, that decision which could come either in the next few hours, but if it goes through a secret ballot, Michael, it might be pushed until tomorrow.

But he says the reef undoubtedly is in decline and will continue to be in decline, that UNESCO wanted to list it as endangered back in 2014. The government fought it then, said they will bring in all these, you know, plans to make sure that there isn't that water pollution coming in from farms, coming in from properties, coming in from ports.

There are three major ports mining ports along the Great Barrier Reef and now there will be a fourth with the Adani mine, which is being built and will be operational as of the end of the year. You know these pollutants just add to climate change and the calamity that the Great Barrier Reef is facing Michael and many people are saying the Australian Government is putting jobs, industry particularly the mining industry ahead of the health and wellbeing of the Great Barrier Reef.

HOLMES: This is just headshaking stuff. Anna Coren in Hong Kong, good to see you. Thanks, my friend. Now G20 environment and energy ministers are discussing the climate crisis in Naples, Italy, but a source telling CNN they're at an impasse over a commitment to contain global warming, if you can believe that.

There's also concern that wealthier countries aren't meeting their target of providing $100 billion a year to help developing nations adapt to climate change.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FRANS TIMMERMANS, EUROPEAN UNION CLIMATE POLICY CHIEF: Industrialized nations have a responsibility to put the money on the table that was promised in the developing world which is the 100 billion a year. We need to work on that that we - we make good on our promise. European Union does, and I hope we can convince the others first and foremost, the Americans to do the same.

HOLMES: 1000s of flagwaving protesters outside the royal palace of Naples had a similar message for wealthy countries. Act now to end poverty and address the climate crisis.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOLMES: Mindy Lubber is the President and CEO of Ceres. It's a nonprofit that shows Investors and multinational corporations how to factor sustainability risks, like climate change, water pollution, and things like that into what they do and how they invest.

She's also the winner of the 2020 Champions of the Earth award. Mindy, good to have you with us. I wanted to ask, first of all, what do you want to see coming from this meeting of G20 environment and energy ministers.

I mean, there seems to already be resistance by some countries to make firm commitments. What needs to be achieved at the meeting?

MINDY LUBBER, PRESIDENT & CEO, CERES: The meeting tomorrow could not be more important. Five years ago, countries came together and passed the Paris Agreement, a clear message in agreement that we were going to attack and address the climate change problem, which is not easy, but it's a must do. We've learned from COVID as we watch issues impact our entire economy.

Climate change is just that. The Paris Agreement which almost every country in the world signed on to said that we would make major commitments to reduce our emissions, or greenhouse gas emissions number one, and to invest about $100 billion a year by all of the large wealthier company - countries, and use that money to help deal with climate change in parts of the world where it's worse and they don't have resources.

Right now, we're going in tomorrow's debate and discussions without a clear commitment to do anything specific. We're hearing lots of general things, we're hearing we want to act, we should act, but we're not seeing anything that suggests we're going to put those $100 billion commitments on the table and make good on them. And we're not seeing countries agreed to limit coal. And we've got to stop the use of coal power.

[02:40:00]

HOLMES: Exactly. And there's also this. As you say this imperative for wealthier countries to help poorer companies - countries live up to their commitments as well. That's a responsibility. When you look at the - the terrible floods in Europe. You had Germany's Angela Merkel this week, saying Germany isn't doing enough. You've got the fires in the U.S. and so on.

My question is, do you see enough urgency on climate change mitigation given the extremes the world is already seen?

LUBBER: Michael, it is the right question. What we are seeing now, every day, things that used to be called 100 year storms, meaning they happen every hundred years are happening every year. The floods in Germany, the drought in and the heat waves in Canada, the fire fires in the United States of America, these things are costing hundreds of billions of dollars, lives are being lost. And we're going to see more and more of that every day.

It's not easy to take on this issue. But it will be 1000s of times more difficult if we don't take it on. If we think about what our kids are going to face as soon as 2015, we're not talking about hundreds and hundreds of years from now, we are delivering a world to our kids and an economy to our future. That absolutely can't work if we don't stop climate change now, because at some point as science tells us we've got about 10 years to mitigate and to bring down our emissions substantially.

At some point it gets too bad, too difficult to meet those goals of the Paris Climate Agreement, which says we've got to get to 1.5 degree world.

HOLMES: Yes, and spending money on the preparation and mitigation now is not money wasted. It's a lot cheaper than rebuilding every time I wanted to quickly ask you too about what is so important, the human aspects of all of this. I mean, we're already seeing climate refugees, we're seeing forced migration because of rising waters, various calamities, food scarcity, and so on, it could lead to conflict as well.

LUBBER: You have put your finger exactly on it. This is not, it's not just a planetary issue. Although the planet is everything. It really will determine whether or not we're able to grow the food we need. Whether or not people can live in low lying countries, where there are going to be more floods and more storms.

Think about the political unrest of the last year where people didn't like immigration from one country to another. The climate problem will make the immigration problems of now look small, we will see hundreds of millions of people being displaced. We've got to make sure we build a world where they're not being displaced, and we're not ruining our economy. And we're not ruining truly the lives of our kids. The urgency of now is incredible.

Tomorrow when the G7 leaders meet, they need to act they need to be specific, and they need to put dollars on the table.

HOLMES: The thing that always strikes me is it's not like we haven't been warned for like decades. I wish we had more time Mindy, but we don't. Mindy Lubber, thanks so much. Really appreciate it.

LUBBER: Great. Thank you.

HOLMES: Thanks for spending part of your day with me. I'm Michael Holmes. You can follow me on Twitter and Instagram @HolmesCNN. World Sport coming up next, I'll see you in about 20 minutes or so with more World News.

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