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How Far Will Trump Go on Environmental Policy?; The Future of U.S.- Chinese Relations; Americans in Nashville Welcomes Iraqi-Kurdish Family
Aired February 10, 2017 - 14:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[14:00:00] JONATHAN MANN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm Jonathan Mann, this is "CNN News Now."
Donald Trump says he will announce new steps next week to keep the U.S. safe. U.S. president made the remark during a White House news conference
with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
Earlier, a White House officials said nothing is off the table about a possible new executive order travel ban. Thursday night, a U.S. Appeals
court refused to reinstate the president's suspended ban.
Mr. Abe is in Washington to strengthen ties between Japan and the U.S. The prime minister says he and Mr. Trump agreed to map out a framework for new
economic talks. A little later, among with their wives, they'll travel to the president's Florida resort to play some golf.
There are new questions over U.S. national security adviser Michael Flynn's phone call with Russia's ambassador. An aide now says Flynn cannot be
certain whether he talked about U.S. sanctions with the ambassador or not before the inauguration. If such a discussion happened while another
administration was still in office, it could be illegal.
French investigators said they've stopped an imminent terror attack, arresting four people during raids in three cities. Among them, a 16-year-
old girl. The source tells CNN, the plotters were making the same explosives used in the Paris and Brussels attacks. The girl had pledged
her allegiance to ISIS.
That's your "CNN News Now." AMANPOUR is next. You're watching CNN, the world's news leader.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST: Tonight, a climate of change. Republican brandies propose a new carbon tax as Donald Trump threatens to slash U.S.
environmental regulations. We hear from the self-proclaimed number one enemy of climate change alarmism, the former Trump adviser Myron Ebell and
on the other side Christiana Figueres, who shepherded the landmark U.N. Climate Change Accord.
Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the special weekend edition of our program. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London. A global warning this week.
Climate scientists, the world over, are ringing alarm bells about how the earth could change under a Donald Trump presidency.
He's called climate change a hoax. He's threatened to pull out of the Paris Climate Accord. He's muzzled U.S. scientist from publicly posing
their climate findings. And on top of that, Trump has nominated a climate skeptic Scott Pruitt to head the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. And
a new action plan includes reducing regulations such as carbon emission rules and slashing nearly $200 million in climate programs.
Is that all bad news? What will the reaction be? This week, we spoke to Myron Ebell, who drafted those ideas as a member of Trump's transition and
also we spoke to Christiana Figueres, who was instrumental in delivering the U.N.'s climate accord.
AMANPOUR: Mr. Ebell, welcome to the program. Let me get right to the heart of it. What do you expect to see happen first and foremost at the
EPA, because, you know, the word is that the president wants to eventually abolish it.
How do you think that's likely to proceed?
MYRON EBELL, FORMER TRUMP ADVISOR: Let me begin by saying I'm not part of the Trump administration so I don't represent or speak for it.
President Trump during the campaign made a number of very clear promises. He said the U.S. will withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement, will
defund U.N. climate programs and will undo and withdraw President Obama's climate action plan.
Those are some of his key commitments. There are quite a few others on energy and the environment including releasing American energy production
from the constraints that the Obama administration has imposed.
So I think you're going to see a lot more coal and oil and gas production from the United States and you're going to see the U.S. getting rid of its
AMANPOUR: It's a real 180 change that you're proposing and describing. I know you're not part of the administration, but I believe you did advise
Donald Trump on climate and the environment during the transition.
So can I ask you based on what you're saying now, you know, the military, for instance believes that there is climate change happening. The
independent government accountability office had a survey of military assets back in 2014. And it says that the military is experiencing severe
[14:05:05] For instance, this Air Force base on a dry lake bed in the American southwest, which is getting flash flooding these days, Fort Irwin
in the Mojave desert and in Alaska here, we're thawing permafrost, decreasing sea ice and rising sea levels are damaging this early warning
I mean, one of the most important, whatever, organizations in the United States believes it is a threat and it's trying to take measures against
that. What do you say to that?
EBELL: I think that the Department of Defense, who are not scientists just like I'm not a scientist, ought to look at the fifth assessment report
volume on impacts where you will see that there is no evidence of increases in severe weather events such as storms, floods, droughts, that the rate of
sea level rise is within the historic range in the 19th and 20th centuries. And that the environmental challenges that the Defense Department has have
very little to do with climate change.
AMANPOUR: You know, look, I hear what you're saying and as you know, you know, practically 99 percent of the scientific evidence basically disputes
that and is in line with these threats by manmade climate change.
But I want to ask you even if you don't believe that, there have been many, many big business leaders and entrepreneurs in the United States who say
that whatever is happening, you know, climate is changing and perhaps one way of bringing jobs to America, making America great again would be to
invest in green technology, the green environment, the green economy. I mean, surely on that level it must ring a bell with you.
EBELL: There is a huge climate industrial complex in the United States and Europe that stands to make billions of dollars, tens of billions of
dollars, hundreds of billions of dollars from raising people's energy prices.
These crony corporatists are the people Donald Trump ran against when he ran for president and he won the election over their opposition. They
supported the policies of Secretary Clinton. So I think there's -- as you said it's a 180 degree turn and it's against these big corporations that
hope to benefit off the backs of consumers and producers.
AMANPOUR: But you could also say that the big fossil fuel industry hopes to benefit from the reverse of all of this.
I want to ask you specifically about the president, because he said he cares about the environment and he was quite particular about how he put
that. Just listen and we'll talk about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I mean, my primary thing with the environment -- immaculate air, beautiful clean air, and crystal
clean water. That's it. Once you go beyond that, you start to lose all of us, OK?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So he's saying he likes all, you know, the clean and beauty of a managed environment, but as you say he doesn't want to go the extra yard
But the thing is if we put up pictures now that show, you know, what fuel looked like and other places looked like before regulations and before the
EPA went into effect, I mean it was really horrible.
Smog, you could barely see the clouds for the smokestacks and you're talking about bringing back the coal industry and this and that.
What do you expect will happen when all of that comes back? What do you expect our environment and our water and our air will look like?
EBELL: President Trump said during the campaign that he wants to concentrate on the core missions of the EPA, which is to provide clean air
and water for the American people. In fact, that is being done. Most of that work is being done at the state level. About half of the EPA's budget
goes directly through to state grants.
He said he wants to continue those grants. He wants to cut the bureaucracy in Washington that seems to have a lot of time to deal with issues that are
not core issues like climate change.
So I think there's a big room for savings while still protecting the environment and providing clean air and clean water.
AMANPOUR: Or I will discuss -- I just want to ask one thing and you have been asked before, what if you're wrong?
EBELL: Well, you know, what if the alarmists are wrong, who are denying the benefits of affordable abundant energy to billions of people around the
world, who live in energy poverty.
There are over 1 billion people who don't have any electricity. There are a couple billion more who have very little electricity. And the policies
being pursued in Europe and have been in the United States really consign these people to perpetual energy poverty.
So what if they are wrong and we waste these trillions of dollars and deny them the benefits of modern civilization.
[14:10:00] AMANPOUR: Very quickly, I hear that. What if you're wrong?
EBELL: If I'm wrong, we have -- I would say the policies being proposed today to deal with global warming are a dead end. They cannot possibly
If I'm wrong, technological innovation in free markets is the way that will solve this problem as it solves all other environmental challenges. So if
we have global cooling, global warming or some other challenge, it's a free people in free markets innovating that will solve the problem.
AMANPOUR: Myron Ebell, thank you very much for joining me from Washington.
EBELL: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: And we're going to turn now to Christiana Figueres, who is the U.N. climate chief, and you helped, as I said, shepherd in the landmark
CHRISTIANA FIGUERES, U.N. CLIMATE CHIEF: I was the U.N. chief.
AMANPOUR: What did I say? I said that. You was. You was. You were. Let's not waste our valuable time.
You heard that. United States is a huge contributor right now to trying to get their head around climate change and all of that. Do you see the Paris
climate change unravelling as Myron Ebell just laid out?
FIGUERES: No, I don't. For one thing, we have actually moved beyond ideology. We were now at the fundamentals of climate change action, which
actually are about economics.
And most countries, with a couple of exceptions, have actually decided that this is in their economic interest, that this is actually at $30 a megawatt
hour this is actually cheaper than fossil fuels so it is better, it is cheaper, it is much more healthy.
You can't have clean air if you're still burning coal. So you have health, you have much cheaper electricity, you have better food production. You
have so many other benefits that are coming that most countries have decided this is in their economic interest ideology aside.
AMANPOUR: OK, ideology aside maybe, but the practical effects of the leader of the world's only super power not believing as you believe and
talking very clearly at least certainly from his adviser's, former adviser's perspective, of a 180 on regulations pulling the U.S. out of its
obligations under the Paris Climate Accord.
What does that do for the accord and for slowing the temperature rise?
FIGUERES: First of all, he, himself, has said, Mr. Ebell doesn't speak for the administration so we have to wait and see. But even if the United
States decides to pull out, it means four years of legal work to pull out of the Paris agreement --
AMANPOUR: So it's not that easy.
FIGUERES: It's not very easy, no, unless they pull out of the convention, which is -- so there are many different ways of doing it. But in any
event, let's leave the administration to decide what they are going to do.
Even if they pull out one way or the other, it is not going to change the direction of the global economy. The direction towards decarbonization is
set and it's not set by ideology, it is set by economics and it is set by the advance of technology.
The fact is that technology is moving for renewable energies much more than for fossil fuel. That is the way that we are advancing.
AMANPOUR: Mr. Ebell brought up why consign other countries to poverty. For instance, he mentioned India and other places.
China on the other hand has spoken out very forcefully. I mean, it took a long time to get China into the climate change tent and now it insists on
Could China be the leader if the U.S. relinquishes that? What would that mean?
FIGUERES: Very much. And this has to do with jobs actually, OK. That -- China is interested because of jobs and obviously because of health and
quality of air. Why jobs?
Let me just use the example of the United States, OK.
The fact is that one out of every 50 new jobs across the board all sectors, all technologies are in solder today in the United States, competing
against every other job. One in every --
AMANPOUR: In solar.
FIGUERES: In solar, not even just all renewable, just in solar.
In fact, to the point where there are more jobs in solar than in everything together combining oil, coal and gas in the United States.
Now, which is the one job that is on the fastest growth into the future? Wind energy technology and technician. Wind technician is actually the one
job in the United States that is going farther because that's the new wave beyond after solar. This is about creating jobs. This is about really
understanding where are we going to be 20, 30 years from now.
And if the United States decides that they are going to take away the carrots, the incentives that the corporations in the United States have
right now, to invest in these technologies and pull out and diminish the capacity of the United States to export these technologies, any deficit in
the market is actually filled in by someone else.
So if that offer of technologies is pulled out of an increasing demand globally, it's going to be substituted very quickly by China and India
because they have an industry that is competent and competitive. And they will move in very quickly. They in fact already are.
AMANPOUR: It's really fascinating. It's amazing that this debate has been reopened. Really, really interesting at this moment.
[14:15:05] Christiana Figueres, former U.N. climate chief, thank you very much indeed.
FIGUERES: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: When we come back, we look to challenges for the east and west as tensions steadily rise between China and the U.S. Is war really on the
cards? We dig into the harsh warnings coming from Beijing. That's next.
AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program.
In a major concession that has sent a sigh of relief around Asia, President Donald Trump has now agreed to honor the "One China" policy, that is
underpinned relations for decades.
Late in the night, Trump finally had a phone call with the Chinese President Xi Jinping. The White House says Trump reaffirmed U.S.
commitment to that policy at Xi's request.
Now the controversy, of course, began right after the election when Trump spoke with Taiwan's president. This latest call with Xi was described as
extremely cordial and it is what many experts have been urging especially since earlier this week China's "People's Daily," the mouthpiece of the
communist party warned that a possible disastrous war could be on the horizon if the two nations couldn't find a way to work together.
U.S. officials were especially worried, and I started the week asking the former China official in the Obama administration, Evan Medeiros, about
what it would take to get the relationship back on course. Recognizing "One China" he said, which as we know by the end of the week has indeed
AMANPOUR: Evan Medeiros, welcome to the program.
EVAN MEDEIROS, SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO OBAMA ON CHINA: Thank you, it's great to be here, Christiane.
AMANPOUR: Could we just start with this paper, "The People's Daily," which is described as a mouthpiece of the communist party putting out some pretty
dire warnings about possible confrontations and the disaster that a military conflict would entail for the world.
How do you read and assess that warning from Beijing?
MEDEIROS: Well, fundamentally that editorial is focused on promoting a narrative of greater U.S. China cooperation. It fundamentally signals
anxiety on the part of the Chinese leadership.
They are very concerned about what they see as uncertain signals coming from the Trump administration. He's packed the administration with a
variety of advisers that are very well-known China hawks and he himself, the president himself has articulated a variety of positions that concern
Beijing in particular on the Taiwan issue.
So at the core of the Chinese leadership is very nervous because they are worried about a period of instability in the U.S.-China relationship.
AMANPOUR: Let me ask you about the next thing that presumably you all think is very, very difficult and that is the whole idea of the South China
Seas or these islands.
You know, during a confirmation hearing, Rex Tillerson said the following and let us play it for you about what the U.S. would do to protect those
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REX TILLERSON, SECRETARY OF STATE: Building islands and then putting military assets on those islands is akin to Russia's taking of Crimea.
It's taking of territory that others lay claim to. We're going to have to send China a clear signal that, first, island building stops and, second,
your access to those islands is also not going to be allowed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: That's a pretty belligerent thing to say. What does that actually practically mean when a secretary of state says that?
[14:20:00] MEDEIROS: Well, that's very robust language. It's basically drawing a red line and saying that the U.S. would be prepared to block aid
these seven artificial islands in the South China Sea.
Now the key fact is that the administration has already started to walk back from that very robust commitment in Tillerson's subsequent written
statements to the Senate. He softened it and then of course when General Mattis was in Japan last week, he talked about how the U.S. military
doesn't need to take any precipitous actions on the South China Sea.
So I think we're not likely to see these kinds of robust statements because the administration is clearly recognized that they are not prepared to go
to war with China over the South China Sea.
AMANPOUR: You know, there's so much -- people say that the relationship between the United States and China is going to be the most important
relationship, you know, going forward.
MEDEIROS: Last Friday, the national security adviser talked to one of Xi Jinping's top foreign policy advisers. That's interesting. But I think
that it's unlikely that Xi Jinping is going to get on the phone with Donald Trump until he can get two assurances.
Number one that Donald Trump is prepared to reaffirm the "One China" policy, because otherwise, it would be a huge political vulnerability for
Xi Jinping during a very sensitive year of leadership transition in China.
And number two, that Xi Jinping is not going to be embarrassed by Donald Trump. The Chinese look at what happened in the phone call with the
Australian Prime Minister Turnbull and they are very surprised by that. And they wonder to themselves if U.S. president is going to treat U.S.'s --
one of the U.S.'s closest allies in Asia, Australia like that, then what does that mean for China and potentially other countries in the region?
So I think it's essential for the U.S. president and Chinese president to develop a working relationship because there's so much on the table right
now from North Korea, to economics, to Taiwan, to South China Sea. But I think that it's probably going to take some time to develop that
relationship and it will be interesting to see when they actually talk because it probably will require the Taiwan issue to be addressed
AMANPOUR: And very briefly, many people are suggesting that pulling out of the TPP, you know, sort of talking against free trade deals and obviously
talking against the sort of climate deal is going to de facto hand China a sort of leadership role certainly in the region on these issues.
Do you see that happening? A vacuum being created that China would fill?
MEDEIROS: I think that's to robust a claim that a vacuum is created. There's no question that China has an opportunity to present itself as an
advocate for globalization. But, of course, the reality is the way the Chinese operate their own economy restricting access, adopting mercantilist
policies, you know, begs the question about really whether or not they can represent a new phase of globalization given their mercantilist tendencies.
But it's an opportunity for China.
Xi Jinping, to his credit, is grabbing this opportunity. That's why he went to Davos, but we'll have to see going forward whether or not the
Chinese are able to turn the opportunity into a reality.
You know, the Chinese are actually going to have to go out and negotiate trade and investment agreements that are mutually beneficial for the
AMANPOUR: Evan Medeiros, thank you so much for joining us, of course, with that important report out today.
MEDEIROS: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: Thank you so much.
AMANPOUR: When we come back, with Trump's on again, off again Muslim ban, imagine American people warmly welcoming the refugee family that finally
made it through the immigration maze. Next.
[14:25:23] AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, imagine a world of good will. This week, Americans gave the world a kinder view of their hospitality. In
Nashville, Tennessee, the capital of country, their welcome must have been music to the ears of an Iraqi-Kurdish family.
Because like in airports across the country, ordinary Americans have been feverishly working to help visitors make it through Donald Trump's Muslim
ban. And here in Nashville, they were on hand to welcome this family to America as Matthew Torres reports.
MATTHEW TORRES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It took more than a week, but Fuad Suleman and his wife and three kids have finally arrived to
Nashville International Airport, where a might outpouring of support from local leaders to strangers.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They are coming here for a new life and that's what we have always come here for and they deserve it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just welcome, we're glad you're here and we hope you enjoy your new life.
TORRES: Despite having a special visa to enter the U.S., the family was asked to go back to Iraq after the president's travel ban last week.
Suleman, a former interpreter for the U.S. government in Iraq had undergone two years of vetting and already sold his house. Unable to get in only
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You don't punish everybody for what somebody did.
TORRES: After a federal judge reversed the executive action and advocacy groups and government officials speaking up, Suleman and his family were
given the permission to come to Nashville.
Mayor Megan Barry, Congressman Jim Cooper and actress Connie Britton joined large crowd in welcoming them.
FUAD SULEMAN, FORMER INTERPRETER FOR U.S. IN IRAQ: The amount of support that you have showed and your open arms make this day very, very
exceptional day for me.
TORRES: Suleman says it's been a long process, but they are just ready to settle down in a city that so far welcomes them with open arms.
SULEMAN: Please allow me to thank all the people of America, all those who help me, supported me, especially my fellow Syrians --
AMANPOUR: Activists and citizens fighting for the rights of refugees who have already undergone extensive vetting just another reminder that it can
take up to two years to get through the process.
And that is it for our program tonight. Remember, you can always listen to our podcast, see us online @Amanpour.com and follow me on Facebook and
Twitter. Thanks for watching and good-bye from London.