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Taliban Accused Of Murdering Pregnant Policewoman; Taliban Claim Control Over Disputed Panjshir Valley; How Life Has Changed Under The Taliban Rule In Rural Areas; Coup Leaders In Guinea Meet With Senior Government Officials; Conservatives Look To American Right For Inspiration; Taliban Celebrate Takeover In Streets Of Kabul. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired September 07, 2021 - 00:00   ET




JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: Hello everyone, I'm John Vause. Ahead on CNN NEWSROOM, the last redoubt to a total television takeover has now fallen. With the hardline Islamic extremists firmly in control, a new government seems imminent and reports the growing of violence against women.

Down in the polls and facing electoral defeat, the Trump of the tropics turns to the masters' playbook. With accusations he's encouraging his supporters to stage a coup.

And Australia's blunt message on climate change when it comes to carbon emissions from their exported coal, we don't care.

The Taliban fighters raising their flag in Panjshir province, the takeover of Afghanistan appears complete coming a week since the total U.S. military withdrawal.

But the leader of the National Resistance front, the last real anti- Taliban force in the country says the fight is not over. He's calling on Afghans to join a national uprising and the Taliban appear closer to announcing a new government possibly in a few days. According to one spokesman who added that a caretaker government may be needed.

All this comes as concerns grow for women under Taliban rule. Details have emerged about the murder of a pregnant police woman; her son says she was stabbed to death in front of her family by Taliban fighters Saturday night.

Taliban leaders denied the accusation. They say an investigation is underway.

CNN's Anna Coren has covered Afghanistan for years. She was recently in Kabul, she joins us now live from Hong Kong with more.

Anna, there are some reports, Anna, that the Taliban fighters who killed the police woman was speaking Arabic. They don't speak Arabic in Afghanistan. So, this raises some disturbing possibilities about where these Taliban fighters are from and do they follow the orders coming from Kabul?

ANNA COREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, we've always known that foreign fighters have been part of the Taliban. Certainly, they've had safe haven in Pakistan. That was where the military wing of the Taliban were, was they waged this 20-year war in Afghanistan, you know, against America, against international forces.

But from other countries as well, certainly, these jihadists if you like, attracted to the Taliban and what they represent their extreme form of interpretation of Islam and of Sharia law.

So, I don't think that should come as any surprise, but this brutal murder of this police woman who was eight months pregnant. Her son says that she was killed by the Taliban, the Taliban claim that they are not responsible, but it's the Taliban that is now in control of the country.

This happened in Ghor province in central Afghanistan, and it certainly raises questions, John, as to how women will be treated, particularly women in positions of power, or at least were under previous government.

You know, John, I was speaking to a female judge in Afghanistan yesterday. She is one of the 250 female judges that used to -- used to work. She also, along with her colleagues presided over cases of murder, of divorce, of rape, of sexual violence, sentencing these men and putting them in jail.

Well, those people, those criminals are now out, and many of them are looking for revenge. There are grave fears for these women and what is the Taliban going to do?

We've heard from the Taliban that have said, you know, women should stay at home. They should not come out into public because their fighters don't know how to treat women. There's concern that they will be mistreated.


COREN: We know that women cannot be part of this future government. They will not be ministers, they won't have any senior positions.

And so, women are being oppressed already. We're seeing it in universities where men and women obviously have to be divided and they're putting up these petitions in classrooms and men and women now have to come through a separate entrances.

We've seen the protests, you know, incredible protests breakout in Kabul over the weekend, where were some women were struck by Taliban members.

And then, yesterday, in Mazar-i-Sharif, up in the north, you know, women are defying the Taliban. You know, and one activist John that I spoke to yesterday said the international community cannot give up on women.

VAUSE: Absolutely. Anna, thank you. Anna Coren live for us in Hong Kong. Thank you.

Robert Baer is a CNN Intelligence and Security Analyst and former CIA operative and is with us once again from Telluride in Colorado. Bob, welcome back. Good to see you.


VAUSE: OK, so here's the Taliban spokesman claiming success in finally taking control of the Panjshir Valley. Here he is.


ZABIHULLAH MUJAHID, TALIBAN SPOKESMAN (through translator): The last nest of the fugitive enemy was completely clear today and last night. All the forces of the Islamic Emirate are present in Panjshir.


VAUSE: Anti-Taliban forces are disputing that. According to a statement, they claim -- the Taliban's claim of occupying Panjshir is false. National Resistance front forces are present in all strategic positions across the valley to continue the fight.

This is not the 1990s, back then, the Northern Alliance controlled all the supply lines from Tajikistan into the Panjshir valley. This time around, the Taliban do.

So, whether it is what the Taliban say, that's a complete victory, it's over and done now, or whether there are still fighters who are, you know, still in position, this does seem that it is all pretty much over (INAUDIBLE), this is just a matter of days at best, right?

BAER: Exactly, John, I mean, the Taliban have the valley floors and the major towns and villages, but don't forget, this is -- I call these mountains Badakhshan. They're very high and it's very easy for fighters to keep moving up and hold small, narrow valleys.

I mean, it's not going to make much difference to the Taliban. But yes, that's fine, as Massoud got some people up there still fighting. But you know, it's a very small guerrilla force at this point. And it's certainly not in a position to take back the Panjshir Valley.

VAUSE: So, does this represent pretty much the last of all of the anti-Taliban forces in the country? I mean, at one point, there were warlords or a different factions, and the remnants of the Afghan National Army. And is this anything more than a symbolic win for the Taliban?

BAER: No, it's important. It's a very important symbolic when -- I mean, they've -- the Panjshir's held out against the Soviets, that held out against the Taliban before and having lost that.

I mean, they clearly are in control of the country, but in Afghanistan, that it's never over. I mean, this is a very divided country and there's a lot of guns out there. And at any moment, any one of these groups can take up a resistance. And it's anybody's call what will happen at the end of it.

But John, right now, the Taliban look like a different force than they were in 1996. They're fairly moderate. They're not blowing up, you know, museums or Bamiyan -- the Buddha Bamiyan, none of that.

So far, they're not beheading people. They're under the influence of Gulf countries in a large way. And believe it or not, they're trying their best to, you know, keep a lid on this country.

Now, whether that'll last or not, I can't tell you.

VAUSE: Well, with that in mind, the leader of the NRF Ahmad Massoud appealed to the people of Afghanistan. He said, we are asking that all our brothers and sisters in all parts of the country for the sake of saving the country, rise up and make a stand.

You know, there was no -- you know, any kind of resistance from the Taliban where we're beginning that military offensive and doing that massive sweep across the country. Some kind of popular uprising at this point. Seems kind of unlikely, doesn't it?

BAER: It's very unlikely and look, I mean, the posh -- they're Pashtun, that's what the Taliban are. We keep forgetting that they're Pashtuns. They're a rural people. They're in a way a very primitive people because they live out in the middle of nowhere in mud huts. They're great fighters. And -- but the other half of the country or a diff -- ethnic group, you've got the Hazara, which are Mongols or Shia Muslims. You got the Tajiks which there are different ethnic group.

So, all these groups right now, they're just waiting to see what the Taliban is going to do. If the Taliban turns on, for instance, the Shia, there's about four million of them, you're going to see a resistance in the same way with the Tajiks, which is, you know, they're up at 30 percent of the population or more.


BAER: By the way, John, I think it's very interesting that there's no census in Afghanistan, because it's so sad -- it's so sensitive, the different proportions of the ethnic groups.

So, this is always underlying Afghan politics. And today, it's very quiet. They look like their control. But, you know, a couple months from now that -- as I said, that very well could change.

VAUSE: Yes, Bob, thank you. Bob Baer with us today with some good insight into the situation now on what could be happening in the very near future. Thanks, Bob.

BAER: Thank you.

VAUSE: Well, much has changed in Afghanistan in the 20 years since the Taliban last rule. Kabul until last week was a bustling city bankrolled by billions of dollars in foreign aid, but there is still one constant especially beyond those big cities and that is poverty.

CNN's Nic Robertson has our report.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Inside the new Afghanistan in rural Paktika province, far from Kabul, the Taliban's provincial governor has called a meeting, no women to be seen. Local, village elders and tribal chiefs listen. A young boy takes a selfie. Much has changed since the Taliban were last in charge. Smartphones and social media, but poverty still the country's biggest problem.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We have many expectations and we are praying the Taliban will deliver.

ROBERTSON: The week after Kabul fell, our local journalist took a road trip for us to see what was happening outside the Capitol.

Taliban guide showed him the way but the border changes already underway. Part charm offensive giving traders what they want, longer opening hours at the border and part crackdown, keeping men and women apart.

SYED KANDAHARI, TALIBAN BORDER COMMANDER: Let me tell you, before we had one single line for both men and women, now we have two, they are kept apart.

ROBERTSON: Pakistani officials easing into the new relationship backing the segregation.

On this journey, two things become clear, Afghanistan's near financial collapse and the hard switch to religious rule.

Spotting a crowd, the team stop. It's a provincial courthouse. Inside local leaders careful to praise the new boss.

We used to have to go a long way to get to a Taliban court he says, now we have one right here. The new judge in town quite literally laying down the Taliban law, their interpretation of Islamic law.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We asked the previous judges how they used to work. They said they were following the law of the land, not the Sharia. In Islamic Emirate, all court proceedings are according to the Sharia law.

ROBERTSON: Under Taliban rule in the 1990s, the Taliban's Sharia law led to public amputations for thieves, stoning of adulterers, even hanging.

But in the local market, Sharia law is not the big concern. It's making a living.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Business is very bad. We don't know who's in charge. Only low rank people are here. We don't know if we can trust them. They are not telling us anything and the situation has not improved. Prices are going up.

ROBERTSON: In the barber shop, business is down. It's not only me he says, but business is bad in the market. It's not as good as before.

They're not alone. The local pharmacist is also struggling. Stocks already depleted under the last government.

The clinics maternity nurse also worried about finances says the previous government didn't pay her for the past four months and she can't afford to go home.

Closer to Kabul, another doctor, more problems.

Day and night, he says, we get 25 to 30 patients. And we have just one doctor and one nurse for them all.

Outside the hospital, the Taliban claim an alternate reality.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Before you didn't know whether the doctor was coming or not, but now they are there for you all the time.

ROBERTSON: On this trip, the Taliban is prioritizing of Sharia law and bits of charm offensive seemingly missing Afghans most important needs, a secure livelihood.

Nic Robertson, CNN, Islamabad, Pakistan.



VAUSE: Still to come here on CNN NEWSROOM, regime change at the barrel of a gun. Guinea's coup leaders move to consolidate their power.

Also ahead, they don't call him the Trump of the tropics for nothing.

On the eve of Independence Day in Brazil, growing concerns the president down in the polls and facing a tough reelection is urging his supporters to stage a coup.


VAUSE: Welcome back. The acting president of Myanmar's exile National Unity Government is calling for a revolution against the military.

In a social media post, he called the military the people's enemy. Urged citizens to report the army's movements and attack them.

Meanwhile, as military seize power in February, claiming the November election that Aung San Suu Kyi's party won was fraudulent. Activist group say more than a thousand people have been killed by the military in the months since the takeover.

Guinea's coup leaders have promised to establish a transitional government after ousting President Alpha Conde. This is the third country in Western and Central Africa to see a military takeover in the past five months, raising concerns about a return to military rule and a move away from democracy. David McKenzie has our report.


DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: On Monday, the coup leaders in the West African nation of Guinea appear to consolidate their power. They held an extraordinary meeting where they invited and I use that term loosely, senior government officials to chart the way forward for their rule.

Now, the leader of the coup plotters said that they should have unity, that government services should continue and in fact, there is some signs of normalcy with a spokesperson of the coup leaders saying that borders have now reopened.

A very different scene on Sunday, dramatic scenes unfolding in the Capitol with the sustained gunfire over several hours according to witnesses that CNN spoke to where the President Alpha Conde was detained by those soldiers and then taken to an undisclosed location.

At this point, there has been condemnation from the African Union, the regional bloc ECOWAS and most Western nations, in one case, calling it a power grab.

But the outgoing president is unpopular in Guinea, he managed to extend presidential term limits. He was accused of corruption and he won a very disputed poll last year.

That being said, it's unclear if the pressure from outside nations will have any impact on the ground. That meeting with those leaders today in Conakry on Monday will give a bit of legitimacy to this incoming coup leaders, whether they can maintain that power remains to be seen.

David McKenzie, CNN, Johannesburg.


VAUSE: Relatives of the victims of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 have begun testifying in the murder trial of four people accused of downing the plane over eastern Ukraine seven years ago.

Three Russians and Ukrainian are being tried in the Netherlands for their alleged roles in the 2014 crash, which killed almost 300 people. Russia has refused to extradite the suspects and some of the victim's family say the Russian government is complicit in covering up what happened.


VANESSA RIZK, DAUGHTER OF VICTIMS OF MH17 CRASH: It is now time for a conviction. I plead to the court that the victims and their families now receive justice.

To the perpetrators, seven years ago, you broke up my family in the worst way imaginable. Seven years on, I am determined that you will never ever break my spirit and capacity to live and love just as my parents would have wanted me to.


RIA VAN DER STEEN, DAUGHTER OF VICTIMS OF MH17 CRASH (through translator): I know they have died. I know they are gone. But I can only say goodbye when I know that those responsible for their deaths have been identified as the perpetrators. That is my hope in this process, that I can finally see an end to it. Say goodbye and let go.


VAUSE: MH17 was on route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur when it was shut down. International investigators say the plane was hit by a missile fired by pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine. Russia though denies any responsibility.

In Belarus, two prominent opposition activists have been sentenced to prison. Maria Kolesnikova will serve 11 years and Maxim Znak will serve 10 as being convicted in a Minsk court of extremism and illegally trying to seize power.

Kolesnikova was one of three women who led massive protests against President Alexander Lukashenko last year after he claimed victory in disputed elections.

The U.S. and several European countries condemned the court's ruling as well as efforts to silence government opponents.

Well, with possibly an eye on a tough election next year, Brazil's president has introduced new regulations by decree on social media specifically aimed at stopping what is described as the arbitrary removal of accounts and content.

In reality, critics say it would make combating misinformation almost impossible. Some of the content flagged by social networks in recent days include posts from the president himself.

But if it comes on the eve of Brazil's Independence Day and a series of planned rallies both in support of and against the president. Mr. Bolsonaro is also getting some help from some well-connected foreign right wing political allies.

CNN's Isa Soares explains.


ISA SOARES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Splashed across the big screen, Brazil's conservatives look to the American right for inspiration.

DONALD TRUMP JR., GUEST SPEAKER, CPAC BRASIL 2021: Do you go the path of socialism? Or do you remain steadfast and strong for freedom?

SOARES: The Conservative Political Action Conference, CPAC an American import is hoping to revive Jair Bolsonaro's dwindling base as the embattled president faces sliding approval ratings, a weakening economy and public outrage over his handling of the pandemic which has claimed over 580,000 lives.

Luiz Philippe de Orleans e Braganca, a lawmaker and Bolsonaro supporter tells us why the president is seeking a second term in office.

LUIZ PHILIPPE DE ORLEANS E BRAGANCA, BRAZILIAN LAWMAKER: He believes that there is a risk that the radical left will take over Brazil, and that there is a risk of a totalitarian regime to take place in Brazil. And I believe in that too.

SOARES: With an election in Brazil looming large, this relationship with the Trump in a circle has strengthened over the years. And in the Bolsonaro family, the likes of former Trump campaign manager Steve Bannon.

STEVE BANNON, FORMER TRUMP CHIEF STRATEGIST: He's the third son of the Trump of the tropics, President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They say, Eduardo, you are --

SOARES: With Eduardo Bolsonaro making an appearance at the My Pillow CEOs event.

BANNON: Bolsonaro will win unless it's stolen by guess what? The machine.


SOARES: Taking his cue from the Trump playbook, Bolsonaro has been sowing doubt in the integrity of Brazil's entire electronic voting system, calling for printed ballots to supplement electronically cast votes.

JAIR BOLSONARO, BRAZILIAN PRESIDENT: ah you don't have proof there is fraud. But there is also no proof that there isn't either.

SOARES: I'm threatening not to hand over the presidency next year if there's suspicion of fraud.

BOLSONARO: I have three alternatives for my future: being arrested, being killed or vivtory.

SOARES: As the calls for his impeachment grow louder, Bolsonaro continues to fight for political survival. Using the armed forces to project power with a military parade recently in front of the presidential palace, enough to rattle some of Brazil's political dissonance.

AMELINHA TELES, BRAZILIAN ACTIVIST: This is an authoritarian gesture, it's a dictatorial gesture. So, this leaves me very worried, yes, very worried.

SOARES: I found a memo of Brazil's Communist Party. Amelinha Teles says she was a victim of torture during the country's brutal military dictatorship which lasted 21 years. TELES: I lived through persecution, I lived through torture and was

constantly threatened, me and my family. But we also had the joy of seeing the resistance, the people's fight on the streets.

SOARES: Is Brazil's democracy at risk, Amelinha?

TELES: Absolutely, absolutely, unfortunately. We cannot let go of the past and think that what went on, went on and is over. It's not true. The past is very much in the present.


SOARES: Pushing reverse from those who carry the scars of those dark days, and who fear that Brazil's past might just be about to repeat itself.

Isa Soares, CNN.


VAUSE: Still to come on CNN NEWSROOM, life of thousands of Afghans hunted by the Taliban now living in filthy camps outside the capital.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Some people here have fled war, others have fled poverty, but most have fled both.



VAUSE: Welcome back, everyone. I'm John Vause. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM.

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson says more than 300 Afghans who work with British forces will not be left behind. He's also demanding the Taliban to keep their word and respect women's rights and to allow Afghans to leave the country should they wish.

Johnson spoke to Parliament Monday to lay out plans to resettle thousands of refugees. He said Afghans who stood up for democracy and human rights are now under threat and deserve safe passage.


BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: The U.K. is formally launching a separate -- a separate resettlement program, providing a safe and legal route for up to 20,000 Afghans in the region over the coming years with 5,000 in the first year.

We are upholding Britain's finest tradition of welcoming those in need. And I emphasize that under this scheme, we will of course work with the U.N. and aid agencies to identify those we should help as we have done in respect of those who fled the war in Syria.


VAUSE: More than 15,000 people were airlifted from Afghanistan by the British military in the two weeks after the Taliban seized power.

The spokesman for the Taliban says women are back at work in both health care as well as education, and more occupations will be added soon.

But life in the capital has changed dramatically compared to just one month ago.

Lindsey Hilsum from U.K.'s Channel 4 has this report.


LINDSEY HILSUM, U.K. CHANNEL 4 INTERNATIONAL EDITOR: Taliban fighters in Kabul freshly arrived from their victory in the Panjshir Valley. They cruise the streets and rule the roost, young bucks with newly acquired American weapons. It's their moment, their city, their country.

This morning, they raised the Taliban flag in the Panjshir provincial capital. They've defeated the last resistance. The late warlord Ahmad Shah Massoud, the lion of the Panjshir looks down from the walls of the provincial governor's office as the Talib celebrate.


Back in the 1990s, the Taliban never defeated his militia, but today they say they've vanquished fighters under the command of his son.

At a hospital run by the Italian NGO Emergency, the wards are full of injured people. A few years back, Hadya Sadula's (ph) son was paralyzed by a stray bullet. He himself was one of the few people wounded in crossfire as the Taliban entered Kabul three weeks ago.


GRAPHIC: Since the day I was born, my only wish has been for a peaceful country. We want peace and security. We don't want to fight. We don't like fighting we like peace and security.

HILSUM: But the legacy of conflicts is poverty. About 600 families who fled their homes in the provinces are surviving in a filthy field on the outskirts of the capital. Abdul Malik (ph) and his family fled Baghlan after his home was blown up in fighting.


GRAPHIC: The war is over, but I have nothing to go back for. I don't even have 10 afghanis to buy bread. What can I do? If I go home, where should I stay? All I would find is my destroyed home. I have nothing. We are four people, and all we have is God and this tent.

HILSUM: Everyone wants to tell me their story. No food, no work, sons killed. Five million Afghans have been displaced in two decades of war. The U.N. says 18 million, nearly half the population, will need humanitarian assistance this year.

(on camera): Some people here have fled war. Others have fled poverty, but most have fled both. They have lives of terrible deprivation.

This camp was bigger about a week ago, because some people feel that they can now go home, because the war is over. But the people I've been speaking to say they don't dare go home.

And although violence may now be decreasing, because of the terrible economic problems that the Taliban is facing, poverty is only going to get worse, and the humanitarian needs greater than ever.

(voice-over): Yesterday, the head of the U.N. humanitarian agency flew to Kabul to meet the Taliban.

MARTIN GRIFFITHS, U.N. HUMANITARIAN CHIEF: I think they're surprised that they are where they are today. I think we're going to get quite difficult questions of their capacity to rule in terms of humanitarian issues in the coming weeks.

I came here 23 years ago to negotiate the same issues with the Taliban in Kabul in 1998. They're different now, clearly, from then. They're making the right noises. They're making commitments.

HILSUM (on camera) But some people say by doing all this, you're just normalizing these people, and it should not be normalized.

GRIFFITHS: Humanitarians don't normalize. A humanitarian community does not recognize. Humanitarian community is focused on one thing and one thing alone, and that's delivering to the people in need what they need at the right time.

HILSUM (voice-over): Every day, hundreds of people crowd around the banks. They're not getting salaries and can only withdraw a limited amount from their savings. The middle class are becoming poor, and the poor are becoming destitute.


HILSUM: The Taliban are enjoying themselves, but running a country isn't the same as winning a war; and forcing your ideology on people won't feed their families. We'll soon find out what really matters to Afghanistan's new rulers.


JOHN VAUSE, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: And our thanks to Lindsey Hilsum from U.K.'s Channel 4 News for that report.

A Taliban spokesman said Monday the group hopes to announce a new government within a few days.

We'll take a short break. When we come back, climate consequences be damned. Australia's government tells the U.N. when it comes to coal exports, you're not the boss of me.



VAUSE: The actor best known for his role as Omar Little in HBO's "The Wire" has died. Michael K. Williams also appeared in TV hits like "Boardwalk Empire" and "Lovecraft Country."

Fifty-four-year-old Williams was found dead in his home on Monday with drug paraphernalia near his body. In the past, he talked openly about his struggle with substance abuse.

Celebrities and fans are taking to social media to praise the complexity and humanity Williams brought to his many roles. And investigation into the cause of death is ongoing.

A defiant Australian government has brushed off warnings from a top U.N. climate official, reaffirming the country's commitment to the coal industry.

The resources minister said on Monday coal exports will continue well beyond 2030. Australia exported more than $32 billion worth of coal last year, by far more than any other country.

But on Sunday, a U.N. official warned that climate change could wreak havoc on the rest of Australia's economy if more is not done to move away from fossil fuels.

For more, we're joined now by Will Steffen. He's emeritus professor at the Australian National University and a member of the Climate Council of Australia.

Professor, thank you for your time.


VAUSE: So here is the warning that came from the U.N. about climate change and fossil fuels, in particular, about coal. Here's part of it. Listen to this.


SELWIN HART, U.N. ASSISTANT SECRETARY-GENERAL FOR CLIMATE ACTION: It's essential to have a broader, more honest and rational conversation about what is in Australia's interests, because the bottom line is clear. If the world does not rapidly phase out coal, climate change will wreak havoc -- havoc across the Australian economy from agriculture to tourism and right across the services sector.


VAUSE: And here's the response to that call for a rational conversation from the minister for resources, Keith Pitt: "The future of this crucial industry will be decided by the Australian government, not a foreign body that wants to shut it down, costing thousands of jobs and billions of export dollars for our economy."

And in ways that response would be OK if Australia was on another planet with its own environment and its own climate, but sadly, it's not. Can you explain where this disconnect comes from, between the federal government and reality?

STEFFEN: Well, there's a very big disconnect, not only between the federal government and reality, but between the federal government and many, many people here in Australia.

I think the problem is the federal government is driven by two things. One is ideology, a very, very conservative ideology stuck in the past. And vested interests. Basically, the companies that are reaping huge profits off the coal industry.

But if you look at the state level here, if you look across many of our communities, there is growing disgust with our federal government's position. And I think there's a growing move to toss them out the first chance we get at the next election.

VAUSE: But this is a bigger problem than just where the federal government stands. Because when it comes to producing CO2 emissions, Australians are world leaders. They're right up there, per capita, with the United States and Canada, more than three times the global average.

So if the emissions which are being exported to other countries in the form of Australian coal, and added to that total, will decisions coming from Australia have an outsized impact on total CO2 emissions and essentially the future of the planet?

STEFFEN: That's a very good point. Because our exports, the emissions associated with our exports are about 2.5 times greater than our domestic emissions.


When you total that up, we would rank fifth or sixth in the world. Indeed, you're right, we'd be an absolutely major player. So that means we're the big villain now, but if we can get things turned around both domestically and with exports, we could play a major role in trying to get this under control.

VAUSE: I guess, of course, is there the will, though, among Australians themselves? As you said, you know, change governments, to change the way they live their lives?

STEFFEN: That's a very good question, and we're seeing a lot of action at the sub-national level, fortunately. Here in Canberra, where I live, we're already 100 percent renewable, and we have legislated to get the rest of our emissions out by 2040 or 2045.

Other states are moving quickly, too. We're taking up renewables as fast or faster than most countries around the world.

The problem is we've got this huge mismatch, this huge gap between policy at the federal level, between exports, but between what a growing number of Australians really want to have happen here. This is got to come to a head, and the sooner it comes to a head, the better. And hopefully, you'll see some good positive action out of this country in the next few years.

VAUSE: You mentioned the ideology there as being one of the problems. The other problem, too, has been the conservative media in Australia over the years. They've done their best to muddy the waters, to sow doubt over the science around climate change.

A similar story here in the United States. Here's a sample from FOX News.


TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS HOST: The campaign against global warming seems to gone bust. It started as an effort to protect the environment. It is not that anymore.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Their goal is to scare everyone to convince you into, quote, "climate action."

GREG GUTFELD, FOX NEWS HOST: There's something mind-blowing that no one's talking about. Climate change is saving hundreds of thousands of lives.


VAUSE: You know, whether it's Australia or the United States, it's mostly the Murdoch media which are the big players in this. Now the "Sydney Morning Herald" reports that "Rupert Murdoch's Newspapers, 24- Hour News Channel to Champion Net Zero Emissions."

Yes, the headline sounds encouraging. Do you believe this is a real change? There are some who have been salvaged by the Murdoch media in the past who remain very skeptical.

STEFFEN: Yes, I'm also skeptical, too, because I think the -- the real message that's coming out is net zero by 2050. 2050 is nearly three decades down the track.

And as you pointed out, this is an urgent issue. It requires urgent action. And I think that the make-or-break point is going to be this decade, both here in Australia and around other parts of the world. If we don't get emissions down by half, globally, by 2030, we're not going to have a chance at meeting Paris goals.

Here in Australia, as you point out, we are big villains so far. We actually need to do better than get a 50 percent reduction by 2030. I don't think you're going to see the 2030 date at all in the Murdoch press.

I think it's going to be go slowly, go softly. Let's just keep traveling along with fossil fuels for a while longer. So I'm very skeptical that this is going to be any major change in the view of the Murdoch press toward the climate change challenge. VAUSE: Yes, and so much damage has already been done up until this

point. Thank you for being with us. We really appreciate your time.

STEFFEN: My pleasure. Thanks, John.

VAUSE: Take care. Well, thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm John Vause. Please stay with us. WORLD SPORT starts after the break, and then I will be back in about, what, 16 minutes from now. See you soon.






VAUSE: This is CNN NEWSROOM. Hello, everyone. I'm John Vause. Coming up this hour, the last redoubt to a total Taliban takeover has now fallen.