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Isa Soares Tonight
Twenty Countries In Europe Under Heat Alerts As Wildfires Right Across The Continent Wreak Havoc; Two Candidates Remain In The Race To Be Britain's Next Prime Minister; Sri Lanka's Parliament Elects A New President; Lawmakers Elect Ranil Wickremesinghe As Sri Lankan President; Gironde Fire Almost Twice Size Of Paris; U.S. President Joe Biden Announces $2.3 Billion To Help Upgrade Infrastructure. Aired 2-3p ET
Aired July 20, 2022 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
PAULA NEWTON, HOST, ISA SOARES TONIGHT: And a very warm welcome, everyone, joining us. I'm Paula Newton in for ISA SOARES TONIGHT. Twenty countries in
Europe are still under heat alerts as wildfires right across the continent wreak havoc. We'll have the latest then. Just two candidates remain in the
race to be Britain's next Prime Minister. But who will come out on top?
And finally, Sri Lanka's parliament elects a new president, that's despite widespread public opposition will have a reaction from the country's
cabinet. Now, the unprecedented heat wave that smashed records in the U.K. is now moving east across Europe with at least 20 countries currently under
heat alerts. In Greece, firefighters are fighting wildfires on the outskirts of the capital.
Athens, at least, 600 residents have been evacuated, one person has died and 30 people now hospitalized. There are of course similar scenes in
Italy where wildfires are burning in Tuscany and nine cities are now on the country's highest heat wave alert. In Sweden and Germany meantime,
residents are bracing themselves for record heat over the next two days with temperatures set to reach 40 degrees Celsius. CNN's Salma Abdelaziz
has more in a report.
SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN REPORTER (voice-over): It was a long night for firefighters in Greece as they battle to save this neighborhood on the
outskirts of Athens where hundreds were evacuated from their homes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Our first priority remains the protection of human life, but also the protection of critical
infrastructure and public property.
ABDELAZIZ: Europeans are grappling with the climate reality that brings new risks to this region. Spain's emergency unit work through the night to
contain this active wildfire, while some two dozen other fires forced people out of their homes. On a visit to the affected province, Spain's
Prime Minister urged extreme caution in the days ahead.
PEDRO SANCHEZ, PRIME MINISTER, SPAIN (through translator): During this heat wave, according to figures, data shows that more than 500 people have
died due to the high temperatures, in addition to what we are facing as a consequence of the wildfires.
ABDELAZIZ: And after reaching record-breaking temperatures, today, Britons woke up to cooler weather, but also the devastating aftermath of wildfires
in suburbs and villages around London. Tuesday, the London Fire Brigade was stretched to the limit, facing what the mayor called their busiest day
since World War II. This resident described how he resorted to using a garden hose to put out a fire in his neighbor's backyard without success.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was like a tinderbox, and it was getting warmer and warmer. The day before, well, it was, you know, like a few degrees lower,
there was no wind. It was very stifling, but there was no wind. But once the wind picked up yesterday, and obviously the flames are sucking the
oxygen, it's got out of control.
ABDELAZIZ: Local officials are scrambling to prepare for further extreme weather.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because we do know extreme weather is going to be hitting the U.K. more and more as years go by. Down in this part of haven,
we've had quite a few occasions where flooding has been the issue and people have had their homes completely flooded, and we've had that kind of
devastation. Yesterday was unprecedented.
ABDELAZIZ: Wildfires that ravaged two forests in a region near Bordeaux in France, burnt land more than twice the size of Paris. But today, one small
sign of relief. Those fires have now stalled, official figures show. Visiting the devastated region of Gironde, French President Emmanuel Macron
thanked the firefighters for their bravery.
As record temperatures were set across the region this week, Germany is bracing for the possibility of even hotter weather. One thing is certain,
the heat wave is far from over.
NEWTON: And we do get more now from our Salma Abdelaziz, she is in Wellington outside London, and Elinda Labropoulou, who is in western
Greece. And Elinda, we start with you. How are authorities coping, given that I heard that the winds had actually picked up? I know as Salma had
pointed out there that it had already been a long night and a long day.
ELINDA LABROPOULOU, JOURNALIST: Authorities are stressed in the many fires that are burning across Greece, but especially the big fires all around
Athens. The last 24 hours have been hellish for the residents of greater Athens, thousands of people have been evacuated and dozens have lost their
One man has actually died, and from what we understand, he didn't die in the fire, but he died out of desperation, of seeing his house burned for
the third time as his wife told authorities. So, you know, a lot of very emotional scenes also seen across Athens as a result of it. Now, the heat
wave, it seems to be moving east, it seems to be moving towards Greece.
So, the country is really bracing for more hot weather in the next days ahead, and also scorching temperatures really are expected across the
country. But again, finally strong winds make a complete tinderbox out of the country. It's also peak season for tourism here. So, as we understand,
there are a lot of the thousands of tourists spread around Greece.
Last year, it was exactly this time of year that we had a large fire on the island of Euboea that led to evacuation of thousands of people as well. So
authorities are prepared, but yet they are very stretched. Paula.
NEWTON: Yes, I can imagine, there couldn't be a worse time really. And we saw even in that video, Elinda, that we were showing that the winds indeed
had picked up. A bit of a different weather situation for Salma though, where you are. Things have cooled down a little bit today. I was startled
to hear the fire brigade, officials say, it was one of their toughest days in history, nearly a two century history.
As you pointed out, they've gone through World War I and World War II, and still they're saying, this was an unprecedented day. What's going on now
especially given that they do have some relief with the weather.
ABDELAZIZ: Absolutely. I mean, at one point, Paula, every single fire truck that London owns was out responding to calls. They said they
responded to over a 1,000 incidences yesterday that 16 firefighters received heat-related injuries, heat exhaustion injuries. Two of them were
hospitalized. This was absolutely stretching London's fire brigade to its very limit.
Now, I'm just outside Wellington, actually in Wellington rather. You can see that the police cordon there has been shut because they want to keep us
away from those devastated areas. But I know we have pictures to show you of this blaze that was just raging for over 9 hours, dozens of homes
destroyed, thankfully, families, residents were evacuated in time, no one injured there.
But there are other consequences as well of course, across the U.K. that we've been seeing in recent days. The train service, the rail service, the
tube announcing dozens of cancellations and delays, that means businesses have to shut down. That means people have to stay at home. But again,
staying at home is quite dangerous, Paula, because most people here don't have air-conditioning.
So the emergency services are being overwhelmed with people calling in with heat exhaustion-related injuries from being at home. And what you're
looking at right now is yes, European leaders and here in the U.K. of course, officials trying to deal with the heat, and now the reality of
what's happening today. But they have to look ahead. They have to look to the future because this climate crisis is only going to exacerbate these
It means more and more of these days, yesterday was a record-breaking temperature, 104 degrees, more than 40 degrees Celsius, something the city
is not built for, but it was a rare occasion, but that will become less and less rare in the future. And governments have to figure out how do they
respond to that? How do they deal with that?
NEWTON: And that is what they're trying to do now, especially given what you say, right, that you could actually have a small kitchen fire, let's
say, try and call the fire brigade, and they're saying we can't send someone else for anytime. That is definitely a stretching of resources.
Thank you to you, Salma Abdelaziz for us in Wellington, England, and Elinda there for us in Greece, appreciate it.
Now, as we were just saying, right, yesterday, the London Fire Brigade had an unprecedented day, one of the worst since World War II. And as Salma was
just pointing out, more than 40 houses and shops were destroyed. You're seeing the video there after those grass fire spread to nearby buildings.
And in speaking to officials on the ground, it spread quickly.
Joining me now on this is Liz Bentley, she's the head of U.K.'s Royal Meteorological Society, and I thank you for joining us and trying to give
us some perspective here. I mean, what we have seen this Summer, should we learn to expect more of the same? What are the climate models telling you?
LIZ BENTLEY, CHIEF EXECUTIVE, ROYAL METEOROLOGICAL SOCIETY: Yes, we've seen a trend already here in the U.K. as other parts of the world are with
particularly heat events, extreme heat events that are becoming more frequent. When they happen, they tend to be more prolonged and much more
intense. So these record-breaking events keep happening on a more frequent basis.
So, we've already been seeing that over the recent last couple of decades. In the U.K., we've had the four of our five hottest record days,
temperature here in the U.K. have happened in the last three years. So it's becoming much more frequent events to see these record-breaking
temperatures, high temperatures. And that's only going to continue as we go forward.
So yesterday's temperatures of 40 degrees Celsius, 104 in Fahrenheit, we'll see as extreme for now, but as we go forward in time, particularly towards
the middle of the century, if we don't do something about climate change, that's going to be normal temperatures in a U.K. Summer, not extreme
NEWTON: Normal temperatures for the U.K., in a place where barely anyone has air conditioning. You know, one point that many have made is that the
U.K. Met office did in fact warn of this heat emergency. And that was crucial quite frankly and saving lives. So, how do you prepare a country
that is not used to this kind of Summer, right? And what is surely more emergencies to come. What policies and strategies should be in place?
BENTLEY: So, I guess there's a couple of things. The first is to think about how we can mitigate against climate change. How we can stop any
further warming. And that really is driven by us reducing our greenhouse gas emissions that we as humans put in the atmosphere, so stopping our
reliance on fossil fuels. And that can be done by as individuals, by businesses, but also by government policy to make those changes.
The second is around being more resilient when we get these heat events. So adapting to extreme heat, and that requires behavioral change. So in the
U.K., because we don't normally get temperatures like this, we tend to enjoy a bit of warm sunshine. But the excessive heat we've had over recent
days, we have to change our behavior and maybe learn from people who live in more hot climates to think about how we, you know, close our windows and
doors and our curtains so we don't let that heat and that sunlight in the houses.
We here have to think about refurbishing our houses, our hospitals, our schools, our care homes, because none of those are built to keep us cool in
the Summer there. They're designed to keep us warm in the Winter here in the U.K. And then you've got the travel infrastructure, so a lot of the
rail network, the railways actually made cancellations yesterday, because the railway track itself, the temperatures were outside the designed
threshold for the tracks.
So they had to actually cancel trains. So we're going to have to relay rail tracks to cope with the excessive heat as well. And that goes for roads
which were melting, runways at airports which were melting. So there's a whole range of things that need to happen to make as much more resilient in
these heat events.
NEWTON: Yes, and clearly, that timeline for us to get that done is shrinking. I want to ask you, do we still have time to impact the climate
models themselves? Of course, not in the short term, but let's say in the medium to long term. And I know that you said, we -- you know, we have to
mitigate the causes of burning fossil fuels. But there is no concern in program whether it's in the U.K. or around the world for all of us to get
on board with what's seems a trite term in '22, right, conservation.
BENTLEY: Yes, but I think events like what happened yesterday in the U.K. and across Europe and other parts of the world. These events are becoming
more frequent. They're no longer a laughing matter. You know, we see mortality rate going up, we see the wildfires that were across Spain and
France and across the U.K. yesterday. You know, businesses, homes being burned down.
This really starts to trigger I think at the urgency that is needed, and you know, the cost of, if we don't mitigate, if we don't try and limit the
warming, the costs of actually adapting and dealing with these issues is going to be far higher than the mitigation to try and minimize heating. And
I think this almost helps to have these, you know, extreme events just to really, you know, bring home exactly what the issues are and the urgency of
But as you say, to adapt to these things here in the U.K., it's going to take decades for us to completely change, refurbish our buildings, our
businesses, our hospitals, our transport networks. So that needs to start now if we've got any chance of being able to be resilient when these heat
events happen more frequently.
NEWTON: Yes, quite a task ahead that it is going to take all and all hands on that kind of approach. Thank you so much, really appreciate your
perspective there for us. Now, later in the show, you want to stay with us, I'll be speaking to the president of the Gironde region in France, you just
heard how hard-hit they have been. It has been absolutely devastated by wildfires. President Macron has been visiting the region today, and that
interview is coming up in just about 15 minutes from now.
Now, even as Europe battles the deadly Summer heat wave, it's bracing for a possible crisis this Winter. And that's as Russia threatens gas supplies.
Now, the EU is making emergency plans just in case Russia turns off the taps in retaliation for western sanctions. It wants member states to cut
gas usage by 15 percent until next Spring at least. That's to reduce reliance of course on those Russian gas imports. The EU Commission
president says quote, "Russia is blackmailing us using energy as a weapon." Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
URSULA VON DER LEYEN, PRESIDENT, EUROPEAN COMMISSION: We have to be proactive. We have to prepare for a potential full disruption of Russian
gas. And this is a likely scenario. What we've seen in the past as we know, Russia is calculatingly trying to put pressure on us by reducing the supply
of gas. So it is a likely scenario that there's a full cut off of Russian gas. And that would hit the whole European Union.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NEWTON: Now, the wife of Ukraine's president addressed lawmakers on Capitol Hill today, putting a human face on Russia's brutal war against her
people. Olena Zelenska showed pictures of victims, young and old, and said she came to Washington not as a first lady, but as a daughter and a mother.
She says all of Ukraine is completely heartbroken by the loss of life and of course, the destruction.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OLENA ZELENSKA, FIRST LADY OF UKRAINE: And I appeal to all of you on behalf of those who were killed, on behalf of those people who lost their
arms and legs, on behalf of those who are still alive and well, and those who wait for their families to come back from the front. I'm asking for
something now I would never want to ask. I am asking for weapons.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NEWTON: Now, on the ground in Ukraine, Russia is in fact escalating attacks on the east, and that includes the major city of Kharkiv. Now, a
regional governor says three people were killed in new shelling attacks today, and that includes a 13-year old boy. Russia now acknowledges its war
is not just aimed at the Donbas region, but other regions of Ukraine as well. CNN's Ivan Watson visited the country's largest steel makers to show
us how key industries are now fighting just to survive.
IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (on camera): This is the ArcelorMittal Mining and Steel Works. The heat being generated from
this blast furnace, we can feel it here, it's more than 2,100 degrees Celsius. This is an enormous industrial plant that employs more than 26,000
people, and before the war, produced more than 6 million tons of steel a year.
But the Ukrainian government accuses Russia of waging a hybrid military and economic war on this country, and it's put this entire plant in jeopardy.
This cavernous facility is now largely inactive. In fact, since the Russian invasion, the company has turned off three of the factory's blast furnaces.
And turning these things off isn't like flipping a light switch. It is a long procedure. It takes about a week. As one employee here puts it, it's
like trying to extinguish the heart of an active volcano.
This steel works is only operating at about 30 percent capacity right now. Some 2,000 of its employees are now serving in the Ukrainian Armed Forces.
At least, 14 of them are believed to have been killed in the fighting. The war has made a mess of the company's supply chain. And the frontlines,
they're only about 50 kilometers, some 30 miles away from this facility. And despite all of these risks and threats, the management of this company
vows to try to remain operational. Ivan Watson, CNN, Kryvyi Rih, Ukraine.
NEWTON: Still to come for us, a prime minister's farewell and two candidates going head-to-head for his job. We'll bring you the latest on
the U.K.'s leadership contest, that's next. Plus, the former prime minister is to become Sri Lanka's new president. But some are already vowing to
remove him from power.
NEWTON: The U.K.'s leadership contest is narrowing now, only two candidates remain as Penny Mordaunt is knocked out of the running in
today's fifth and penultimate round of voting. And it leaves former Finance Minister Rishi Sunak and Foreign Secretary Liz Truss vying for Tory Party
leadership and the top job in British politics. This as Prime Minister Boris Johnson faced lawmakers in parliament for the very last time before
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BORIS JOHNSON, PRIME MINISTER, UNITED KINGDOM: Mission largely accomplished for now. I want to thank you, and Mr. Speaker, I want to thank
all the wonderful staff of the House of Commons, I want to thank all my friends and colleagues, I want to thank my honorable friend opposite, Mr.
Speaker. I want to thank everybody here and hasta la vista, baby.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NEWTON: CNN's Bianca Nobilo joins me now from London. We will get to that speech which I'm sure you'll have something to say about, I cannot believe
he said that. It's the first time -- I heard that he said it, I hadn't seen it. But let's get to these two candidates to replace him.
As you have gained this out for us for literally a few weeks now -- so we're down to these two candidates. To me, even though they're from the
same party, they seem like two very different candidates.
BIANCA NOBILO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They're likely to expose division within the Conservative Party, which is already struggling with how split it is.
Predominantly, that's over the economics. Rishi Sunak; the former chancellor until he resigned under Boris Johnson trying to position himself
as a fiscal conservative. The true conservative.
Whereas Liz Truss is talking about tax cuts. She says we need to keep the economy growing, and has promised billions of pounds worth of those when
it's costed out. It's interesting too, Paula, that these candidates, when they were clashing in the debates that were held in the United Kingdom,
when there were more candidates on the stage elected not to participate in the last one because I heard from my sources the clashes between them were
reflecting very badly on both of their campaigns and the conservative party brand.
So, the fact that it's going to be the two of them over these next few weeks, hustings and more debates, sparks may be flying. Based on what we've
seen so far, I think it's fair to say, it's going to be a bruising contest.
NOBILO (voice-over): Knives out, bitter rivalries. The battle for Britain's prime minister is now in the knockout round. First up, the
establishment candidate, Rishi Sunak. Slick, some say too slick. Former chancellor worked at investment banking, Oxford and Stanford educated,
fiscal conservative, calling tax-cut promises --
RISHI SUNAK, FORMER CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER: It's a fairytale.
NOBILO: In the other corner, hawkish Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, who says that she will call Putin out directly, remainer-turned Brexiteer,
libertarian, pro tax cuts, sometimes gaffe-prone.
LIZ TRUSS, FORMER U.K. FOREIGN SECRETARY: In December, I'll be in Beijing, opening up new pork markets.
NOBILO: Held several high-profile government positions, and claims --
TRUSS: I am ready to be prime minister from day one.
NOBILO: It's been dizzying fortnight in British politics. First, the resignation of Boris Johnson.
JOHNSON: The them's, the breaks.
NOBILO: Triggering a leadership contest in which candidates pounded each other. Ten days of knockouts and dropouts, as conservative members of
parliament voted in five rounds, shrinking a field of 11 potential prime ministers to two. Choosing not just a leader of their party, but a prime
The public punch-up within the Tory Party has been nothing but damaging.
TRUSS: Rishi, you have raised taxes to the highest level in 70 years.
SUNAK: Oh, come on, it's tax, that tax and another tax, and it will all be OK. But you know what? It won't.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: For why we have done the right thing --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have been on the frontlines. I have been on the frontlines in Afghanistan --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Not in government --
SUNAK: So it's not just wrong, it's dangerous.
FREDDY GRAY, DEPUTY EDITOR, THE SPECTATOR: It is a fight to the death. It's a political death match, and we're now into the final two, and given
how nasty it's been so far, I think you can only expect it to get nastier.
NOBILO: Who wins the last round will be up to less than 200,000 Conservative Party members.
(on camera): Rishi Sunak is the clear favorite. He's had MPs in his corner from the start, but having served as Boris Johnson's chancellor for two
years, he is most closely associated with him. Liz Truss is often compared to Margaret Thatcher, the iron lady. She's been emphasizing traditional
conservativism to mop up votes on the right. Sunak and Truss poll neck-and- neck with party memberships. So this will be a close one.
(voice-over): The countdown is on until the 5th of September when the next prime minister will be announced. The head-to-head contest is likely to
become an even bloodier brawl.
NOBILO: I had no fun with that package at all as you can tell, Paula. But something else I'd say is that at this stage in the contest when it's down
to the final two, if we compare it to when Boris Johnson was running for leader of the party, the relative enthusiasm for either candidates, even
Rishi Sunak, who is the frontrunner at the moment is still quite low. Neither of them have the charisma or dominate the political scene in any
NEWTON: It's so interesting and that's so good to know. And yes, I know how comfortable you are in the ring, which you will need to be covering
British politics, of course. But Bianca, I have to ask you, given, you know, Boris Johnson's latest minutes, latest hours, I did expect something
more of Churchill, but he is quintessentially bojo.
NOBILO: He absolutely is. Hasta la vista. You expect that kind of rhetorical flourish. He enjoys his time in prime minister's questions,
often seems to come into his own when he's under a lot of political pressure. Some have criticized him for his lack of attention to detail,
even laziness at times. But he relished being a great statesman. And the stories go that ever since he was a child, that's what he yearned for, he
always wanted to be prime minister.
And his legacy is a question mark at the moment because it's so overshadowed by the spate of scandals over the last year, and the
circumstances of his resignation, and the fact that he had to be pushed out. But one thing is for sure, we've never seen a prime minister go from
such a safe and historic election victory with so much potential, so much charisma, with the party behind him into this state of a beleaguered
premiership, unable to deliver on some key pledges.
But I'd say that he will be remembered for the stance and the leadership the he's taken on the crisis in Ukraine, for delivering Brexit, even though
some elements of that remain to be resolved. But mainly for being a deeply controversial and polarizing figure, not just in the country at large, but
also, as we are seeing it play out now in the Conservative Party, Paula.
NEWTON: I'm sure there's a long list of boxing metaphors you can give us, but just to leave you, I know you would tell us, do not count out Boris
Johnson in years or decades to come.
NEWTON: We will concern ourselves though with the contest at hand. Thanks so much, Bianca, really enjoyed that, appreciate it. Still to come for us
tonight, President Macron visits the fire lines in southwestern, France, where a wildfire twice the size of Paris is raging. We'll speak with the
region's leader about why this fire has been so difficult to fight.
Plus, the U.S. is also suffering from what feels like an endless loop of heat waves, President Biden is set to announce policy changes he hopes will
help. That's next.
NEWTON: Welcome back.
Sri Lanka's parliament has elected Ranil Wickremesinghe as the country's new president. The six time prime minister has been serving as acting
president ever since former president Gotabaya Rajapaksa resigned.
But protesters want the former prime minister/acting president gone as well. Senior international correspondent, Will Ripley, is in Colombo for
WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A calm night here in Colombo, despite a controversial result of that secret ballot in the Sri Lankan parliament.
After lots of talk on the streets about the need for a new government, an all party government, in the end, it is six-time prime minister and acting
president, Ranil Wickremesinghe, 73 years old, who's been selected by members of parliament to carry out the remainder of the term of the exiled
former president, Gotabaya Rajapaksa.
This is not the result protesters wanted. But we've not seen massive crowds hitting the streets here. There was a small, albeit spirited group of
protesters, who were very loud, expressing their displeasure outside the secretariat, which is the last government building that protesters continue
to occupy, more than 100 days after this movement began.
A movement of people power that forced the resignation of a man who at one point seemed untouchable, a member of a political dynasty, the Rajapaksa
dynasty, that has held on to power here in Sri Lanka for the better part of two decades.
We now know that the new president, again, as I said, a longtime politician, prime minister and somebody who helped pull Sri Lanka out of
its economic doldrums when the economy collapsed about 20 years ago in the early 2000s, he told me earlier this week in an exclusive sit-down
interview, his first interview since becoming the acting president, he's now the president elect.
He said that he will turn the economy around. But what he will not do is allow protesters to occupy or burn down any more government buildings.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RIPLEY: Do you believe that other buildings could be occupied again by protesters?
RANIL WICKREMESINGHE, SRI LANKAN PRESIDENT-ELECT: I will not allow any building to be occupied or protesters.
RIPLEY: How will you stop that from happening?
WICKREMESINGHE: I've asked the police and the army to help.
RIPLEY: And they've been authorized to take any -- by any means necessary to prevent people from occupying?
WICKREMESINGHE: (INAUDIBLE) the Congress. I said, protect it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
It was the president elect's house that was burned down a couple of weekends ago when protesters stormed the presidential palace and his own
residence, setting on fire, destroying family heirlooms and a lot of his own personal possessions.
He says there's a lot of work that needs to be done to get the fuel queues, that are sometimes more than a week, people waiting to fill up their tanks.
He says those need to get down. They're going to be distributing fuel on Thursday and also distributing medicine to hospitals and food.
He says the worst is almost over for Sri Lanka. And he says, by 2024, this nation, which is so deeply in debt and is unable to pay off its creditors,
should be back on track economically, people's lives should be improving -- Will Ripley, CNN, Colombo, Sri Lanka.
NEWTON: Back to our top story, Europe's scorching temperatures are fueling raging wildfires, from the U.K. to Italy and to Greece, triggering
evacuations and threatening homes, businesses, forests and wildlife.
One of the largest is burning at this hour in southwestern France, south of Bordeaux, a 20,000 hectare inferno, almost twice the size of Paris.
But firefighters say it has barely spread since Tuesday. That is good news. Meantime French president Emmanuel Macron visited the fire lines in Gironde
today. He's taking some considerable heat of his own from local officials, who have pleaded with him for more resources. And he, in fact, is blaming
the fires on climate change.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
EMMANUEL MACRON, PRESIDENT OF FRANCE (through translator): The changes we are experiencing not only affect France; it affects the entire
Mediterranean region, even beyond.
Some European countries, the countries that were not experiencing great fires, are living through an acceleration, a direct consequence of climate
change. And so all this will require (INAUDIBLE) decisions in the coming months, for the coming years.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NEWTON: That's according to the president. Now the Gironde region's president, among the local leaders, are pleading for help. That's Jean-Luc
Gleyze, standing next to Mr. Macron's right there, as you see him during a fire briefing on the region today.
He in fact co-wrote an open letter to the president earlier this week, asking for more firefighting equipment. Jean-Luc Gleyze now joins us from
the Gironde region.
I thank you for giving us the latest update. I have to ask you, the president was right there.
What have you told him about what it's been like to try to contain these fires?
And what more did you ask of him for the response?
JEAN-LUC GLEYZE, PRESIDENT, GIRONDE REGION, FRANCE: Well, first we wanted to make him understand what is this (INAUDIBLE) forest because it's a very
special forest. And he had to know and to understand how it goes.
Now he knows why we had so important fires during these days and he knows now that we need more resources. I speak about firefighters plane and we
need firefighters plane present here in the -- in the --
NEWTON: We are going to wait, just to see if we can reestablish contact with him. As I was saying, he was right there, briefing the president. He
had been criticized and that is the reason why President Macron decided to in fact go to the region.
We will try to reestablish contact with him and just a reminder of how that region had been hurt. It's high summer there, tourists have been the
region. They had to be evacuated. More than 35,000 evacuations actually.
They are getting some help from the weather. But we will return to that as soon as we reestablish contact.
Meantime, many states right here in the United States are accustomed to those hot summers but not like this. This is a new definition of. Hot.
Right now there are extreme heat alerts in 28 states, in fact right across the country from California to New England many areas facing temperatures
higher than 32 degrees Celsius, yes, that's 90 degrees Fahrenheit.
It'll be even hotter in southwestern and south central states. A climate change behind the summer of unending heat waves, not even sure we can call
it a wave anymore. As U.S. President Joe Biden is planning to announce new funding for communities facing extreme temperatures.
CNN White House correspondent John Harwood joins me now from Washington.
You know, the president has been presented with what are the best of some bad options in front of him. Given the level of frustration, even among
Democrats, who are dismayed that the government, the U.S. government, can't do more about climate.
JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: They are dismayed because that options is all Joe Biden has right now. Remember, to take serious
action on climate, it requires a vote of Congress. The Congress is evenly split between the two parties, the Democrats can act if they have total
Republicans oppose acting on climate. So it's all on Democrats to get it done. But there is a Democrat, a pivotal Democrat, Joe Manchin of West
Virginia, who represents a coal state. He is not willing to go along on the president's $500 billion agenda for enhancing renewable energy.
That means that executive action is all at the moment is available to Joe Biden. So he's going to talk about some of that in Massachusetts. He's
speaking at a defunct coal plant that is now part of the effort to expand renewable energy in the form of wind power.
He's going to talk about some regulatory action to encourage wind power, some subsidies to assist families affected negatively by extreme heat.
But there is not all that much you can do by executive power. And you also have the backdrop of, Paula, of the Republican-controlled Supreme Court,
very conservative Supreme Court, which just recently struck down the regulatory authority of the government to enforce climate change
So there is very constrained possibilities for Joe Biden, because of Republican opposition and the narrowness of Democratic control. He's going
to try to what he can.
And hope that perhaps he can get some action on climate through the Congress, either in the fall or just before midterm elections in the lame
duck session right after that.
NEWTON: And we await the president's comments just a few minutes from now. We'll wait to hear those. John Harwood, thanks so much. Appreciate it.
We want to return now to our guest who is in France, Jean-Luc Gleyze. He is the president of the region of Gironde.
And we were just talking about what you had said to president Macron.
What did he tell you in response?
And I'm wondering what you've heard from him in a concrete way, not just platitudes about what may happen because we've had experts here tell us
that, look, things need to change as this may be the new normal.
GLEYZE: Yes, he spoke about the future, speaking about climate change, for example. But he spoke for very concrete things, too. He proposed to send a
helicopter, who will attack the fire very quickly.
So maybe when we show that, during the summer, which will be a very hot summer, we will have a helicopter who will help us to stop the fire. And
this is a way to answer for the emergency now.
But we have to build another solution for the future. And it will take time because we don't have industries now building firefighters planes. So we
need time to get these planes. And we have to have new solutions, even with helicopters for example, just to risk -- to the emergency of the summer.
NEWTON: I don't if you can hear me. I'm wondering how your region has been transformed and if this really did take you by surprise. I mean, I know
35,000 people evacuated. Thankfully, it doesn't seem as if you've had any serious injuries or deaths.
But how did this take the region by surprise?
Because you've dealt with the hot weather before. And you have dealt with wildfires before in your region.
GLEYZE: Yes, we are used to having fires here in this forest. But this fire was very special. These fires, we had two fires, very important, very
special because of high temperatures, because of the very dry undergrowth and the roots (ph), because of the winds that were turning everywhere.
And so it was very difficult to understand where the fire was going to grow. And for all these reasons, these fires were growing very fast the
first time. And when the firefighters come to try to stop them, it was --
NEWTON: Unfortunately, we're having technical difficulties there. But Jean-Luc Gleyze, I appreciate your input there. And we do realize what you
are asking for. You're asking for a change in those resources and an increase in those resources right now. Thanks again for joining us.
And we hear we'll be right back after a short break.
NEWTON: Welcome back. The U.S. President is in Somerset, Massachusetts, speaking about the climate crisis.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)
JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: -- climate scientists called the latest climate report nothing less than, quote, "code red for
humanity." Let me say it again: "Code red for humanity." It's not a group of political official -- elected officials. These are the scientists.
We see here in America, in red states and blue states, extreme weather events costing $145 billion -- $145 billion in damages just last year --
more powerful and destructive hurricanes and tornadoes.
I've flown over the vast majority of them out West and down in Louisiana, all across America. It's a -- it's amazing to see.
Ravaging 100-year-old droughts occurring every few years instead of every 100 years. Wildfires out West that have burned and destroyed more than 5
million acres -- everything in its path. That is more land than the entire state of New Jersey, from New York down to the tip of Delaware. It's
amazing, 5 million acres.
Our national security is at stake as well. Extreme weather is already damaging our military installations here in the States. And our economy is
at risk. So we have to act.
Extreme weather disrupts supply chains, causing delays and shortages for consumers and businesses.
Climate change is literally an existential threat to our nation and to the world.
So my message today is this: Since Congress is not acting as it should -- and these guys here are but we're not getting many Republican votes -- this
is an emergency. An emergency. And I will -- I will look at it that way.
I said last week and I'll say it again loud and clear: As president, I'll use my executive powers to combat climate -- the climate crisis in the
absence of congressional actions, notwithstanding their incredible action.
BIDEN: In the coming days, my administration will announce the executive actions we have developed to combat this emergency. We need to act.
But just take a look around: Right now, 100 million Americans are under heat alert -- 100 million Americans. Ninety communities across America set
records for high temperatures just this year, including here in New England as we speak.
And, by the way, records have been set in the Arctic and the Antarctic, with temperatures that are just unbelievable, melting the permafrost. And
it's astounding the damage that's being done.
And this crisis impacts every aspect of our everyday life. That's why today I'm making the largest investment ever -- $2.3 billion -- to help
communities across the country build infrastructure that is designed to withstand the full range of disasters we've been seeing up to today --
extreme heat, drought, flooding, hurricanes, tornadoes.
Right now, there are millions of people suffering from extreme heat at home. So my team is also working with the states to deploy $385 million
For the first time, states will be able to use federal funds to pay for air conditioners in homes, set up community cooling centers in schools where
people can get through these extreme heat crises. And I mean people -- and crises that are 100 to 117 degrees.
An Infrastructure Law that your members of Congress have delivered includes $3.1 billion to weatherize homes and make them more energy efficient, which
will lower energy cost while keeping America cool in the summer and warm in the winter and not using too much energy.
And my Department of Labor, led by a guy named Marty Walsh -- he talks funny but he's a hell of a guy.
BIDEN: But all kidding aside, Marty was a great mayor and I know -- I know he knows how to get a job done.
And he's doing two things for me:
First of all, as Secretary of Labor, he's developing the first-ever workplace standards for extreme heat, saying, under these -- under these
conditions, if it hits this -- you cannot do the following -- you cannot ask people to do a certain thing.
Second, he's sending folks out from the Labor Department to make sure we hold workplaces and -- to those standards that are being set. They've
already completed over 500 heat-related inspections of workplaces across 43 states. At the end of the day, it's going to save lives.
Now, let me tell you why we're here at Brayton Point. Five years ago, this towering power plant that once stood with cooling towers 500 feet high
closed down. The coal plant at Brayton Point was the largest of its kind in New England -- 1,500 megawatts of power, enough to power one in five
Massachusetts homes and businesses.
For over 50 years, this plant supported this region's economy through their -- the electricity they supplied, the good jobs they provided and the local
taxes they paid.
But the plant, like many others around the country, had another legacy: one of toxins, smog, greenhouse gas emissions, the kind of pollution that
contributed to the climate emergency we now face today.
Gina McCarthy, a former regulator in Massachusetts, was telling me on the way up how folks used to get a rag out and wipe the gunk off of their car's
windshields in the morning just to be able to drive -- not very much unlike where I grew up in a place called Claymont, Delaware -- which has more oil
refineries than Houston, Texas, had in its region -- just across the line in Pennsylvania.
And all the prevailing winds were our way.
I just lived up the road. I just -- in an apartment complex when we moved to Delaware. And just up the road was a little school I went to, Holy
Rosary grade school. And because it was a four-lane highway that was accessible, my mother drove us and -- rather than us be able to walk.
And guess what?
The first frost, you knew what was happening. You had to put on your windshield wipers to get, literally, the oil slick off the window. That's
why I and so damn many other people I grew up have cancer and why, for the longest time, Delaware had the highest cancer rate in the nation.
But that's the past and we're going to get -- we're going to build a different future with one -- one with clean energy, good-paying jobs.
Just 15 years ago, America generated more than half its electricity from coal-fired plants. Today, that's down to 20 percent because there's a big
Many of these fossil fuel plants are becoming sites for new clean energy construction. Others are switching to new, clean technologies.
Look at Brayton Point. Today, Brayton is one of the frontiers -- on the frontier of clean energy in America. On this site, they'll manufacture 248
miles of high-tech, heavy-duty cables. Those specialized subsea cables are necessary to tie offshore wind farms to the existing grid.
Manufacturing these cables will mean good-paying jobs for 250 workers -- as many workers as the old plant -- power plant had at its peak.
And the port --
BIDEN: -- the port here, 34 feet deep, was used to carry coal into the power plant. Now we're going to use that same port to carry components of -
- for wind power into the sea.
The converter station here and the substation nearby are the assets that move energy across the power lines.
They'll now move clean electricity generated offshore by the wind --
BIDEN: -- enough power to power hundreds of thousands of homes onto the grid -- putting old assets to work delivering clean energy. This didn't
happen by accident. It happened because we believed and invested in America's innovation and ingenuity.
One of the companies investing in the factory here joined me at the White House this month. Vineyard Winds, whose CEO told me about the ground-
breaking project labor agreements they've negotiated, would create good- paying union jobs.
BIDEN: And I want to compliment Congressman Bill Keating for his work in this area.
I'm also proud to point out that my administration approved the first commercial project for offshore wind in America, which is being constructed
by Vineyard Winds.
Folks, elsewhere in the country, we are -- we are propelling retrofits and ensuring that even where fossil fuel plant retires, they still have a role
in powering the future.
In Illinois, for example, the state has launched a broad effort to invest in converting old power plants to solar farms, led by Governor Pritzker.
In California, the IBEW members have helped turn a former oil plant into the world's largest battery storage facility -- the world's largest
In Wyoming, innovators are chosen to -- a retiring plant as the next site for the next-generation nuclear plant.
And my administration is a partner in that progress, driving federal resources and funding to the communities that have powered this country for
generations. And that's why they need to be taken care of as well.
I want to thank Cecil Roberts, a friend and president of United Mine Workers of America and so many other labor leaders who worked with --
worked with on these initiatives.
Since I took office, we've invested more than $4 billion in federal funding to the 25 hardest-hit coal communities in the country, from West Virginia,
to Kentucky, to Wyoming, to New Mexico.
Through the Infrastructure Law, we're investing in clean hydrogen, nuclear and carbon capture with the largest grid investment in American history.
We've secured $16 billion to clean up abandoned mines and wells, protecting thousands of communities from toxins and waste, particularly methane. And
we still -- and we're going to seal leaking methane pollution -- an incredibly powerful greenhouse gas that's 40 times more dangerous to the
environment than carbon dioxide.
And, folks, with American leadership back on climate, I was able to bring more world leaders together than -- we got 100 nations together to agree
that -- at the major conference in Glasgow, England -- I mean, Scotland -- to change the emissions policies we had.
We've made real progress but there is an enormous task ahead. We have to keep retaining and recruiting building trades and union electricians for
jobs in wind, solar, hydrogen, nuclear, creating even more and better jobs.
We have to revitalize communities, especially those fence-line communities that are smothered by the legacy of pollution.
We have to outcompete China and in the world and make these technologies here in the United States -- not have to import them.
Folks, when I think about climate change -- and I've been saying this for three years -- I think jobs. Climate change, I think jobs.
BIDEN: Almost 100 wind turbines going up off the coasts of Massachusetts and Rhode Island with ground broken and work underway.
Jobs manufacturing 2,500-ton steel foundations that anchor these offshore wind farms to the sea's floor. Jobs manufacturing a Jones Act vessel in
Texas to service these offshore wind farms.
We're going to make sure that the ocean is open for the clean energy of our future and everything we can do -- give a green light to wind power on the
Atlantic coast, where my predecessor's actions only created confusion.
And today we begin the process to develop wind power in the Gulf of Mexico as well for the first time. A real opportunity to power millions of
additional homes from wind.
Let's clear the way -- let's clear the way for clean energy and connect these projects to the grid.
I've directed my administration to clear every federal hurdle and streamline federal permitting that brings these clean energy projects
online right now and right away. And some of you have already come up and talked to me about that.
BIDEN: And while so many governors and mayors have been strong partners in this fight to tackle climate change, we need all governors and mayors. We
need public utility commissioners and state agency heads. We need electric utilities and developers to stand up and be part of the solution. Don't be
a road block.
BIDEN: You all have a duty right now to our economy, to our competitiveness in the world, to the young people in this nation and to
future generations -- and that sounds like hyperbole but it's not; it's real -- to act boldly on climate.
And so does Congress, which -- notwithstanding the leadership of the men and women that are here today -- has failed in this duty. Not a single
Republican in Congress stepped up to support my climate plan. Not one.
So, let me be clear: Climate change is an emergency.
And in the coming weeks, I'm going to use the power I have as president to turn these words into formal, official government actions through the
appropriate proclamations, executive orders and regulatory power that a president possesses.
And when it comes to fighting the climate change -- climate change, I will not take no for an answer. I will do everything in my power to clean our
air and water, protect our people's health, to win the clean energy future.
This, again, sounds like hyperbole but our children and grandchildren are counting on us. Not a joke. Not a joke.
If we don't keep it below 1.5 degrees Centigrade, we lose it all. We don't get to turn it around. And the world is counting on us.