Return to Transcripts main page

Quest Means Business

G-7 Leaders Pledge Billions to COVID Vaccine Rollout; Millions in Texas Struggle for Drinking Water after Storm; President Biden Visits Pfizer Vaccine Plant in Michigan. Aired 3-3:25p ET

Aired February 19, 2021 - 15:00   ET



ZAIN ASHER, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: The Dow has been in the green all day, but still relatively flat. Let's take a look and see how the markets are

rounding off the week.

The Dow as I mentioned is relatively flat. Investors appear to be taking a pause. The focus is still on stimulus and the recovery.

Those are the markets, and these are the main events. G-7 leaders are pledging billions for the global vaccine campaign as Joe Biden takes center


And Texas is still hobbled by a brutal winter storm. I'll speak to the Mayor of the State's capital city.

And Uber's long journey through British Courts comes to an end with victory for its drivers.

Coming to you live from New York, it is Friday, the 19th of February, I'm Zain Asher, and this is QUEST MEANS BUSINESS.

Tonight, the world's wealthiest democracies are vowing to band together to make 2021 a turning point for the global cooperation and the fight against

COVID-19. Their leaders addressed two fortunate virtual meetings Friday at the Munich Security Conference.

U.S. President Joe Biden announced a multibillion-dollar contribution to the global vaccination drive.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We must cooperate if we're going to defeat COVID-19 everywhere. My first presidential national

security memorandum focused on surging health and humanitarian responses to defeat COVID-19 and to better prevent and prepare for the next pandemic.

Today, I'm announcing that the United States is making a $2 billion pledge to COVAX with the promise of an additional $2 billion to urge others to

step up as well.


ASHER: And British Prime Minister Boris Johnson told the G-7 meeting that the vaccine rollout must not leave poorer countries behind. He also praised

a dramatic change in leadership coming from Washington.


BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: As you've seen and heard earlier, America is unreservedly back as the leader of the free world. That is a

fantastic thing, and it's vital for our American friends to know that their allies on this side of the Atlantic are willing and able to share the risks

and the burdens of addressing the world's toughest problems.


ASHER: And U.S. President Joe Biden's new pledge is a huge boost for COVAX, the global vaccine initiative co-run by the World Health Organization.

In their final statement today, G-7 leaders said their total commitment to COVAX now stands at $7.5 billion. The European Union is also kicking in

more as well. It is pledging another $600 million, doubling its total contribution to more than a billion dollars as well.

And Germany, also pledging new funds, too, saying it will contribute an additional $1.8 billion. You've got all of these world leaders chipping in.

Our international diplomatic editor, Nic Robertson is joining us live now from London. So, just in terms of the G-7 meeting and dealing with the

various crises facing the world, the U.S. clearly has a new President in Joe Biden, who is much more about cooperation, about unification, about

bridging the gap between the U.S. and its allies.

Just so walk us through how much solidarity is there now between America and its allies in terms of tackling the various global crises facing the

world right now?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yes, I am one of the ones that you just talked about there, all of these contributions for

COVAX. The World Health Organization ministers said the United States was outside of supporting that under President Trump has now come back in, it

is going to support it, and we've got those figures you just talked about from President Biden.

So I think that was one example of where you could see Biden setting out what he is going to do, what difference it makes. He as well talked about

reentering -- bringing the United States back into the global climate change agreement that was first hammered out in Paris a few years ago. That

as well, clearly resonates well among the Europeans particularly with the French.

You know, it was put -- that agreement was put together in Paris. But we've heard from -- you heard Boris Johnson there saying that the United States

is back. This is good.

We've heard the same from Angela Merkel. We've heard the same from French President Emmanuel Macron. So, I think, you know, at that level, the

support has been there and they really did come together and combined their message.

You talk about the numbers there, the money that is going into COVAX to get vaccines for these 92 poorer nations, 20 percent of their need by the end

of year, that's their aim.

But the joint message at the end was to accelerate the development and deployment of these vaccines to share more information about variants,

which are sort of the emerging potential, danger in all of this that you get on top of it in one way and the COVID pandemic reemerges, pushes us

back somewhere else.


ROBERTSON: So sharing that information vital and improving manufacturing capacity. So that really was a joined up message, everyone behind that

message, but yes, welcoming words from other leaders for President Biden being back and taking this position, but you know, they say, he is back

into the sort family of democratic nations, if you will, as a leader and not as somebody, not as a country standing on the outside, putting

themselves first as Donald Trump had.

ASHER: And one of the key priorities for Joe Biden, is of course is the JCPOA. The U.S. relationship with Iran, a lot of European leaders are

certainly going to be happy about the U.S. rejoining the JCPOA, but is there the same appetite and enthusiasm for the JCPOA this time around

compared to four or five years ago, Nic, in Washington specifically?

ROBERTSON: Sure. I think when you look at the debate in Washington, there is caution and concern, and there are a number of things Joe Biden has

talked about needing to lengthen and strengthen the JCPOA, the nuclear deal that needs to deal with ballistic missiles, that needs to deal with Iran's

destabilizing influence in the region is the way that it is sort of talked about that would include their backing of the Houthis in Yemen and other

groups and political organizations in the Middle East that destabilize.

And that's a concern in Washington. There's a concern that the Biden-Obama administration gave away too much and were too lenient on Iran when they

created the JCPOA back in -- and signed it in 2015, so there will be concerns there.

But I think Biden, at the moment had said that he will get back to the table with the Iranians and all the others that signed up to the deal under

the auspices, the invite of the European Union.

He is not putting preconditions on this to get to the table right now with the Iranians, but he is saying that they absolutely have to come into

compliance with every part of the previous JCPOA and they are way out of -- way out of compliance at the moment.

So he is taking a strong line there. How he gets to the even stronger and tougher measures that Iran has really said that they are not going to go

there on that, you know, that's what people in Washington are going to watch very closely, how Joe Biden handles this.

ASHER: And just in terms of China, the U.S. has sort of got to tread very carefully because on the one hand, they really have to put their foot down

when it comes to Human Rights abuses and also, stealing intellectual property as well, but at the same time, it doesn't want to go back to that

sort of cold-war-like relationship that China had with Donald Trump.

How does the U.S. under Joe Biden really walk that fine line?

ROBERTSON: Well, he says he is going to do it by working diplomatically with all the allies and partners. And these allies and partners share in

commonality democracy and he described today as sort of, you know, in this view that we are at sort of an infection point in history where you have

democracies and you have others who are saying democracy doesn't work and they are the autocracies, and China is one of those autocracies with the

human rights abuses, et cetera.

So he is trying to bring together allies and partners under the banner of all shared values under democracy, shared democratic values and there is

support for that.

But we heard from Angela Merkel saying we need to work out a common transatlantic strategy on Russia, on China. We heard from Emmanuel Macron

saying, look, we have these shared values with the United States, but our priorities on what we want out of those relationships with China per se,

are not always going to be the same priorities as the United States.

Let's remember that the European Union cut a massive trade deal with China just before President Biden came into office.

So there are clear differences about how the Europeans want to tackle Russia, how they want to tackle China. However the commonalities, the way

that Biden is trying to pull them together, they exist and they are shared and that was made very clear by all parties today.

But it's not going to be easy for President Biden because not every step of the way he wants to go will the others follow.

ASHER: All right, Nic Robertson, live for us there. Thank you so much. Appreciate it.

The U.S. has officially rejoined the Paris Climate Agreement. President Biden signed an Executive Order beginning the process on his first day in

office, and today, it actually took effect. Speaking earlier, Kerry said the hard work was just beginning.


JOHN KERRY, U.S. SPECIAL PRESIDENTIAL ENVOY FOR CLIMATE: We've got to be honest with each other, we have to be humble and most of all, we have to be

ambitious. We have to be honest that as a global community, we're not close to where we need to be. We have to be humble because we know the United

States was inexcusably absent for four years.


KERRY: And most of all, we have to be ambitious, all of us, because we have to get the job done.


ASHER: And the U.N. Secretary General, Antonio Gutteres is speaking now about the Paris Climate Agreement, let's listen in.

ANTONIO GUTTERES, UNITED NATIONS SECRETARY GENERAL: We also recognize its restoration in its entirety and its creators -- as its creators intended.

Welcome back.

Dear friends, the Paris Agreement is a historic achievement, but the commitments made so far are not enough and even those commitments made in

Paris are not being met.

The warning signs are everywhere. The six years since 2015 have been the six hottest years on record. Carbon dioxide levels are at rocket highs,

fires, floods and other extreme weather events are getting worse in every region.

If we don't change course, we could face a catastrophic temperature rise of more than three degrees this century.

And this year, 2021 is pivotal. COP 26 in Glasgow will be a make it or break it occasion. Governments will take decisions that will determine the

future of people and the planet.

The United States together with all members of the G-20 has a decisive role in delivering our three main objectives. First the long-term vision. A

central objective for the United Nations this year is to create a truly global coalition for net zero emissions by 2050.

In the past year, countries representing 70 percent of the world economy and 65 percent of global carbon monoxide emissions committed to net zero.

I hope that the United Nations will formally join this coalition very soon as pledged by President Biden and to present its concrete plans to reach

net zero emissions by 2050.

Second, delivering a decade of transformation. The science is clear. We need exponential progress on reducing emissions now. We expect all

governments to present more ambitious concrete and credible nationally determined contributions for the next 10 years by COP 26 in November.

I commend all the American states, cities, businesses and financial institutions, the civil society, the people that have shown impressive

leadership since 2015 by committing to the goals of the Paris Agreement so that we are still in declaration.

We rely on the United States to build on this with an ambitious and credible nationally determined contribution for 2030, aligned with

President Biden's commitment to achieve net zero emissions before 2050.

Third, the actions we need now. The recovery from the pandemic is an opportunity to rebuild stronger and better. To do this, we must invest in a

green economy that will help to heal the planet and its people and create well-paying stable jobs to ensure more equitable and sustainable


Now is the time to implement transformative change, phase-out coal, support the just transition with training and opportunities for people whose jobs

will be impacted. Stop investing in fossil fuel projects that ruin people's health, destroy biodiversity and contribute to the climate catastrophe.

Shift the tax burden from income to carbon, from consumers to polluters.

Ladies and gentlemen, dear friends, we also need to close the finance gap by supporting countries that are suffering the ravaging impacts of the

climate crisis.

The support must reach the countries and people who are most impacted. Women and girls bear the brunt of the climate crisis. Fully 80 percent of

those displaced by climate change are women.

I urge all G-7 countries to deliver concrete results on finance at their Summit in June. Those that have not done so already must commit to doubling

their climate finance.

And all developed countries must honor the pledge to contribute $100 billion annually to developing countries. I'm also asking all donors to

commit to increasing the share of climate finance allocated to adaptation to reach 50 percent.

And I ask all financial institutions and banks to align their investments with the Paris Agreement by 2024. I count on the United States together

with all other G-20 members to rally behind these three main objectives and to engage in international negotiations that will be needed for success at

COP 26.

Dear friends, when Special Envoy, John Kerry signed the Paris agreement in 2016, he brought his granddaughter to the United Nations with him. We

cannot be together today, but we can all reflect on the responsibility to future generations.

The Paris Agreement is our pact with our descendants and the whole human family. This is the race of our lifetimes. We must go much faster and much



GUTTERES: It is within our power to build a future of renewable energy and green infrastructure that protects people and planet and ensures prosperity

before all.

Let's get to work and thank you.

ASHER: The U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaking there about the U.S. rejoining the Paris Climate Accord, certainly welcoming the U.S. back,

but warning this is clearly no time to celebrate. There is so much work to be done.

It was definitely a call to action saying the U.S. has a lot of catching up to do in terms of cutting down emissions and that in the past six years

since the year 2015, have been the hottest six years on record. Also saying the goal is net zero emissions by the year 2050.

After a devastating week of bitter cold, temperatures in the state, one crisis may be ending while another is escalating. Texas' main power grid

operator says the energy emergency is now over. But more than 30 million people do not have clean drinking water in Texas. Many do not have water at

all and are resorting to boiling snow.

Stunning scenes you're looking at here from a state with the second highest GDP in the country, a state for its energy sources as well. Frustrated

residents say they're just focused on getting through this.


QIANA ABRAMS, TEXAS RESIDENT: It's like complete shock. It's like one of your worst nightmares. Like you never, ever imagine that this is going to

happen to you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You can't charge batteries. You know, we've got flashlights, we can't recharge the batteries. There's no propane in the

area to be found. We drove for an hour the other day looking for propane. There is none in the area.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't think any of us were expecting this, and for it to be like this. So it's all about survival right now.


ASHER: Experts say extreme weather due to climate change is going to become more common in the future. The Mayor of Austin actually signed up to a

Paris Agreement style pledge with five other Texas mayors in 2017. Steve Adler joins us live now.

So Steve, we're just hearing from residents across Texas about what they're dealing with. Incredible.

First of all, I hope your own family -- your personal family is safe and well during this time. What is the greatest need right now for people in

Austin dealing with this?

MAYOR STEVE ADLER, AUSTIN, TEXAS: Our greatest need right now are water supplies. We need -- that's our greatest need. The suggestion that the

energy crisis that we've had is over is not true because the water situation we're dealing with is the direct result of that.

We had in essence a sufficiently deregulated energy system in Texas so that the market didn't build in incentives for people to protect us and harden

the system at the low temperatures.

We have a system that was prioritizing inexpensive energy. The state needs to learn from this. The state leaders need to change that policy to protect

us from where we are.

About two thirds of my city right now is without water, and that's a result of some of our water treatment plants losing power, consumption going way


When the pipes are frozen and began to break because we weren't able to keep things heated.

ASHER: Part of the problem is of course the deregulation and just the fact, that you know, the state was not ready for these sorts of low temperatures.

As climate change becomes more of an issue and perhaps these sort of temperatures become more common, do you think that Texas will have what it

takes to deal with this, again, over the last couple of years.

ADLER: Well, you know, with what everybody has gone through here lately, there's no question in my mind that there is going to be significant


In fact our state leadership yesterday, our Governor took responsibility for what is happening. I have people in my community that were without

power for almost a week because we weren't prepared to deal with these low temperatures.

Now, these low temperatures don't come very often, but to suggest that they weren't foreseeable is not correct. This is the third time that I've seen

it happen.

And I think that with the extremes and the weather that we're going to continue to see at an ever increasing rate, this is something we need to be

prepared for.

ASHER: I have family in Texas, and I was messaging with them over the past few days. And they were saying to me, you know, it's one thing not to have

heat at nine-degree Fahrenheit temperatures when you're an adult and it's just you and your wife, but when you're seeing your own children, two and

three-year-old children shivering in their sleep that is something else.

And I'm just wondering, you know, was enough done in the initial aftermath to help people who were suffering in that way especially young families

with young children?


ADLER: Well, we didn't do enough to protect the system from going down, and that's really what we should have done. Once the system went down, we were

all hands on deck, creating emergency shelters, getting heat to the folks that were most vulnerable.

It was a perfect storm that we had. Our roads were impassable because of the ice. It was a horrific and dire situation. We had people working 24/7

trying to save lives, get people warmth, get them to warm places, get people food.

ASHER: Mayor, there are people watching this from all around the world who are perhaps used said to seeing these kinds of images in their own

countries. I am originally from Nigeria and it is perfectly normal in Nigeria from time to time to see the power go out. You know that you can't

necessarily drink certain water.

But to see this, I think for a lot of people who are watching this -- to see this happen in the richest country in the entire world, the United

States of America is mind-blowing to be honest.

I'm just curious. I know you've done a lot of work in terms of focusing on the environment, on climate change. How are you as the Mayor of Austin and

how is your city investing in climate change going forward?

ADLER: Austin is a really forward-looking city. Remember the C-40 cities in the world, I participated in signing the Mayors Agreement in Paris.

So our city is changing how we do transportation, how we do planning in the city where we are moving our energy distribution to fully renewable, taking

the -- removing the carbon footprint of our city with very a specific plan, with benchmarks over time to make sure we're reaching that level of


But we're not alone, but there are too many cities around the world and certainly the United States that are not making similar kinds of progress.

And here in Texas, which is a conservative state, Austin is oftentimes a lone voice in the wilderness just together with some of our larger urban


The calls to actually take into account increasing extreme weather situations at our state legislature were raised years ago, but ignored by

the state leadership.

ASHER: Mayor Steve Adler, I wish you and your city a speedy recovery in terms of what everyone is dealing with right now. Thoughts go out to you.

Thank you so much for being on this program.

ADLER: Thank you.

ASHER: Right now President Biden is touring a Pfizer vaccine manufacturing facility in Michigan. We are expecting him to give remarks as well, but

right now you're looking at the Pfizer CEO speaking.

Actually, the President is right behind him, waiting his turn. Jeff Zeleny is in Michigan covering the President's visit. So Jeff, just set the scene

for us right now in term of what the Pfizer CEO is saying and what we expect the U.S. President to say after him.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN U.S. CHIEF AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Zain, the Pfizer CEO just moments ago said that he would increase the production here at

this facility by 120 million doses, it would we made by the end of March and 200 million by the end of May. That is a substantially accelerated time

frame. This is why President Biden is here trying to draw attention to the need to step up the vaccination supply.

Now, some of this is being fueled by the increased use of the Defense Production Act, freeing up other factory usages to speed up vaccination


Of course, this is something that President Biden also is going to be speaking about, is the need to improve some hiccups in the system here.

You know, of course the world was watching on December 13th when the vaccination rolled out of this plant behind me here imported to Michigan, a

small town in Southwestern Michigan in the United States. And it clearly was a moment that the U.S. and the world, you know, was focusing on.

But there had been some bumps in the road since then, so this is why the President is here drawing attention to what is happening inside this

facility and then talking about, you know, really trying to get a handle on for stream lining the process here.

But also, he is trying to send this $1.9 trillion economic COVID relief package as well. The U.S. Congress will be considering that next week and

it could be voted by the House --

ASHER: Jeff Zeleny, Jeff, I have to interrupt you. Yes, President Biden is speaking. Let's listen in.