Greenwire's Chemnick talks climate momentum following papal address

As Pope Francis continues his U.S. tour, will his remarks on climate affect the tone of discussions in Congress and the momentum heading into this year's Paris talks? On today's The Cutting Edge, Greenwire reporter Jean Chemnick discusses the power of the pope following his historic address. She also talks about the growing momentum surrounding this year's international climate talks in Paris.


Monica Trauzzi: Welcome to The Cutting Edge. As Pope Francis continues his U.S. tour, will his remarks on climate affect the tone of discussions in Congress and the momentum heading towards this year's Paris negotiations? Greenwire's Jean Chemnick is here to talk about the power of the pope following his historic address.

Jean, the pope endorsed the Clean Power Plan. How does this stand in contrast to the other issues that the pope addressed before Congress yesterday?

Jean Chemnick: Well, it's very rare for the pope to get into the nitty-gritty of policy, I mean, not -- it was a fairly general statement, but to even signal out a policy of any kind is rare and he really didn't do that very much at all in either his address at the White House or to Congress. And what it shows is his devotion to the issue of climate change because the Clean Power Plan is the cornerstone of Obama's work on climate change, his -- it's very integral to his ability to deliver on emissions pledges and it's a very important part of what the U.S. will take to Paris at the end of this year. And so if you get rid of that -- which many Republicans in Congress are determined to do -- then that makes a Paris deal very impossible, and the pope is -- that's an important priority for him.

Monica Trauzzi: And the pontiff, of course, called on Congress to act on climate. Was there any sense, following the pope's remarks on the Hill, that he may have advanced the ball in some way towards some level of action? And how do you think his remarks will impact the legislative agenda this fall?

Jean Chemnick: Yeah, it probably won't. I mean, lawmakers after the speech were very respectful; they said they appreciated that the pope had come, but they sort of immediately started to spin his remarks -- Mitch McConnell said on the floor that the media had taken the remarks out of context; James Inhofe, who's the head of the Environment and Public Works Committee, put out a press release saying, "Oh, well, by saying that Congress should have a role in setting policy, the pope -- this really reinforces the idea that Obama shouldn't be going it alone."

So, immediately, people were messaging, and really, we'll still looking at the same fall, which includes at least some votes to knock down key climate change rules.

Monica Trauzzi: The speech was pretty untypical to what we're used to hearing from Congress. What stood out to you on tone and substance, specifically?

Jean Chemnick: Well, it was a very different tone than what is usually heard in that chamber. It was very -- the wording was very gentle. It was obvious that the goal was not to score political points or to shame anyone in there, but really, to just raise questions and talk about ideas instead of politics. And even the choice of wording, you know, the words "climate change" or "global warming" or "abortion" didn't really appear in his remarks, but it was still very clear what he was talking about. He was referencing directly his encyclical, which is all about climate change, and that was a very effective -- it was very thought-provoking, I think, for people on both sides of various issues.

Monica Trauzzi: And the focus today is at the United Nations. How does his U.S. visit overall impact the momentum heading into December's Paris talks?

Jean Chemnick: Well, it's clear that this is -- that is part of what he hopes to affect, and I was listening a little bit to the translation of the U.N. speech this morning. He is talking about climate change, and that's him addressing the members of the U.N., 193 countries that later this year will possibly broker a deal on climate change, and that has been a real priority for him. And he was talking about the need to deal with climate change to protect the poor and the effect of climate change on the most vulnerable countries, so that is the goal, I think, yeah.

Monica Trauzzi: Thanks, Jean, a very impactful visit. It's been very interesting to watch him as he travels throughout the East Coast. Thanks for coming on the show.

Jean Chemnick: Thanks.

Monica Trauzzi: More Cutting Edge coming next Friday. We'll see you then.

[End of Audio]



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