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CNBC Exclusive Transcript: Judith Rodin, President Emerita, University of Pennsylvania

Below is the transcript of a CNBC Exclusive interview with Judith Rodin, President Emerita, University of Pennsylvania. If you choose to use anything, please attribute to CNBC, Sri Jegarajah and Martin Soong.

Martin Soong (MS): Judith Rodin is President Emerita at the University of Pennsylvania, taking part in the Singapore Summit and joins us for this exclusive interview live out of San Francisco. Judith, good to have you with us and appreciate your time. I can't help noticing just behind you. The view out your windows there, the air quality, etc. Obviously, you're on the West Coast, and it's these huge monster fires that have scoured that part of the United States. And I think it's sort of a pretty fitting metaphor for one of the key themes that you've been thinking as well as talking about and that is that because of the coronavirus pandemic, unfortunately, governments are being either distracted, or they're... they're taking their eye off the climate-change and protecting-the-environment ball, right?

Judith Rodin (JR): No, I don't think that's right. I think that we should use all the money that's being poured into the economic recovery from COVID - which is an extraordinary crisis and an extraordinary challenge, you've noted the, the number of cases, the number of deaths all around the world. So we want governments to be paying attention to them. But we want them to make the investments in ways that can benefit sustainability and natural resources. So the 2020 report from the World Economic Forum, said that our financial resources are going to be enormously challenged with the kind of climate change and also the depletion of natural resources - water and, and air - and not only carbon dioxide into the air, but all of the things that really do influence our health and human safety. And I think the mantra should be that we have to save the planet to save ourselves, including from future pandemics

MS: Judith you know, theoretically and also philosophically, yeah, I couldn't agree more but here's a blunt question to you. With government finances, everybody's finances already so challenged by the coronavirus pandemic, where is this money going to come from?

JR: So I think there's great leverage that I want your audiences to understand because we see the EU, several countries, regional development banks, issuing social bonds for the recovery. We see the corporate sector - Alphabet just issued, I think 5.75 billion of corporate bonds to invest in black entrepreneurship in the US and small business recovery, and affordable housing. These are strategies that engage the private markets and the public markets in ways that produce financial outcomes and at the same time, take some pressure off governments to create the kinds of policies and the kinds of financing that give the public markets confidence in investing in the recovery.

Sri Jegarajah (SJ): Judith, we all believed or so we thought that Paris and the climate goals was a turning point. But as you pointed out, there's just so much short term-ism still. Do we need to go beyond Paris? And if so, what role does the corporate world have to play and especially the extractive industries, big oil and the global miners?

JR: I do think that Paris was a critical turning point because carbon emissions and decarbonizing all of our systems, whether they're our health systems, our agricultural systems are our energy systems, that is an important step but it is not the only step. We are depleting our natural resources, we are decreasing dramatically biodiversity. And the corporate sector, the behavior of companies can be a positive, they can be part of the solution. Or they can be part of the problem. And we're seeing both in real time.

SJ: Judith, there is a perception that there is a climate change denier in the White House, President Trump. Do you believe so? And what's your message to him? And the White House may change very well in November. What's your message to, to any incoming government regardless of whether it is Democrat or Republican.

JR: Our message to President Trump remains the same, which is, climate change is here and it's real. And we must, we absolutely must address it. Not only with government action but with leadership, with demonstrating to the general public that everybody has a role in preventing further climate change. And in all of the other positive actions. So yes, it is a great challenge not only for the United States but for the world that we have a climate denier in the White House - a climate denier that I actually know well and personally. And I think that we are all suffering from it. And new actions are possible.

SJ: Judith it's an ongoing debate and one that we will continue to have on this network. Thank you very much indeed for joining us. Judith Rodin there from the University of Pennsylvania.


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