Gov. Gavin Newsom Accuses Trump of ‘Open Corruption’ at Climate Meeting

Source: By Max Bearak, New York Times • Posted: Sunday, May 19, 2024

The California governor, speaking at the Vatican, used sharp language to describe the former president’s appeal to fossil fuel executives for campaign donations.

Gavin Newsom, seated beneath a brightly colored religious art work, gestures while speaking.
Gavin Newsom speaking at a Vatican climate conference on Thursday.Gregorio Borgia/Associated Press

Burnishing his climate credentials at a conference hosted by Pope Francis at the Vatican on Thursday, California’s governor, Gavin Newsom, criticized former President Donald J. Trump for reportedly meeting with fossil fuel executives and asking them for $1 billion in contributions to his election campaign.

“Open corruption,” Mr. Newsom said to a gathering of religious officials, scientists and politicians from around the world. “A billion dollars to pollute our states, to pollute our country, and to pollute this planet and to roll back progress in the open.”

Mr. Newsom hasn’t been shy about his stance on climate change. He often attends climate conferences and as governor he has signed a raft of laws and regulations to speed the nation’s most populous state away from fossil fuels, including a ban on the sale of new gas-powered cars by 2035 and a mandate to stop adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere by 2045. He wants to end oil drilling in his state, a major oil producer, also by 2045.

Under his watch, the state of California has also sued several of the world’s biggest oil companies, claiming that their actions have caused tens of billions of dollars in damage and that they deceived the public by downplaying the risks posed by fossil fuels.

Mr. Trump, on the other hand, has promised to reverse laws intended to accelerate the nation’s transition to electric vehicles, and to push policies aimed at opening up more public lands to oil and gas exploration.

The conference at the Vatican is being attended by many global mayors and governors, including Gov. Kathy Hochul of New York and London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan. Pope Francis also used the occasion to call out world leaders as doing too little to limit global warming. In remarks on Thursday to attendees, he said, “This is the question: Are we working for a culture of life or for a culture of death?”

The pope called for particular attention to be paid to developing countries that are less able to adapt to a changing climate, and that have contributed far less to the accumulation of greenhouse gases causing those changes.

In 2015, the pope wrote an encyclical letter, “Laudato Si,” in which he exhorted political and corporate interests to act on reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Last year, he updated the letter, lamenting how little progress had been made since he refocused the Roman Catholic Church more fully on environmental issues.

Like Mr. Newsom, he, too, on Thursday called for the elimination of fossil fuel use and an end to the “greedy pursuit of short-term gains by polluting industries and by the spread of disinformation.”

Max Bearak is a Times reporter who writes about global energy and climate policies and new approaches to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. More about Max Bearak