U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden assured Canada's premiers and Justin Trudeau that the fight against climate change will continue when president-elect Donald Trump takes office because many of the efforts to reduce emissions are no longer dependent on government but are market-driven.
Mr. Trump, who has rejected the idea that climate change exists, succeeds Barack Obama as president in six weeks and he has already selected a man to head the Environmental Protection Agency who was the architect of the legal battle against Mr. Obama's climate-change mitigation policies.
"I understand that many of you are concerned about what the new administration will do," Mr. Biden told premiers gathered for a first ministers' meeting in Ottawa with Prime Minister Trudeau and indigenous leaders.
"Whatever uncertainty exists around the near-term policy choices of the next president, I am absolutely confident the United States will continue making progress in its path to a low-carbon future and that's because many of the trends ... have taken hold and are no longer dependent on government initiatives."
He said businesses are now taking steps to reduce emissions to save money as the cost of renewable energy drops. "Many of the trends are market-driven. They are common sense," he said.
Mr. Biden was in Ottawa for a two-day visit as the Obama administration winds down.
The Vice-President declined to mention Mr. Trump by name but suggested the United States will be unable to ignore the need for climate-change abatement measures.
"Reality has a way of intruding," he said, adding later that the effort to reduce carbon emissions is "unstoppable."
Mr. Biden pointed out that tech giant Google announced it will power its company with 100-per-cent renewable energy starting in 2017. The California company announced it would rely on solar and wind power. "We didn't make them do that. They identified and made a smart business decision out of their own interest in a market economy."
Mr. Biden stopped short of predicting that Mr. Trump will reverse efforts to reduce climate change.
"Regardless of whether the next administration is as aggressive as we have been, there is no way to turn back – and I'm not suggesting they intend to – but there is no way to turn back this tide that has begun to roll."
He said there is a bipartisan consensus among some in Congress and at the state level to push for climate-change abatement.
"There is a constituency that crosses party lines."
Looking back over the Obama years, Mr. Biden lauded progress made in cutting the cost of green energy.
"We've doubled overall production of clean energy in the United States," he told the premiers.
"Solar energy is up 30-fold while the cost of solar energy has dropped 60 per cent ... the cost of renewable energy is now competitive with coal and natural gas because of scientific and technological breakthroughs," Mr. Biden said.
"In some areas it's literally as cheap or cheaper to go with wind or solar than it is with coal."
On Thursday night, the U.S. Vice-President told Mr. Trudeau that he must be a champion of the "liberal international order" at a time when rules-based global relations and openness are under attack.
The always jovial U.S. politician was the star guest at a Canadian state dinner Thursday.
His opening remarks – full of bonhomie and self-deprecating humour – turned serious near the end when Mr. Biden, whose Obama administration is due to leave office in six weeks, called on his Canadian host to be a global leader for the system of rules and norms that have existed since the late 1940s.
This has come under threat with recent events, from Russia's 2014 invasion of Ukraine and annexation of Crimea, Britain's decision to quit the European Union and the recent success of political movements in Italy who are pushing for that country to leave the euro zone.
Mr. Biden did not mention the surprise victory of populist Mr. Trump in the November U.S. presidential elections. But Mr. Trump has said he plans to withdraw the United States from a pan-Pacific trade deal that would have established North American trading rules in Asia as a counterweight to Chinese influence in the region.
Canada, by contrast, just completed a trade deal with the European Union.
The U.S. Vice-President warned that Europe is now in trouble.
"There are periods [in history] where the number of genuine leaders ... is in short supply and where they are in heavy supply," Mr. Biden said, pausing for a moment.
"I have never seen ... Europe engaged in as much self-doubt as they are now," added Mr. Biden, who has been in U.S. politics for four decades.
"The world is going to spend a lot of time looking to you Mr. Prime Minister as we see more and more challenges to the liberal international order than any time since the end of World War Two," he said. "You and Angela Merkel," added Mr. Biden, a reference to the German Chancellor.
"There is a lot of soul-searching going on in Europe and you saw some of it in my country."
He said he remains confident that North America can help the world get through this period, citing current Canada-U.S. co-operation. "It's going to take men like you Mr. Prime Minister," he said, noting leadership will be needed to ensure that international relations continue "within the context of a liberal economic order."
Mr. Biden said: "Vive le Canada ... because we need you very, very badly."