OTTAWA – The world – including the United States – is heading inexorably in the direction of reducing greenhouse gases, even if it isn’t a priority for president-elect Donald Trump, says Vice-President Joe Biden.
“Reality has a way of intruding,” Biden said Friday in Ottawa as he sat around a table with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, provincial and territorial premiers and indigenous leaders gathered for a first ministers meeting on climate change.
“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.”
That’s because many of the trends towards more clean energy and fewer carbon emissions have taken hold and are no longer dependent on government initiatives, Biden said.
“They’re market-driven. They’re common sense.”
Biden also said he was “excited” to be meeting with the provincial and territorial premiers on this issue, because in the U.S., it has sometimes been the states that have led the way.
“Sometimes the federal (government) and then sometimes the states take turns being the innovators,” Biden said.
That’s another reason why, no matter what the next U.S. government decides to do, there will continue to be voices – in cities, states, civil society and other communities across the country – pushing for, and taking, stronger action on climate change, he argued.
“Regardless of whether the next administration is as aggressive as we have been, there’s no way to turn back – I’m not suggesting they intend to – but there’s no way to turn back this tide that has begun to roll,” he said.
“The question is time. Time is of the essence. There are plenty of reasons to be hopeful, but no reason to be anything other than feeling an overwhelming sense of urgency.”
It matters a lot how quickly things happen, he added.
Environment Minister Catherine McKenna welcomed the message, saying the economic argument is one that Canada is making too.
“The market has spoken,” McKenna said.
“Businesses are moving forward. They have their own climate plans. They have their own targets. They are reducing emissions. It’s about an economic opportunity.”
McKenna also noted the other message Biden delivered when he urged Canada to stick to its own plan to reduce carbon emissions – one she said she heard from the Chinese climate negotiator on her trip to that country this week.
Earlier in the day, Biden – who was in Ottawa on Thursday night for a state dinner with Trudeau and the other leaders – arrived on Parliament Hill for a bilateral meeting with the prime minister.
With downtown Ottawa traffic snarled for security purposes, Biden’s motorcade pulled up to the front door of the Centre Block, where Trudeau had been waiting just inside the main door before braving frigid temperatures to greet him.
Both leaders were singing the praises of each other’s countries and the Canada-U.S. relationship.
“We have incredibly strong economic, commercial, person-to-person (and) cultural ties that continue and it’s just always great to be able to welcome you here,” Trudeau said.
Biden acknowledged in kind the unique nature of the relationship.
“Americans kind of view it as family – not just allies, not just friends, not just our largest trading partner, but the values are the same.”