The world needs Canada ‘very, very badly’ – Biden

WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 08: US Vice President Joseph Biden, speaks during a portrait unveiling ceremony for outgoing Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), (R), on Capitol Hill December 8, 2016 in Washington, DC. Mark Wilson/Getty Images/AFP MARK WILSON / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP

WASHINGTON, DC – DECEMBER 08: US Vice President Joseph Biden, speaks during a portrait unveiling ceremony for outgoing Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), (R), on Capitol Hill December 8, 2016 in Washington, DC. Mark Wilson/Getty Images/AFP<br />MARK WILSON / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP

US Vice President Joe Biden implored Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to help lead the world’s liberal order after Barack Obama cedes the Oval Office to Donald Trump next month, during a trip that wrapped up Friday.

“The world is going to spend a lot of time looking at 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 II,” Biden said at a state dinner that kicked off the two-day visit late Thursday.

“Vive le Canada, because we need you very, very badly,” he added in a toast.

However, Biden reassured Canada that its historically close relationship with America will not suffer under the new Trump administration.

He also urged Canadians to continue their drive toward a low-carbon economy, predicting that America would itself press ahead, driven by state and market forces that have overtaken the federal government’s efforts to cut carbon pollution.

– Low-carbon future –
Biden’s two-day visit to Ottawa, which started with the dinner hosted by Trudeau on Thursday, came as Canada’s regional leaders met in the capital to finalize a national climate strategy.

Speaking to provincial, territorial and indigenous leaders before they announced a national carbon price Friday, Biden said: “Whatever uncertainty exists around the near-term policy choices of the next president, I am absolutely confident the United States will continue making progress on this path to a low-carbon future.”

“This is unstoppable,” he added.

Campaigning for the presidency this year, Trump warned that US environmental regulations are hamstringing businesses, pledging to boost the oil and gas sector and bring back coal.

His pick Thursday of fossil fuel industry ally Scott Pruitt, a global warming skeptic, to head the Environmental Protection Agency is casting further doubt over the direction America will take on climate change.

The EPA both determines and implements US international climate commitments.

Biden cited a trend toward more fuel-efficient transportation and buildings, as well as state-to-province cooperation such as California, Quebec and Ontario trading carbon credits.

He noted a small drop in US oil consumption while renewables such as solar energy are on the upswing.

“Many of the trends that I’ve mentioned have taken hold and are no longer dependent on government initiatives. They’re market-driven, they’re common sense,” Biden said.

“So, regardless of whether the next administration is as aggressive as we have been, there is 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.”

– Opportunity for cooperation –
Trudeau has staked out his political future by aligning with Obama, especially on phasing out coal-fired power plants.

But Canadians now fear a future under Trump “where our businesses become non-competitive” with US firms, MP Wayne Easter, co-chair of the Canada-US inter-parliamentary group, told AFP.

Under Trudeau’s plan, carbon pollution would cost Can$10 (USD$8) a tonne in 2018, rising incrementally to Can$50 (USD$38) a tonne by 2022.

The country’s provinces, which share environmental responsibilities with the federal government, can choose to implement a carbon tax or a cap-and-trade system.

Holdouts would pay a price imposed by Ottawa.

Despite the differences between Trudeau’s Liberal Party government and Trump’s forming Republican administration on clean energy, there will probably be opportunities for cooperation.

Notwithstanding his hard line on emissions, Trudeau has approved major expansions of two pipelines to pump more Alberta crude oil to the Pacific Coast and the United States.

But he rejected a third oil route through a temperate rain forest to the Pacific.

Trump, meanwhile, has said he would fast-track approvals for the controversial Keystone XL pipeline from Alberta to US Gulf Coast refineries, which Obama rejected under pressure from environmental activists.

Over dinner Thursday at a former bank across from parliament, now a reception center, Biden also sought to soothe fears over the fate of trade and security ties under Trump.

He also joked about Trudeau’s global status as “eye candy.”

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