By Robert Weiner, Lile Fu and Ben Lasky
The U.S.-China climate-change agreement experienced a long, tough process until the two countries led the 195 nations who agreed on December 12, 2015, in Paris. World leaders convened despite the Paris terror attacks the week before and made a point of solidarity to show terror will not stop positive world action. But the treaty was far more than that--it was years in the making, and few thought the US and China -- the world's two biggest polluters -- would agree. It is an amazing model for meaning action on many controversial world issues. How did it happen?
By itself, the bilateral U.S. China Joint Presidential statement on Climate change on September 25, 2015, a precursor to the world agreement, was praised by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. "The joint China-U.S. announcement signals the shared vision and seriousness with which the world's two largest economies are moving to a low-carbon future." Ki-Moon told Xinhua News Agency, one of the official news agencies in China.
In the last two Democratic debates, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has talked about her role in coming to this agreement. "I worked with President Obama during the four years I was secretary of state to begin to put pressure on China and India and other countries to join with us to have a global agreement which we finally got in Paris," Clinton said on March 6. At the Florida debate on March 9, Clinton said, "We also do have to combat climate change, and no state has more at stake in that than Florida. And the best way to do that is not only enforcing the laws we have, but also the clean power plan that President Obama has put forth that I support, and the Paris agreement that I think was a huge step forward in the world."
In fact, China and the United States used to oppose climate-change agreements. However, the opposition from the U.S. ended when Barack Obama was elected. In October during the first democratic debate, Hillary Clinton recalled that she and President Obama were eager to talk with the Chinese at the 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference, "Because there will be no effective efforts against climate unless China and India join the rest of the world."
However, the two countries failed to sit down together and hammer out a compromise on climate change. Instead, Brazil, South Africa, India and China built up a formation of the BASIC, which represented developing countries' attitude towards developed countries' omission on carbon emissions' standard.
In 2011, at United Nations Climate Change conference in Duban, China and the U.S. both agreed that it was necessary to reduce carbon emissions, which was a breakthrough in the treaty negotiations. Although, according to The Guardian, this deal only included the principles on which future negotiations would be based on, rather than reaching a consensus on how far and how fast countries should be cutting their carbon dioxide.
On April 13, 2013, current Secretary of State John Kerry began his first visit to China, and one of his achievements of this visit was the launch of the U.S.-China Climate Change Working Group, which was "intended to spur large-scale, cooperative efforts to address the climate challenge, including deepening and expanding work already underway," according to U.S. Department of State's website.