The potential for global agreement and progress on climate change lies in the relationship, and potential for collaboration, between the United States and China. These two nations hold the world's largest clean energy markets, and with the addition of efforts from leading European Union countries like Germany, renewable energy has become much more competitive with fossil fuels.

Trade between these two countries has the potential to change the larger energy and economic landscape. China is the world’s largest goods-exporting nation, excluding energy, while the U.S. remains the largest consumer. Meanwhile, the U.S. is set to become the world’s largest oil producer by 2015 and China is the largest oil importer.

And while the shale boom in North America, and its resulting energy export prospect, has given the U.S. economy a more competitive advantage in dealing with fossil fuels, significant environmental challenges and industrial overcapacity have forced the Chinese government to really try to give sustainability priority over development. The Chinese are now in a position to work with the United States on effective climate policy, and the groundswell of climate change activism in the U.S. means that this is the perfect time for Washington to reach out to Beijing.

The trade connection, if dealt with well, will lay a strong foundation to build a dynamic energy and climate partnership between U.S. and China. Energy technology and climate policy collaboration between the world's two largest emitters have the potential to build a partnership that could inspire the rest of the world in the Paris talks in 2015.

This article was originally published in the New York Times.