The EcoPartnerships program began in 2008 at the Strategic Economic Dialogue.
The roots of the EcoPartnership program extend to the founding of the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue (SED) in September 2006. In June, 2008, at the fourth meeting of the SED in Annapolis, Maryland, the United States and China signed a Ten Year Energy and Environment Cooperation Framework (TYF), which called for Action Plans on seven priority areas. In December 2008, during the fifth SED in Beijing, the United States and China signed the EcoPartnerships Framework and launched the first seven EcoPartnerships. The Framework noted that the aim of the program was to spur development of new models of mutually beneficial voluntary arrangements between like-minded organizations at the sub-national level (e.g. NGOs, academia, enterprises, local government), and to promote energy security, economic growth, and environmental sustainability in both countries. Whereas the TYF is a framework for the U.S. and Chinese national governments to work together, the EcoPartnerships program expands TYF participation to include sub-national entities working on projects that execute the goals of one or more action plans under the TYF.
In July 2009, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, Chinese State Counselor Dai Bingguo, U.S. Special Envoy for Climate Change Todd Stern, and Chinese Vice Chairman Xie Zhenhua participated in the initialing of the Memorandum of Understanding to Enhance Cooperation on Climate Change, Energy and Environment, which further elaborated the role of the TYF and established a new dialogue and cooperation mechanism on climate change.
At the second Strategic and Economic Dialogue (S&ED) in Beijing in May 2010, the United States and China signed a memorandum of understanding on Implementation of the Framework for EcoPartnerships, which addresses the overall management of the program, selection standards and procedures for new participants, public outreach, and other mechanisms. With these parameters in place, new EcoPartnerships have been welcomed into the program each year during the S&ED.