Clinton: I never took a position on Keystone until I took a position on Keystone

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonNYT editorial board endorses Warren, Klobuchar for Democratic nomination for president Sanders v. Warren is just for insiders Alan Dershowitz: Argument president cannot be impeached for abusing power a 'strong one' MORE acknowledged her slow decision to take a public position on the Keystone XL oil pipeline, but defended her credentials on climate change policy. 

“I never took a position on Keystone until I took a position on Keystone,” the party front-runner said Tuesday night during the first Democratic 2016 debate. 

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“But I have been on the forefront of fighting climate change, starting in 2009, when President Obama and I crashed a meeting on the Chinese and got them to sign up for the first international agreement to combat climate change that they’d ever joined.”

Clinton, the former secretary of State, announced in September that she opposes the Keystone XL Pipeline Project after months of refusing a position on the topic, preferring to cede the decision to President Obama. 

Green groups had slammed her long-held silence on the issue, pushing her to do as her challengers — primarily Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley — had done earlier and come out against it. In 2010, as secretary of State, she had said she was “inclined to support” allowing the pipeline to go forward, a line groups used against her until she came out against it.

In September, she did just that, saying that the Keystone project “interferes with our ability to move forward with all the other issues” related to climate change.

The Obama administration’s review of the Keystone project continues, and the White House has said it's waiting until a State Department review of the project is completed.

Despite her slow public opposition to the Keystone pipeline, Clinton, in the debate, emphasized her role on climate change while serving as America’s top diplomat. She took credit for helping broker China’s decision to join an unbinding international climate change agreement, reached in Copenhagen in 2009.

“Literally President Obama and I were hunting for the Chinese, going throughout this huge convention center because we knew we had to get them to agree to something,” Clinton recalled.

“There will be no effective efforts on climate change unless China and India join with the rest of the world. … We marched up, we broke in, we said, 'We’ve been looking all over for you, let’s sit down and talk about what we need to do,' and we did come up with the first international agreement China has signed.”

Clinton endorsed later work President Obama has done to secure climate commitments from China, the world’s largest carbon emitter, which is a key component of a forthcoming United Nations climate change conference later this year.