The Chinese government says criticism of the country's carbon dioxide emissions are "unfair," and says western companies manufacturing in China should share the blame. Daniel Schearf reports from Beijing.
Qin Gang, the spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, says Western criticism of China's increasing greenhouse gas emissions is hypocritical, since Western demand for Chinese products is contributing to the problem.
"China is the world's factory," said Qin. "Developed countries moved a lot of manufacturing industry into China. A lot of western consumers, the things you wear, use, and eat, are produced in China. On the one hand you increase the production in China, on the other hand you criticize China on the emission reduction issue. This is unfair."
Qin was responding to a new report by Dutch government scientists, which concluded that China's emissions of carbon dioxide last year surpassed those of the United States. This would make China the world's largest emitter of CO2, which is believed to be one of the main causes of climate change.
The report by the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency said that while CO2 emissions in the U.S. went down by 1.4 percent in 2006, China's increased by nine percent.
The report said China's rapidly increasing fossil fuel consumption and pollution-heavy cement production were the main causes of the emissions.
China relies on coal for two thirds of its energy needs, which are growing rapidly along with its economy and the general standard of living. The country makes 44 percent of the world's cement.
While China was expected to surpass the U.S. as the number one emitter of greenhouse gases, the change in ranking - according to the Dutch report - came about earlier than expected.
Qin, the foreign ministry spokesman, argues that China's emissions per person are much lower than those of the industrialized nations. He says emission-causing energy usage in developing countries like China are necessary for "subsistence" and "survival.
""We hope the international community and relevant people can view the issue from a calm and reasonable perspective, and not aim responsibility and criticism at China or developing countries," he said.
Beijing has come under increasing international pressure to reduce its pollution emissions.
But the Chinese maintain that industrialized nations, because they are historically responsible for the production of most greenhouse gases, should shoulder the major burden of emission reduction.
China earlier this month outlined steps it would take to improve energy efficiency. But its first plan for fighting climate change stopped short of introducing mandatory caps on emissions.