BEIJING—China acknowledged Monday that it soon may become the world's biggest source of harmful greenhouse gases but said the United States and other advanced countries must take the lead in fighting global warming because they had been polluting heavily for longer.
Unveiling its first climate-action plan, China pledged greater energy efficiency and offered robust targets for developing solar, wind and other renewable energy sources.
"We are ready to work with the rest of the international community to reduce the effects of global warming," Ma Kai, the minister in charge of the powerful National Development and Reform Commission, said after issuing the climate-change report.
While pledging to slow the relentless growth of greenhouse-gas emissions—blamed for global warming and rising seas—Ma rejected mandatory caps for China on those emissions.
He said it would be "neither realistic nor fair" to make China and other nations sacrifice economic growth and postpone modernization to fight global warming when it was an "indisputable fact" that well-off nations had produced 75 percent of the carbon-dioxide emissions from fossil fuels from 1950 to 2002.
"Developed countries have an unshirkable primary responsibility for climate change," Ma said. "They are now in a better position to cut emissions."
He said some critics in the developed world portrayed China as a threat to the global environment because of its rising greenhouse-gas emissions.
Such accusations "are clearly groundless and unfair," he said.
He said total emissions of greenhouse gases from China might overtake those of the United States as early as 2009, but that China hadn't been polluting long and its 1.3 billion people emitted pollutants at barely a third of the levels per capita of developed countries.
The release of the report seemed designed to counter criticism as President Hu Jintao heads to Germany to attend an expanded meeting this week of Group of Eight leading industrial countries. Global warming will be one of its key themes.
China's economy has grown at an astounding double-digit pace for more than two decades but at great cost to the environment. Air-choking coal provides nearly 70 percent of China's energy needs, and many of its rivers are toxic.
Ma said China had contributed to the fight against global warming on a number of fronts, including its sharp limitations on population growth.
The policy of limiting most families to one child each had prevented 300 million births in recent decades, he said. If those children had been born, "then there would be 1.2 billion tons more of carbon dioxide emitted by China each year," he said.
Ma said China would expand its forests from around 18 percent of its land today to 20 percent by 2010 to help absorb carbon dioxide from the air. China also will reduce the energy needed for its economic production by 20 percent by the end of the decade and will forge ahead with a plan to have hydropower, wind farms and biomass energy supply 16 percent of its energy needs by 2020.
(c) 2007, McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.