Calling China "a developing country of responsibility," Ma Kai, the official leading the nation's climate change effort, said China was dedicated to reducing energy consumption by 20 per cent by 2010, as well as increasing use of alternative fuels and promoting reforestation.
But, he added, the developed world could not overlook poorer nations' "rights to development."
"Their overriding priority at the moment is still economic development and poverty eradication," Ma said.
Beijing's long-awaited National Climate Change Program was unveiled yesterday as G-8 leaders prepared for a three-day summit in Germany that will include Chinese President Hu Jintao. Although not a fully fledged member of the G-8, China is expected to be in the spotlight during the summit for its contribution to greenhouse gases.
China is already the world's second largest contributor to greenhouse gases, surpassed only by the United States, and scientists say China will eclipse the U.
S. by 2009.
Still, Ma rebuffed any idea of putting caps on emissions from China.
"This would hinder the development of developing countries and hamper their industrialization," said Ma, chairman of China's National Development and Reform Commission. He also noted that by putting its economy and the fight against poverty front and centre, China was in line with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, one of the guiding documents in the international effort to combat climate change.
Ma also emphasized the global problem of climate change wasn't produced by China and other developing countries, but by 200 years of unbridled industrialization that began in the West. Over that period, said Ma, "it is an indisputable fact... that developed countries have emitted unlimited quantities of carbon dioxide emissions."
More recently, between 1950 and 2002, he said, science showed 77 per cent of all carbon dioxide emissions originated from the developed world.
"And between 1903 and 2003, the United States accounted for 28.3 per cent of the entire world's total carbon dioxide emissions, whereas China accounted for only 7.6 per cent during the same period."
Dr. Lu Zhi, a director of U.S.-based Conservation International, said that while the perception remained that China was not doing enough to combat climate change, the nation was making progress.
"It is setting up targets. It is raising awareness," she told the Star in an interview. "Of course it still has a lot to do, but there's no doubt that it is moving in the right direction."
Lu said if China reduced its rate of growth from the current 10 per cent a year to the 7.5 per cent target contained in the 2006 five-year plan, that too would help.
China depends heavily on coal, a huge source of carbon dioxide emissions. Almost 69 per cent of China's energy comes from coal, while only 21 per cent is from oil and 10 per cent from hydro, natural gas, nuclear and other sources.
Liu Deshun, vice-director of the Institute for Global Climate Change at the School of Nuclear Research at Tsinghua University, said it was time for the West to step up and assist China with technology and financial assistance.
"Developed countries have more money as well as advanced technologies," Deshun told the Star. "It's obligatory for them to help, and we look forward to this kind of international co-operation."