The Chinese government responded to the damning conclusions of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change by pointing its finger at the developed world.
"Climate change has been caused by the long-term historic emissions of developed countries and their high per-capita emissions," Foreign Ministry spokesperson Jiang Yu said at a news briefing.
The panel’s verdict – that human activity was likely to cause global temperatures to rise about 3 degrees Celsius by 2100, causing water shortages, heatwaves, storms and floods – inevitably put the US and China at odds.
The US is the world’s largest carbon emitter and China is the fast-riser in second place. China’s expansion in power-generating capacity in 2006 alone was equivalent to the entire energy production of the UK and Thailand combined, and 70% of its energy comes from coal-fired power plants.
But Beijing points out that its emissions per capita are still well below those of developed countries. It has said it needs time to introduce the environmental technology currently available in the West.
There are signs that the government is more aware and therefore more willing to be proactive on emissions. The China Modernization Report 2007, released at the end of January by a group of the country’s top scientific institutions, ranked China 100th out of 118 countries for "ecological protection".
To help bridge this technological-ecological divide, the US announced that it would send a "clean energy mission" to China in April. The team, which includes various US companies, will showcase a number of energy efficient and clean coal products.
A raft of new policies are expected from Beijing over the coming year in a bid to meet the environmental challenges ahead.