SINGAPORE - Developed countries are hypocritical for criticizing China's greenhouse gas emissions while using the country's cheap labor to power industries that pollute, Asian business and government leaders said Monday.
"This is green imperialism," Nor Mohamed Yakcop, Malaysia's deputy finance minister, told a panel discussion on global warming at the World Economic Forum on East Asia, a two-day conference.
China has come under increasing pressure from the United States in particular to take more forceful measures to curb carbon dioxide emissions. China relies on coal, among the dirtiest fuels, to provide two-thirds of its energy.
Asian leaders also criticized the U.S. and Australia for not signing the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which caps the amount of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases that can be emitted in industrialized countries.
China signed the treaty but is exempt from emission reductions because it is considered a developing country, a situation often cited by the U.S. and Australia for rejecting the treaty.
Nor Mohamed said there was no point singling out one country when climate change is a global problem.
"Companies that are polluting in China are owned by American, European, Japanese and others. They are benefiting from the cheap labor, from the resources and at the same time accusing China of pollution," the Malaysian official said.
"Let's take the hypocrisy out of the equation," he said.
China overtook the United States in carbon dioxide emissions by about 7.5 percent in 2006, according to the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency's report. While China was 2 percent below the U.S. in carbon dioxide emissions in 2005, voracious coal consumption and increased cement production caused the numbers to rise rapidly, the agency said.
China also uses other numbers to contend that it is not the worst offender: With 1.3 billion people, China spews about 10,500 pounds of carbon dioxide per person, while the United States releases nearly 42,500 pounds per person, about four times as much.
Chen Feng, the chairman of China Hainan Airlines, said now was not the time to assign blame but to create an international solution, saying developed nations were the original polluters.
"So the way I see it is, you were robbers and bandits before you became right-minded people," he said of said.
President Bush recently proposed a meeting of the 15 biggest emitters of greenhouse gases to set an emissions goal. Japan's environment minister called the proposal "significant" but said it was crucial that the top emitters participate.
"Without the participation of United States, China and India - the main emitters - we will not stop global warming," Masatoshi Wakabayashi said.
Ralph R. Peterson, the chairman of a U.S. management, design and construction firm, said Asia's economic growth path appears unsustainable because of high and inefficient energy consumption that contributed to pollution.
He said Southeast Asian nations produce 11 percent of global output and use 21 percent of world oil. China's output is 5.5 percent of world gross domestic product while it uses 15 percent of global energy. India's energy efficiency is one-tenth the global average, while China's water use per unit of GDP is four times the world's average.
"If it takes much more energy to produce one unit of GDP in Asia, then we have a problem," he said.
Associated Press reporters Eileen Ng, Derrick Ho and Vijay Joshi in Singapore contributed to this report.
© 2007 The Associated Press.