GLASGOW -- China has reached a "special developmental stage" that justifies its current status of the largest emitter of climate-damaging fossil fuel polluting pollution in the world, according to the country's top climate negotiator Tuesday.
Xie Zhenhua is a special climate envoy to China and spoke with reporters at the U.N. Climate Summit in Glasgow, Scotland.
China is a major climate polluter as well as being the second-largest economy in the world. However, it has not been seen at the summit. Xi Jinping, the Chinese President -- who isn't known to have fled China during the pandemic -- did not join the more than 100 world leaders at this summit. Instead, he addressed observers and delegates via a written message Monday.
Xie played a key role in the negotiations that led to the 2015 Paris climate agreement. He highlighted China's long-standing position that the United States, other developed countries, should act faster to reduce climate-damaging emission.
China is already making the "biggest possible effort to combat climate change," Xie stated, noting that China could not reduce its dependence on coal-fired power stations any faster than it was already.
"So, regarding the fact China is currently the largest emitter of greenhouse gases, it's because China has reached a special developmental stage." Xie stated. He said that the nation would be able to accelerate its emission reductions later.
He stated, "We don't just make promises; we actually keep our promises."
China, which relies heavily on coal-fired electricity, promised last year that it would reduce its fossil fuel emissions in the upcoming decade and become carbon neutral by 2060.
Although climate negotiators were pleased with Xi's announcements, 2060 is a decade after many countries' deadline. Xi has resisted international requests to move more quickly. China participated in some initiatives at the climate summit -- including Tuesday's multilateral pledge to preserve forests -- but has not announced any new climate efforts.
China is an economic powerhouse but its leaders claim that China is still a developing country despite its status.
China claims that it is less responsible for reducing emissions than countries like the United States and Europe, which have already benefited from burning petroleum and coal. An average American still emits more climate-damaging carbon dioxide from fossil fuels than a Chinese citizen.
As global warming increases, China and the U.S. have been playing a long-standing game of blame. China has historically blamed the U.S. for being the largest climate polluter in the world, while Donald Trump's administration specifically pointed to China's pollution as a reason to roll back U.S. climate efforts.
President Joe Biden used Monday's summit to express regret at the U.S. involvement in climate damage.
Biden stated that those of us responsible for most of the deforestation, and all the problems we have had so far, have "overwhelming responsibilities" to the poorer countries that contribute a small amount of the global emissions but are still paying a steep price for the planet's increasing heat.
Monday's apology by Biden for Trump's decision not to sign the Paris climate agreement was also accepted. He said that it "put us kind of behind the eight ball somewhat" in combating climate change.
Xie dismissed Tuesday's reporter's question on whether China, the world's worst carbon emitter, had any similar obligations to other nations for China's contribution to climate change.
Instead, he blamed the U.S. and said that Trump's withdrawal had slowed climate efforts down.
Xie stated that the U.S. withdrawals from the climate agreement had already cost them five years. "And now, we must work harder and catch-up."
Biden joined the Paris accord in January as part of his first act as president.