China's envoy to a UN climate change summit said that the Asian power was committed to tackling its carbon emissions and avoiding the pattern of polluting growth taken by today's industrial powers.
But Vice Chairman Xie Zhenhua still insisted that China's targets for cutting its emissions be voluntary, rather than forced on it by the outside world. Wealthy countries had to take the lead in curbing climate change and providing money to help poor countries adapt.
In a speech at the climate summit in Cancun on Wednesday, Xie noted that much of China's population remained in poverty and Beijing was being forced to develop its economy and confront climate change at the same time.
"China will continue to follow a path of sustainable development and will never repeat the old path taken by developed countries in their industrialisation process, which emitted greenhouse gases in an unchecked manner," Xie told the gathering.
"Developed countries should take the lead in substantial emissions reduction, so as to leave the necessary room for the development of developing countries," he said.
China has been at odds with the US and Europe over just how much international oversight over its climate policies the Asian power should allow.
Xie made little mention of the controversy, saying only that the Cancun conference should make "positive progress" on mitigation and transparency.
EU Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard said earlier Wednesday that it was up to China to put "flesh" on its pledges ahead of the conference that it would be willing to be more transparent about what it is doing to tackle climate change.
Though China has been reluctant to accept international controls, Xie insisted that China would follow through on a pledge to cut its greenhouse-gas emissions per unit of economic output by 40-45 percent by 2020. The pledge marked a "domestic obligatory target".