BEIJING - China has used up too much energy and too many resources in its quest for growth, Premier Li Keqiang told visiting French President Francois Hollande Tuesday, adding that the Asian giant has a "duty to humanity" to clean itself up.
Li's comments come ahead of a forthcoming UN climate summit in Paris, which will seek to unite all the world's nations in a single agreement on tackling climate change.
As the world's largest polluter, China will be a key player at the event, in the face of disputes over whether developed or developing countries should bear more of the burden for reducing emissions.
Li said more environmentally friendly development would be "obligatory" for China to "promote a restructuring of its national economy", currently experiencing its slowest growth in years.
The shift was China's "duty and a contribution to humanity" as one of the world's largest countries, he added.
China's decades-long boom, which has propelled it to global prominence, was largely dependent on heavy industry, real estate and infrastructure investment. But growth has slowed in recent years, and now stands at its lowest since the global financial crisis, according to official figures.
"For a great many years, we consumed too much energy and resources to achieve our development, and this model has since become unsustainable," Li said, adding that China must now rely more on development of its human resources.
But he did not cite any specific measures it would take.
On Monday, China and France issued a joint declaration on climate change saying that the Paris accord - intended to cap warming at two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) over pre-Industrial Revolution levels - should include checks for compliance.
Each signatory's progress should be reviewed every five years, the statement said, to "build mutual trust and confidence and promote effective implementation". It gave no details.
Hollande called the declaration a "historic" step forward, and on Tuesday - the final day of his two-day trip - urged Beijing to "discuss with and convince a number of countries known to be vital" to the negotiation process.
"When China is committed, it of course commits itself but it is an example, a benchmark." The French president's trip comes soon after a similar visit by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who was in China last week hoping to drum up business, and after Chinese President Xi Jinping visited both Britain and the US in the last two months.