The private sector should be a key player in helping China address economic and environmental challenges amid mounting international pressure to cut carbon emissions, mainland and US experts said. The US climate bill, marking a major policy shift in Washington, had added more pressure on other countries, notably China, one of the world's top polluters, US-based World Resources Institute president Jonathan Lash said yesterday. 'I don't think we can press the rest of the world to move until the US does, but once the US does, the pressure will be very large on everyone else, including China,' Mr Lash said on the sidelines of an international environment forum being held in Beijing. He said he was optimistic the bill, which passed in the House and was pending in the Senate, would get the green light. His view was supported by Li Junfeng, deputy director of the Energy Research Institute under the National Development and Reform Commission. Mr Li said China was being pressured by the West to cut a deal on a low-carbon economy to help reduce global warming by the end of the year. He noted industrial countries had been urging China to accept mandatory caps on emissions of greenhouse gases, with the US insisting that no deal could effectively reduce global emissions without steep cuts from the mainland. China has welcomed the US bill but has refused to back down on its programme to further reduce emissions, citing fears that binding targets would hurt its economy. Lack of political will has created glaring gaps between developing and developed countries over who needs to do what first, marring the effort to find a successor to the Kyoto Protocol in Copenhagen in December. But mainland small and medium enterprises (SMEs) have rekindled hopes and presented a great opportunity for China to find solutions to the dilemma, according to experts who took part in the forum. Ye Weijia, director of the Dao Institute for Environment and Development, said that despite the global financial crisis, SMEs - especially those in clean energy and recycling sectors - had continued to grow rapidly. 'Thanks to favourable government policies, few SMEs are affected by the world economic recession,' Mr Ye said. Ray Cheung, manager of the World Resources Institute's new ventures in China, said the government should encourage SMEs through legislation by putting a cost on pollution and creating incentives for people who would find ways to lower it. 'SMEs in China are proving that they are very innovative,' Mr Cheung said. 'They not only help China tackle the environmental crisis but also contribute to economic growth.' Mr Li of the National Development and Reform Commission, which organised the climate talks, also noted that smaller businesses had yet to get full official recognition for their green efforts.