Companies in the West Midlands need to do more to support anti-pollution measures in emerging market economies, Trade Minister Lord Jones of Birmingham has said.
He said that as the emerging market countries developed it was inevitable that pollution would increase and the UK needed to work with them to reduce the problem.
"The high growth markets have one thing in common," he said. "As they build their GDPs then so pollution will increase and gradually begin to pollute the planet."
Lord Jones, speaking at a conference on international trade held at Birmingham International Airport, said that there was little use preaching to these countries as the UK did not have an unblemished record where pollution was concerned.
"As British industry developed during the 19th and 20th centuries the amount of pollution we generated was considerable. It's therefore hypocritical of us to turn around now and say to these countries you should do more," he said.
"What we have to do is work in part-nership with these countries to reduce the problem and I would hope that the West Midlands with its strong manufacturing presence will take the lead in this," he added.
The issue of pollution is currently the focus of much attention in China in the lead up to the Olympics.
The Chinese authorities, keen to dispel concerns they have no interest in protecting the environment, want to show the rest of the world they have the best interests of the athletes at heart.
There has even been suggestions that they will close ten per cent of petrol stations in and around Beijing while the games are in progress to keep fumes to a minimum.
However, it is long term solutions that are occupying the thoughts of politicians and business chiefs.
Lord Jones said: "I have travelled to so many emerging markets countries in the past six months and everywhere I go there is a willingness to work with UK companies.
"We should say that we will partner with you and help you to meet the challenges and in return we will reap the benefits of better trade links."
The Minister said that companies who ignored the opportunities available in developing economies were missing out on a great deal.
"We built our empire on foreign trade and yet companies today sell more goods to Germany than they do to the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China).
"I would urge West Midlands companies to make the most of the opportunities available now because it would be wrong to look back in five or 10 years time and regret not doing so," he said.
Besides, he added, if UK companies did not move into the markets then the emerging countries would only look elsewhere for business partners.
"There is no room for complacency - we have to act now," he said.
Lord Jones also used the conference to outline progress on UK Trade & Invest-ment's five year strategy - Prosperity in a Changing World.
He also introduced some of UKTI's new initiatives, including the High Growth Markets Programme, which supports mid-corporate UK companies, and its research and development programme, which aims to give UK's a competitive edge in life sciences, IT, electronics and communications, as well as high-performance engineering and materials.
"We have the skills and technology these countries need and so we should be exporting them now," he added.