WASHINGTON — The United States has a profitable self-interest in assisting Chinese efforts to combat climate change, China’s ambassador here said Thursday as global talks loom.

Zhou Wenzhong said China must focus on industrial growth to lift millions of its citizens out of poverty but was not stinting in the global warming fight, outlining a national government plan on efficiency and renewable energy.

But he said China and the United States, the world’s two biggest polluters, could profitably work together and set a lead for the international community leading up to December’s climate meeting in the Danish capital Copenhagen.

“China and the United States have many shared interests and extensive areas for cooperation on energy and climate change,” he said at a Brookings Institution forum.

The United States should offer its “advanced technologies and a rich experience in energy efficiency and clean energy” to boost China’s own plan, the ambassador said.

“Cooperation between our two countries on energy and environmental issues will enable China to respond to energy and climate change issues more effectively while at the same time offering enormous business opportunities and considerable return to American investors.”

President Barack Obama has pledged to reverse the resistance of his predecessor George W. Bush to action on climate change in the run-up to the Copenhagen talks, designed to forge a successor to the Kyoto climate treaty.

Democrats who control the US Senate and House of Representatives have said they hope to have major legislation creating a “cap-and-trade” system for limiting “greenhouse gases” before the Copenhagen talks.

And they have said the paralyzing US recession is no excuse for inaction — noting that the massive economic stimulus package Obama has proposed is full of steps to promote clean and renewable energy.

But Republicans have signaled they will not sign on to any system that imposes restrictions on the US economy while letting developing competitors such as China and India off the hook.