United States Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley on Monday said that there was a need to “confront India and China” in order to save the environment.

“If we want to be serious about saving the environment, we need to confront India and China,” Haley, who has roots in India, wrote on Twitter. “They are some of the biggest polluters.”

The tweet by the former South Carolina governor on the occasion of World Environment Day led to an online backlash, with many Twitter users pointing to the United States’ significantly larger historical contribution to worldwide pollution.

Prominent political leaders in the United States have blamed India and China for global pollution on earlier occasions as well. In September, the country’s former President Donald Trump blamed India, China and Russia for adding to global pollution. “China sends up real dirt into the air,” he had said. “Russia does, India does – they all do.”

Days later, Trump had remarked at a presidential debate that the air in India was “filthy”, leading to sharp criticism from his rival Joe Biden. “It’s not how you talk about friends – and it’s not how you solve global challenges like climate change,” Biden, who is now the United States president, had said at the time.

The United States has historically been the world’s largest emitter of plant-heating gases, and is estimated to have been responsible for about a quarter of the world’s historical carbon dioxide emissions. While the Biden-led regime has set a target of decarbonising the country’s economy by 2050, a government report has said that it needs to make bigger cuts to greenhouse gas emissions in the next three decades to meet its aims, according to Reuters.

Nevertheless, India is now the third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases after the United States and China. In September, a multi-agency report coordinated by the World Meteorological Organization said that India was among the countries that led the global increase in carbon dioxide emissions in the first five months of 2022.

Carbon emissions in India increased by 7.5% from January to May 2022 as compared to the same period last year, while the United States registered an increase of 5.7%.