China now world leader in environmental protection - Jane Goodall

Conservation legend Dr Jane Goodall says with the United States pulling out of the Paris agreement, China and India have become leaders in the area.

She spoke exclusively to Newshub while in New Zealand for her speaking tour, and said China has made "major steps forward" when it comes to the environment - including recovering the giant panda species to the point it's no longer considered endangered.

"China has made many steps forwards, there's an enormous amount of environmental protection going on in China, there are people studying all sorts of different animals, giant pandas are off the endangered species list, so yes, China has made major steps forward," Dr Goodall said.

"Is China still causing environmental destruction in Africa and Latin America? Yes. Did not European colonialism do exactly the same and aren't many big corporations today doing exactly the same?"

Her words are likely to rile up US President Donald Trump, who notoriously accused China of "creating" the "concept of global warming".

Almost five years later, he's yet to backtrack on the statement and his own staff are unsure whether or not he still holds that view.

But it's not only the global warming issue China is taking the lead on. President Xi Jinping has declared its ivory trade will be shut down by the end of 2017.

"The awareness is being raised, people are beginning to understand [the issue]," Dr Goodall said.

"[China] is now taking the lead on clean, green energy, and because President Trump has pulled out of the climate agreement, China and India are jumping in to take leadership roles."

Dr Goodall has been left frustrated by Mr Trump's treatment of climate issues.

"I cannot understand somebody who has been elected President of the United States, standing up and saying that he doesn't believe carbon dioxide emissions have led to the warming up of the planet," she said.

"We point fingers at China because it's a big country and it's a successful country, and because we're a little afraid. But that's like people in glass houses throwing stones."