- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 25, 2007

NEW YORK — U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told an unprecedented summit on climate change yesterday that “the time for doubt has passed” and a breakthrough is needed in global talks to sharply reduce emissions of global-warming gases.

“The U.N. climate process is the appropriate forum for negotiating global action,” Mr. Ban told assembled presidents and prime ministers, an apparent caution against what some see as a U.S. effort to open a separate negotiating track.

The U.N. chief also addressed a U.S. objection to negotiated limits on greenhouse-gas emissions — that it will be too damaging to the American economy.

“Inaction now will prove the costliest action of all in the long term,” Mr. Ban said.

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, in another summit-opening speech, told the international delegates that individual U.S. states are taking action.

While the Bush administration has resisted emissions caps, California’s Republican governor and Democrat-led Legislature have approved a measure requiring the state’s industries to reduce greenhouse gases by an estimated 25 percent by 2020. Other U.S. states, in various ways, are moving to follow California’s lead.

“California is moving the United States beyond debate and doubt to action,” Mr. Schwarzenegger said. “What we are doing is changing the dynamic.”

The one-day meeting, with more than 80 national leaders among about 150 participants, also was scheduled to hear from former Vice President Al Gore, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other international figures.

Mr. Ban organized the summit to build political momentum ahead of negotiations later this year aimed at achieving deep cutbacks in emissions of carbon dioxide and other man-made gases blamed for global warming.

President Bush, who has long opposed such negotiated limits on so-called greenhouse gases, wasn’t participating in the day’s meetings, but the United States was represented by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Mr. Bush was to attend a small dinner yesterday evening, a gathering of key players hosted by Mr. Ban.

Rather than accept treaty obligations, Mr. Bush has urged industry to cut emissions voluntarily, and emphasizes research on clean-energy technology as one answer.

On Thursday and Friday, Mr. Bush will host his own two-day climate meeting, limited to 16 “major emitter” countries. It’s the first in a series of U.S.-sponsored climate gatherings.

Many environmentalists fear the separate U.S. track, which will involve China and India, may undercut the global U.N. negotiating process. But some hope it will eventually draw those two big developing nations and others into a new, U.N.-negotiated emissions program.

Speaking to a technology session at yesterday’s U.N. conference, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the administration views the Washington sessions “as the first in a series of meetings to support and help advance the ongoing U.N. discussion.”

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