updated 7/27/2007 5:15:28 PM ET 2007-07-27T21:15:28

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's efforts to make California a model for greener environmental policies will soon expand to a global stage when he meets with world leaders at a United Nations conference in September.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Friday invited the governor to the high-level meeting on global warming after the pair toured Echelon Corp., a San Jose-based company that provides energy-efficient networking technologies for residential, commercial, and public electrical equipment.

Schwarzenegger accepted the invitation without hesitation at a news conference where the two dignitaries briefly discussed their shared commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and energy consumption.

"Global warming is beyond debate," Ban said. "What's missing is political will and political leadership."

Ban has made climate change a top priority of his tenure as secretary-general and he lauded Schwarzenegger for pushing California to tackle the issue. At the upcoming Sept. 24 meeting in New York, Ban said he hopes to motivate heads of state to do the same.

Last year, Schwarzenegger signed legislation that made California the first state to impose a statewide cap on greenhouse gas emissions.

Ban on Thursday urged the United States to take the lead in combating global warming.

"The whole planet Earth is at a crucial juncture," Ban said at an event organized by the World Affairs Council of Northern California. "Time is of essence. The cost of inaction will be far greater than the cost of action."

Ban, who served as South Korea's foreign minister before he became U.N. chief in January, arrived in San Francisco on Thursday for a two-day visit of the Bay Area.

At the World Affairs Council event, he said he has made climate change a top priority of his tenure as secretary-general and has invited world leaders, including President Bush, to attend the high-level U.N. conference to discuss the issue in September.

The U.N. "should be at the forefront of generating strong political will" needed to confront global warming, but the United States — a major emitter of greenhouse gasses and a leader in technological innovation — is in the best position to bring change, he said.

"If you take leadership, I think we can save this planet Earth from plunging into a very difficult situation," Ban told an audience of 1,300.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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