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By Steve Gorman
LOS ANGELES, Nov 19 (Reuters) - Impatient with the pace of national governments in fighting global climate change, 13 U.S. state governors joined counterparts from six other countries on Wednesday to pledge cooperation to curtail Earth-warming greenhouse gas emissions.
The declaration, issued by California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, capped a two-day climate change summit he hosted in Beverly Hills attended by more than 800 environmental officials and politicians from regional, state and provincial governments from a total of 19 nations.
"By joining forces with our partners around the world, we will make the tough decisions to restore our planet’s health," Schwarzenegger said in addressing the conference.
The meeting opened on Tuesday with a videotaped message from U.S. President-elect Barack Obama vowing to "engage vigorously" in international climate change talks once he takes office and to take steps to slash U.S. greenhouse emissions by more than 80 percent by mid-century.
He also reiterated his plans to launch a cap-and-trade system that limits releases of carbon dioxide — the main pollutant associated with excessive warming of the planet — while allowing industries to swap pollution allowances among themselves to ease the cost of meeting reduction targets.
Wednesday’s proclamation was signed by Schwarzenegger and 12 other U.S. governors, as well as by representatives of states and provinces in Canada, Mexico, Brazil, India and Indonesia. China’s leading climate change official, Gao Guangsheng, signed the document as an "honorary witness."
The broadly worded two-page statement pledged signatories to share technology and to "achieve quantifiable greenhouse gas emission reductions collectively." But it recognized that developing and industrialized nations face "differentiated responsibilities and capabilities."
The communique also promised greater efforts in adapting to the regional impacts of global warming — rising sea levels, worsening droughts, more frequent storms — and to help "those that are disproportionately affected, or most likely to suffer the consequences of climate change."
Moreover, the document cited such industries as forestry, agriculture, energy, transportation, aluminum, cement and steel as those where greenhouse emission curbs should focus most.
Although the declaration is nonbinding, Schwarzenegger said it demonstrated "the will" of the signatories to act. He said it also establishes a framework for negotiators who meet for U.N.-sponsored talks next month in Poland to hammer out a successor agreement to the Kyoto Protocol, a treaty agreed in 1997 that took effect in 2005 to curb greenhouse pollution.
The United States is the only industrialized nation that has yet to ratify the treaty. The administration of President George W. Bush has refused to do so until emerging nations like China and India agree on national emissions caps.
Numerous individual U.S. states, in the meantime, have moved to control greenhouse pollution on their own, led by California. Obama’s statement at the conference on Tuesday was cheered by environmentalists as a potential breakthrough in galvanizing national governments to more far-reaching action.
"This is what we’ve been waiting for," said Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle, one of 10 Democratic governors signing the statement. "Now we see what we have worked so hard for at the state level will become the policy of the United States."
Schwarzenegger, a Republican, said his own party "has been a little slow ... on environmental issues" but added Obama’s election would change the dynamics of global warming politics.
Richard Kinley, U.N. deputy executive secretary for climate change, agreed and said: "The international community is very excited by the prospect of the reengagement of the United States." (Editing by Mary Milliken and Eric Walsh)