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45 nations in warming pact

US, China, India rebuff call to form a climate group

PARIS -- Forty-five nations answered France's call yesterday for a new environmental body to slow inevitable global warming and protect the planet, perhaps with policing powers to punish violators.

Absent were the world's heavyweight polluter, the United States, and booming nations on the same path as the United States -- China and India.

The charge led by President Jacques Chirac of France came a day after the release of an authoritative -- and disturbingly grim -- scientific report in Paris that said global warming is "very likely" caused by mankind and that climate change will continue for centuries even if heat-trapping gases are reduced.

It was the strongest language ever used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, whose last report was issued in 2001.

The document, a collaboration of hundreds of scientists and government officials, was approved by 113 nations, including the United States.

Despite the report's dire outlook, most scientists say the worst disasters -- huge sea level rises and the most catastrophic storms and droughts -- may be avoided if strong action is taken soon.

In his call to action at a French-sponsored environment conference yesterday , Chirac said: "It is our responsibility. The future of humanity demands it."

Without naming the United States, producer of about one-quarter of the world's greenhouse gases, Chirac expressed frustration that "some large, rich countries still must be convinced."

They are "refusing to accept the consequences of their acts," he said.

So far, it is mostly European nations that agreed to pursue plans for the new organization, and to hold their first meeting in Morocco this spring.

Chirac, 74, is seeking to leave his mark on international affairs before he leaves office, likely in May, though his environmental record over 12 years as France's president is spotty.

Former Vice President Al Gore, whose Oscar-nominated documentary on the perils of global warming has garnered worldwide attention, cheered Chirac's efforts.

"We are at a tipping point," Gore told the conference by videophone. "We must act, and act swiftly . . . . Such action requires international cooperation."

The world's scientists and other international leaders also said now that the science is so well documented, action is clearly the next step.

"It is time now to hear from the world's policy makers," Tim Wirth, president of the United Nations Foundation, said Friday. "The so-called and long-overstated 'debate' about global warming is now over."