Too many countries are "sitting on the fence" in the face of ominous impacts resulting from climate change, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says, and he warned the world is rapidly running out of time to take action.

The United Nations head told attendees at a two-day climate conference held in Abu Dhabi he needed their help to formulate persuasive arguments to move policymakers toward action on the issue.

"Climate change is an issue for all," he said. "I need you all to help us push back against skeptics and entrenched interests."

The Secretary-General was co-hosting the conference with the United Arab Emirates, hoping to increase commitment to action before the September 23 Climate Summit set for New York.

"Empower and motivate your national leaders to bring bold announcements to the Climate Summit in September," the Secretary-General told the conference participants.

A number of developing nations have expressed the desire for the New York summit to be the deadline for wealthy countries to outline their planned cuts in greenhouse gases beyond 2020 to limit temperature rises to a maximum two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

Consequences of climate change are already being felt, a recent report from the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said, but it added there is still time to implement a reduced-carbon strategy to avoid the high costs of future impacts.

Such a strategy would create business opportunities in a low-carbon economy, Ban Ki-Moon said, with potential environmental and social benefits yet to be realized.

"In the coming months, I will count on the wisdom and initiative of all actors," he said. "Those who are prepared to lead can expect considerable returns."

Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore and government ministers from countries around the world were among the more than 1,000 attendees at the Abu Dhabi conference.

Although Abu Dhabi controls a majority of the huge petroleum reserves held by the United Arab Emirates and owes its considerable wealth to it exports of fossil fuel, it has made significant investments in the clean energy market sector for its own energy needs.

Sheik Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nayhan, the UAE's Foreign Minister, told conference participants that Abu Dhabi has set a goal of meeting a quarter of its electricity needs using carbon-neutral sources by the year 2021.

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