"Today, let the world know that you are ready to shoulder this responsibility and that you will address this challenge head on."
His push for the "high-level meeting" of world leaders before the General Assembly meeting on Tuesday was to build momentum for a meeting to monitor progress of the Kyoto Protocol in Bali this year.
But Ban faced an uphill battle as his call to action was overshadowed by Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, Iran's president, whose visit to the UN and a New York university sparked protests.
If ratified, the Bali accord will succeed the first phase of the Kyoto pact which sets binding emission targets for developed countries, and expires in 2012.
The European Union has committed to reduce emissions by at least an additional 20 per cent by 2020, but concerns remain that without US co-operation, any plan will be extremely limited in its effectiveness.
Arnold Schwarzenegger, the governor of California, urged countries to stop "looking back" at the Kyoto plan.
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"The rich nations and the poor nations have different responsibilities, but one responsibility we all have is action," he said.
Condoleezza Rice, the US secretary of state representing the US at the climate change meeting in New York, said a technology revolution was needed to combat global warming.
"Existing energy technologies alone will not meet the global demand for energy while also reducing emissions to necessary levels," she said.
Consensus also appeared far from reality among leaders from developing nations who demanded that rich economies honour their pledge to curb emissions of greenhouse gases and help poorer countries cope with the impact of climate change.
Calling on rich countries to fully implement their commitments under the Kyoto pact, Syed Faisal Saleh Hayat, the Pakistani environment minister, said they should deepen their reduction pledge in the next phase.
"We strongly believe that no adaptation plan or strategy would be effective without enhanced financing and greater technological support and access for developing countries," he said.
Faisal was speaking for the Group of 77, a bloc that despite its name represents about 130 developing nations including China.
"Together we must ensure that our grandchildren will not have to ask why we have failed to do the right things and left them to suffer the consequences"
Ban Ki-moon, UN secretary-general
Speaking for the emerging Asian giant, Yang Jiechi, the Chinese foreign minister, said developed countries should "continue to take the lead in reducing emissions after 2012."
Developing countries "should also take pro-active measures and control the growth of greenhouse-gas emissions to the best of their ability and in keeping with their particular conditions," he said.
In defending another economic giant, Palaniappan Chidambaram, India's finance minister, said its per-capita emission of carbon dioxide was "among the lowest in the world" at about one tonne per annum compared to the world average of four tonnes per annum.
"Currently, developing countries bear an inordinate share of the burden of climate change, though this is due to the high level of emissions of developed countries," he said.
And sending a completely different message, Vaclav Klaus, the Czech president, disputed the link between emissions of green house gases and global warming, saying the "science was inconclusive" and the data, exaggerated.
"Contrary to many self-assured and self-serving proclamations, there is no scientific consensus about the causes of recent climate changes," he said.