California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger says world policymakers do not have to choose between a clean environment and economic growth.
"We've proved that over and over again in California," he said.
Interviewed by ABC's "Good Morning America" from the Copenhagen conference, he said he thinks world leaders may be risking setback by pushing so aggressively for an accommodation on curbs to heat-trapping emissions.
Schwarzenegger said that people worried about climate change should pay more attention to companies, universities and "ordinary folks" and not put so much emphasis on a multinational consensus. He said that type of thinking is "setting yourself up for failure."
He also said that policy changes need to begin at the local and regional level, not the national level. He encouraged the UN to host a summit for local and regional leaders, and offered to host it in California.
"California has shown that a sub-national government can lead the way to national change and I urge all of the world leaders here in Copenhagen to liberate the power beneath the national level to help us create an environment we can proudly pass down to our children, grandchildren and beyond," he said
The governor also said poor nations have a right to demand that the richer countries help them to meet tougher pollution standards.
In an interview with the Financial Times, he took a swipe at former Alaska governor Sarah Palin, who wrote an op-ed piece in the Washington Post questioning the scientific evidence that global warming is real and man-made.
"You have to ask: what was she trying to accomplish," Schwarzenegger told the Financial Times. "Is she really interested in this subject or is she interested in her career and in winning the [Republican presidential] nomination?"