NEW YORK (AP) – The idea that President Bush is not committed to fighting climate change is a misperception, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson insisted Thursday.

Paulson spoke during the second day of the Clinton Global Initiative conference. His comments came the same day Bush convened a two-day meeting on climate issues that emphasizes creating more ways to find a solution to global warming, rather than setting firm goals for reducing carbon dioxide and other gases blamed for the environmental problem.

While it’s an approach that has earned Bush some criticism, Paulson said the president was serious about finding solutions.

“He’s taking it very seriously. I don’t see how it can be anything other than a positive to get the major economies of the world, to get the nations that are responsible for 80 percent of carbon emissions, to get them together to deal with the global problem,” Paulson said, responding to a question from panel moderator Tom Brokaw.

The panel addressed issues of economic growth in a time of climate change. Paulson was also scheduled to speak at Bush’s conference in Washington later in the day.

Bush’s approach got some support from another panelist, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who said it was important to get the countries together with a framework that took into account their different economic stages.

“I welcome the meeting that the president’s having,” Blair said.

It was an interesting start to the second day of the conference, started by former President Clinton in 2005 to bring people together for discussions and actions on global causes.

The initiative draws world leaders, celebrities and scholars for three days of discussions on global issues and asks them to take concrete steps on those causes. The first day brought out a number of commitments as participants pledged action on this year’s four areas of focus: climate change and energy, poverty, health care and education.

Some pledges that emerged Wednesday were huge, such as a commitment from the Florida Power & Light Co. to build a solar power plant as part of a $2.4 billion clean energy program.

Others were smaller, but still substantial. CARE, a humanitarian organization dedicated to fighting global poverty, promised $150 million to provide health services to 30 million women and children. BRAC, a Bangladesh nonprofit, vowed to spend $271 million to educate 7.5 million young people in Asia and Africa.

Actress Angelina Jolie announced a commitment from the Education Partnership for Children of Conflict, which she co-chairs, to help educate more than 1 million children around the world. It includes $1.2 million to build an educational complex in Sudan, a plan to take “Sesame Street” to Afghanistan, and a distance learning project that would reach 150,000 children, including those affected by the war in Iraq.

“They say education is not lifesaving,” Jolie said at a news conference with representatives of the Education Partnership’s member organizations. “All of us would beg to differ.”

More than 50 current and former world leaders were on the list of attendees. Those who attend pay a $15,000 registration fee and are expected to commit time or money to the conference’s big issues.

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AP-ES-09-27-07 1311EDT

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