Secretary-General Kofi Annan told the UN conference on climate change Wednesday that it's clear it will cost far less to cut greenhouse-gas emissions now "than to deal with the consequences later." "Let no one say we cannot afford to act," Annan declared, in a reference to those, such as the Bush administration, who contend that reducing global-warming gases would set back their economies too much. The UN chief also lamented "a frightening lack of leadership" in fashioning next steps in reducing global emissions. "Let us start being more politically courageous," he urged hundreds of delegates from some 180 member nations of the 1992 UN climate treaty. Their annual meeting has been working on technical issues involving the Kyoto Protocol, which obliges 35 industrial nations to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases by 5 percent below 1990 levels by 2012. The United States and Australia are the only major industrialized countries to reject that 1997 treaty annex. US President George W. Bush says it would harm the US economy, and it should have required cutbacks in poorer nations as well. Annan told delegates the Kyoto accord, though "crucial," is "far too small." Closed-door talks were under way here focusing on how to set emissions quotas for the post-2012 period - a regime others hope will include the United States, the biggest emitter.