The UN's top climate change official warned on Thursday that the world was in "deep trouble" if it failed to reach an agreement at next month's UN ministerial conference in Bali.
Yvo de Boer, executive secretary of the UN framework convention on climate change, said governments were well behind business in preparing for the challenges ahead.
He said there should be "no war on oil," insisting that all forms of energy -- whether fossil fuels, renewables or nuclear -- would have to be used to meet aspirations of further economic development and lower carbon emissions.
Speaking on the sidelines of an OPEC summit in Riyadh called to discuss oil issues, including the environment, De Boer said: "If things go wrong in Bali, we really are in deep trouble in the sense we have this very clear message from the scientific community now."
"I have talked to the chair of the IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change], Rajendra Pauchari, and it would take five or six years before they come with another report," he said. "Bear in mind the climate change process so far has been very much science driven. If you get this wake-up call now from science and you don't act on it and then it takes another five or six more years before you get the next wake-up call, that means you are in trouble."
Within the next five to 10 years the world was going to replace 40 percent of its power-generating capacity and that capital cost is going to be around for the next 30 to 50 years, he said.
"So if you don't give investors a clear signal of where policy is going to go, it makes it very difficult for them to make environmentally sound decisions, which is why the private sector is way ahead of governments in calling for a signal that is in their words long, loud and legal," he said.
De Boer has told OPEC ministers that all nations had to start lowering emissions and that there could be no "business as usual."
He felt there had been a huge build-up of political consensus this year, which started with the EU's unilateral move to set a target of generating 20 percent of electricity from renewables by 2020. And he was heartened by a proposal on Thursday from a former OPEC official that the oil cartel could help to fund research and development into carbon capture and storage.
Despite this, the UN climate change meeting starting on Dec. 3 would not be easy, De Boer said.
"The problems tend to start when you get down to the small print, when you have to turn that very broad consensus into a very specific negotiating agenda," he said. "Everyone will want to see his or her issues. You have two weeks to discuss a two-year negotiating agenda, probably the most complicated issue facing the international community."
Once you have an agreement there is still a long hard road ahead, he said.
"Bear in mind it took two years to negotiate the Kyoto Protocol and I believe it took another five years to understand what had been negotiated at Kyoto," he said.