Tony Blair said science held the key to climate change as he urged caution over the belief that global warming could be beaten simply by setting targets.
Addressing a summit of energy and environment ministers in London yesterday, he acknowledged there were divisions among world leaders over the Kyoto climate agreement.
He said targets to cut greenhouse gas emissions made some people "very nervous and very worried" because they feared their economies would suffer.
Mr Blair said the world faced a "very important moment" over climate change and needed to work towards "a better, more sensitive set of mechanisms to deal with this problem".
He said the evidence of climate change was getting stronger and even those who doubted it accepted there were concerns over energy security and supply.
Mr Blair added: "The solutions will come in the end, in part at least, through the private sector in developing the technology and science." But he said the issue would never be dealt with properly unless the world was able to combine the need for growth with "a proper and responsible attitude" towards the environment.
Tony Juniper, executive director of Friends of the Earth, warned that moving away from a target-based approach could be disastrous. He said: "Climate change is the most urgent and serious challenge faced by the global community - and we need leadership to adapt the global economy to deal with it."