Technology and science will provide at least part of the solution to global warming, Tony Blair said as 20 nations held talks in London.
This week's meeting follows on from the July G8 summit in Gleneagles
The UK prime minister was speaking at the two-day G8 summit of energy and environment ministers.
The focus is on curbing climate change through technology, not binding deals.
Mr Blair said there were divisions over the Kyoto climate agreement, but he argued that economic growth could be combined with helping the environment.
The meeting brought together the G8 group of industrialised countries alongside developing world nations.
It paves the way for the next round of United Nations climate negotiations, which open in Montreal later this month.
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Mr Blair has described the UN as the "only forum" for formal talks on future treaties but in recent weeks he has downplayed the impact of the Kyoto Protocol.
He has expressed doubts there will ever be another treaty which sets mandatory, binding targets on greenhouse gas emissions.
Major developing countries such as India and China are also known to be sceptical about a "child-of-Kyoto" deal.
Mr Blair said: "The solutions will come in the end, in part at least, through the private sector in developing the technology and science."
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Countries, such as the US, were taking action on their own, he said.
And he argued the issue would never be tackled properly unless the world could combine the need for growth with "a proper and responsible attitude" towards the environment.
"The blunt truth about the politics of climate change is that no country will want to sacrifice its economy in order to meet this challenge," he said.
"But all economies know that the only sensible, long-term way to develop is to do it on a sustainable basis."
Mr Blair said people were very nervous about talks of specific frameworks and targets.
"People fear some external force is going to impose some internal target on you which is going to restrict your economic growth," he said.
"I think in the world after 2012 we need to find a better, more sensitive set of mechanisms to deal with this problem."
The discussions follow the climate agreement drawn up at July's G8 summit in Gleneagles, which emphasised the importance of climate-friendly technologies such as clean coal, nuclear power and renewables.
Environment Secretary Margaret Beckett told the summit there was more evidence the oceans were warming and the strength of hurricanes had increased in the last 30 years.
"We face a timetable that is driven by nature, science and by the predicted effect of climate change on our world, not by our own negotiating processes," said Mrs Beckett.
End of Kyoto?
Many opposition politicians and environmental groups are critical of any move away from Kyoto, saying that binding targets are the best way forward.
Liberal Democrat environment spokesman Norman Baker said: "It is all very well for the government to trumpet the merits of technology in reducing carbon emissions, but it simply isn't enough; we need robust, measurable targets, not just vague aspirations."
Conservative shadow environment secretary Oliver Letwin is in Washington for talks with Republican congressmen about climate change. He said technology and market forces had to be used to fight climate change.
But Mr Letwin added: "We also believe it is essential to have a post-Kyoto treaty with clear targets."