"Governments need to assess the needs of this planet in terms of energy and stop saying we will develop solar and then not have enough," Christophe de Margerie, Total's chief executive officer, said in an interview with the Financial Times. "Carbon is not the enemy; carbon is life."
He urged Europe's politicians not to impose a carbon tax on oil and gas companies.
"That will stop investment at a time when it is already very complicated in Europe," he said.
De Margerie is considered progressive in the oil and gas industry; he has lobbied for wide-reaching climate protection measures and says the established energy providers should embrace renewables.
"There is no need to antagonize renewables and alternative energies," he said earlier this month at the World Gas Conference. "The world will need both to grow."
But he also says that climate policy should not ignore energy security, urging politicians heading to the U.N.-mandated climate conference in Denmark this December to try to implement both into an effective agreement.
"Don't go to Copenhagen only with your concern about the environment," he warned politicians in the interview. "We also have a concern over energy access. If you take only one (concern with you), we are dead and we don't want to die."
Officials have little hope that Copenhagen will be successful.
Just weeks before world leaders are due to meet in the Danish capital, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's spokesman said the conference might not even produce a binding treaty.
Janos Pasztor, head of Ban's climate change team, Monday told reporters in New York, "It's hard to say how far the conference will be able to go."
Much depends on the U.S. position, which is in question because the U.S. Congress has not yet agreed on a domestic climate bill.
The accord to be born at Copenhagen -- to feature binding emissions-reductions targets, adaptation measures and their funding -- is due to replace the Kyoto Protocol, which runs out in 2012.