His comments came as the international community began a meeting Monday in Cancun for the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change.
World leaders are calling for a balanced set of decisions to find a common environmental agreement at the climate summit.
John Ashton, a British special envoy for climate change, said the Cancun summit provided a way to address deforestation, climate mitigation in developing countries and green energy programs during tough economic times.
"We're about to embark on a major political debate about growth and the sources of growth," he said in a statement. "Unless we can conduct that debate in a way that establishes low carbon growth at the center of the growth model then we will fail on climate change."
Global climate negotiations remain deadlocked after the Copenhagen climate summit last year ended without a binding climate protection agreement.
Ashton said the international community would be encouraged if economic prosperity was linked to more climate-friendly energy practices.
"Politically, the deep challenge is to build a growth model that will give people confidence that they will have prosperity, jobs, competitiveness, and at the same time, will be driving a shift in the direction of low-carbon growth," he said in a statement.