MANKIND has just 10 years to ensure the planet remains habitable for human beings, Environment Minister John Gormley told the UN in New York.
Ireland will keep its climate change emission commitments under the Kyoto Treaty, he told world leaders.
He also did not rule out the introduction of a carbon tax to meet commitments.
The meeting was called to galvanise the support of governments around the world for a new, comprehensive treaty to limit the emission of greenhouse gases and replace the one agreed in Kyoto, which expires in 2012.
In his address, Mr Gormley warned that the window of opportunity to avert the worst consequences of climate change was fast closing.
"We have 10 years. Ten years to stabilise our greenhouse gas emissions, to ensure that our planet remains habitable for human beings, 10 years to act decisively," he said.
"And we have squandered precious time," added the minister.
Ireland was a relatively small western European country, Mr Gormley told the General Assembly.
"Thanks to the warming effect of the Gulfstream on the north Atlantic, we have a temperate climate all year round."
He said:"We value our temperate climate and we are determined to do everything possible to protect it in the interest of present and future generations of Irish people."
Meanwhile, a survey carried out by Behaviour and Attitudes for the Power of One campaign by the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources shows that 36pc of workers label themselves "energy wasters" in the workplace.