The Prince of Wales said at the awards that sustainable energy systems must be made a "matter of priority", not only to fight climate change but to bring the world out of the global recession.
In his speech at the Ashden Awards for Sustainable Energy ceremony in London recently, The Prince said "Putting the environment at the top of the political and economic agenda is ironically the surest way to pull ourselves out of the financial crisis from which the whole world is suffering.
"At this time of economic and financial stress it is perhaps only too natural to find our attention drawn to what appear to be more pressing short-term challenges.
"I fear, however, that our grandchildren will not care very much about whether, in these early decades of the 21st Century, we managed to sustain 20th Century-style economic growth based on the combustion of fossil fuels.
"What I suspect they will be far more concerned about is the state of the Earth’s climate and remaining, overstrained ecosystems on which we all depend, about whether there is sufficient food and water, about the security measures and economic resources needed to cope with millions of environmental refugees."
The Prince, who is known for his work on the environment, added: "Achieving positive outcomes will rely upon both a different, more holistic way of looking at how we live and the emergence of a genuine sustainable society.
"This quite simply, I’m afraid, is going to have to be based upon durable energy systems, far better waste utilisation and a more gentle way of working with nature and not against her."
He also warned of a "ticking timebomb" in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and said: "If CO2 emissions carry on rising after 2016 we are unlikely to avoid tipping into catastrophic climate change.
"That is less than 100 months away – 97 since I first drew attention to this ‘ticking timebomb’ in a speech in Brazil earlier this year."
The Prince, who has been Patron of the Ashden Awards for Sustainable Energy since 2006, met the winners including representatives from two schools which were applauded for cutting back on carbon emissions.
Youngsters from Ashley Church of England Primary School in Walton on Thames, Surrey, giggled with delight when The Prince asked them about the schools project. Nine-year-old Yasmin Vidis Humphries said: "He made a few jokes and asked us what we were doing to help.
"He asked us whether we left the tap on when we brushed our teeth."
The school, which has cut its electricity use by more than 50 per cent, decided to cut back on its carbon emissions after headteacher Richard Dunne went to the Antarctic and saw the effects of climate change first-hand.
Children at the school look at many ways to reduce energy consumption and use a range of renewable technologies including a biomass boiler and solar panels.
The primary school, along with a Scottish secondary school, came in joint first for the UK school award. Currie Community High School in Currie, near Edinburgh, Scotland, has made numerous efforts to use renewable energy including installing a wind turbine in the school grounds. Headteacher Kate Paton said: "The Prince was saying how glad he was that there was a Scottish school in the finals and I agree with him.
"We teach about sustainable energy across the school and I believe we make a real difference to young people.
The awards also credited businesses, local authorities and charitable organisations across the UK who have contributed towards sustainable energy for the future.