He said that climate sceptics were having a "corrosive effect" on public opinion and asked: "How are these people going to face their grandchildren and admit to them that they failed their future?"
Prince Charles was speaking to an appreciative Low Carbon Prosperity Summit which - almost without exception - rose to its feet in respect of the British monarch as he left the podium.
The regent's message was characteristically shorn of the diplomatic tact often associated with such events.
"I cannot see how we can possibly maintain the growth of GDP in the long term if we continue to consume our planet as voraciously as we are doing," he told MEPs and business leaders.
There was a direct relationship between the resilience of natural ecosystems and national economies, he said.
"If the fabric of the Earth's life-support system fragments, as it appears it may be starting to do," he went on, "if those systems become weak or even collapse - essentially, if Nature's capital loses its innate resilience - then how long will it take for our economic capital and economic systems to lose their resilience too?"
Halting the destruction of rainforests was not "a lifestyle option," he added.
José Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission, hailed the Prince's speech as "an extremely important contribution, inspiring and full of substance".
Speeches like Prince Charles's could help keep the momentum needed to raise public awareness, he said.
Because of the financial crisis, member states were "naturally becoming more restrictive" in terms of the funding they could provide to meet the EU's climate goals, Barroso added.
The summit accord issued at last week's EU Energy Council called for the bulk of energy infrastructural investment costs to come from financial markets.
"We need to have some public money for this at the national level and the European level," Barroso told the Parliament.
He singled out energy efficiency as "the most urgent area" for attention, because it is the only one of the EU's 2020 goals that the bloc is not on track to meet.
It was positive that the efficiency target had been set he said. "Now let's see if we are credible in the implementation of it."