The world must set a series of new goals for a greener economy at a major conference in June, Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman said on Thursday.
Spelman said "sustainable development goals" similar to the Millennium Development Goals which aimed to tackle problems faced by the world's poorest people, were needed to address environmental issues.
The Environment Secretary also called for countries to move away from using GDP as the sole measure of progress towards "GDP+" which would see governments measure the value of natural resources and their people's wellbeing.
She claimed the UK was leading the way on the concept.
Spelman was setting out her vision for what should be achieved at Rio+20, the UN conference in Rio de Janeiro this summer marking 20 years since the original Earth Summit which set up action to tackle climate change and wildlife losses.
The Environment Secretary is to lead the UK delegation, despite calls from MPs for the prime minister to attend the talks to show the UK's commitment to greening the world economy.
She told businesses and charities at an event at London Guildhall: "Our economic and environmental security relies on ambitious outcomes from Rio+20. Rio+20 has to be a workshop not a talking shop.
"The international community has not made sufficient progress on important world challenges such as food security, access to clean water and sustainable energy.
"We need urgent action now. Sustainable development goals can drive international action on these key issues and build on the success of the Millennium Development Goals.
"I will be pushing for real progress on new goals to set us on the right path to a greener and more sustainable world."