The current economic downturn and turmoil may put efforts to curb climate change at risk, two UN officials leading the fight on the issue have warned.

Speaking on the first day of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Rajendra Pachauri, the chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, said he was concerned that world leaders might be “distracted” by the short-term search for jobs and economic growth.

He called on them “not to lose sight of the reality of climate change”. He said that it would “clearly be very unfortunate” if stock market instability threated progress made so far.

His comments were echoed by Yvo de Boer, who chaired last year’s Bali climate change conference. He said “this is the time to really be bold and push through. The reality is that people are going to suffer pain and others are going to gain.”

Mr De Boer called for “a Marshall plan for climate change”.