"If we don't fix targets we won't succeed in avoiding catastrophe," Sarkozy told Tsinghua students on Tuesday, adding that a global problem required a global solution.
China's leaders, he said, must exert "immediate, profound and sustainable" influence on the way the country produces goods and consumes energy.
Sarkozy's speech came ahead of a major international climate conference in Bali next month, intended to produce a new global pact on climate change to replace the United Nations' Kyoto protocol, which expires in 2012.
China signed up to Kyoto, but as a developing nation it was not required to take on any obligations to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
This is expected to change with the new round of negotiations, with many believing Beijing must reduce its burning of fossil fuels and its huge dependence on coal, one of the most polluting sources of energy.
|Sarkozy used his visit to China to urge Beijing |
to shoulder more responsibilities [Reuters]
The United States, the world's biggest greenhouse gas emitter, has refused to ratify the Kyoto pact.
It says it is because Kyoto did not impose emissions targets on developing countries.
Sarkozy urged China to take a "strategic decision" and become an example to other countries.
"We are not asking you to give up your development... you can make this development an example for the world," he said.
This New Deal "must be implemented quickly, thoroughly and over a long period... and conform to [China's] size and might", he said.
The original so-called New Deal was a package of policies in 1930s by Franklin Roosevelt, the then US president, to help the US overcome economic depression.
During his three-day visit to China, his first since becoming president, Sarkozy repeatedly called for China to do more to shoulder the responsibilities incumbent on becoming an emerging global power.