By Bate Felix
PARIS (Reuters) - The switch from fossil fuels to sustainable energies such as wind and solar is inevitable, and the transition could happen within two decades depending on decisions reached at the Paris climate summit, Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk said Wednesday.
Nearly 200 nations are meeting in the French capital for a two-week United Nations climate conference aimed at reaching an agreement to curb global warming caused by carbon emissions which are partly caused by usage of fuels such as coal and oil.
Speaking to students at Paris Sorbonne university campus about climate change, the chief executive of the electric carmaker Tesla, said: "We are going to exit the fossil fuel era. It is inevitable."
He added that it was no longer a question of if, but when, and governments meeting in Paris could speed the process by reaching an agreement that was not watered-down.
Negotiators from the countries have began working on a draft text of the climate deal this week but many sticky issues are to be resolved.
Musk said he had good feeling about the outcome of the Paris negotiations and there has been some positive movements compared with a previous summit in Copenhagen which ended in shambles without an agreement.
He said among some decisions which could enable faster switch to renewable energies include the removal of an estimated $5.3 trillion in various forms of subsidies that go to the fossil fuels sector globally.
Another measure was carbon pricing, he added.
"Right now we have an incentive structure that is designed to slow it down (transition from fossil fuels)," Musk said.
"If countries decide to do a carbon tax or cap and trade, and it is real and not watered-down and weak, I think we can see a transition that is in the 15 to 20 years time frame as supposed to 40 to 50 years time frame.
"By putting a price on carbon, we are fixing a pricing error in the market," he added. "Any price will be better than the close to zero we have right now," he added.
At the start of the summit on Monday, leaders of six countries including France and Mexico, as well as the heads of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, urged other nations and big corporations to put a price on carbon emissions.
(Reporting by Bate Felix)