Prince Charles spoke at Merdeka palace in Jakarta, Indonesia on Monday as part of a four-day trip highlighting environmental awareness. ((Achmad Ibrahim/Associated Press))

Prince Charles wants developed countries to pay an annual "utility bill" for the benefits they glean from rainforests, with the money funneled into efforts to prevent deforestation.

"Indonesia and the other rainforest nations are stewards of the world's greatest public utility," the prince told an audience gathered at Merdeka presidential palace in Jakarta, Indonesia.

"The rest of us have to start paying for it, just as we do for water, gas and electricity."

Rainforests act as the "world's greatest public utility," the prince said, providing natural air conditioning, storing the largest body of freshwater and employing over 1 billion people.

The eco-conscious prince says developed nations drive much of the rainforest destruction with demand for such products as beef, palm oil and logs.

Under the proposal by the Prince's Rainforest Project, payments would operate like a "commercial transaction," he said.

"In return the rainforest nations would provide eco-services such as carbon storage, fresh water and the protection of biodiversity."

The "bills" would be paid by developed countries in the forms of development aid, surcharges on climate change-causing activities or from auctioning carbon market emission allowances, the prince suggested.

"However, I hope that even in the short term, the large part of the required funding could be provided by the private sector by subscribing to long-term bonds issued by an international agency," the prince said.

The prince said he hopes that the pension industry would be interested in buying the bonds, which would be underwritten by the developed countries's governments.

"The issuing entity would pay the proceeds from the bonds to the rainforest nations," said Prince Charles. "They in turn would use the money to reorientate their economies to halt or refrain from deforestation."

Prince Charles is travelling through Indonesia as part of a wider 10-day tour of Asia. Earlier in his stay, he visited the country's Harapan Rainforest conservation project on Sumatra island.