What decisions must world leaders make at the United Nations climate change conference in Copenhagen next month? We quizzed professionals, politicans and campaigners

Lucy Pedler
Founder, Green Register

The summit will be a waste of time and public money unless all developed and developing nations agree on a fixed, achievable and binding set of CO2 reduction targets (relative to each country’s current emissions). Nothing less than radical change is required and I am not of the opinion that this is likely to happen. Leaders talk about this being the last chance to avert global climate change but it is already happening, and for Copenhagen to be a success we need strong, forward-thinking leadership, not “What can we do until my political term runs out?”

Professor James Woudhuysen

Stay away from interfering with heating and lighting preferences, travel habits, reproductive practices and diet. Stop finger-wagging about carbon footprint; abandon attempts to audit it. Quit the guilt industry, end obsessive carbon dogma. Stop hectoring China and India. Refuse to chase the chimera of microgeneration. Prioritise nuclear fusion, high-tech coal, second- and third-generation biofuels, highaltitude kites on hawsers, solar for the Sahara, air capture of CO2, geoengineering. The summit will fry the air, no more than that.

Ryan Law
Managing director, Geothermal Engineering

I’m optimistic because no one can afford to walk away from the table any more. That’s not to say that the process of negotiation will be a smooth one; there is considerable tension between the developed and developing nations, and a justifiable anger from poorer nations who feel that they cannot reduce their emissions without help from richer nations, who so far have been less than forthcoming with the promised aid. To solve this antagonism we need a commitment from rich nations to become leading examples of renewable energy production.

Simon Hughes
Liberal Democrat, Spokesman on Energy and Climate

The developed world must accept historic responsibility for the climate crisis. That is the only way to build trust with the developing world. The developed world should commit $160bn of funding every year to support climate change mitigation, adaptation and technology transfer to the developing world.

Tanya Ross
Group director, Buro Happold

It’s a brave politician who campaigns on the need for long-term environmental investment in the face of rising unemployment, but Copenhagen needs to get some measurable commitments on the table that governments can be held accountable for. Someone likened the statements being made last week by Ma Ying-jeou, president of Taiwan, and Barack Obama as being like two people standing on a bridge, wondering who’s going to jump first. Or maybe they’ll jump together? It’s time to get that commitment, to make that step.

Jules Saunderson
Sustainable design engineer, Fulcrum Consulting

The conference should focus as much on facilitating solutions as setting targets, which can make one focus on the details of the target itself, rather than how best to approach the task. This can be seen with the zero carbon targets in the UK: three years after they were first announced, we’re still arguing about the definition. Co-ordinated international planning and delivery of new low-carbon infrastructure will require greater levels of trust, and arguing over a legally binding target may not be conducive to this.

Jean Venables
President, Institution of Civil Engineers

With the Kyoto protocol deadline in 2012 bringing one era of the climate change battle to an end, there is a pressing need to reset the agenda for the future. If real change is to be achieved, an international framework of targets must be agreed to ensure that we continue actively to address the consequences of our changing climate on societies. Any infrastructure built today will have impact on our emissions levels for years to come, so it is essential this is taken into account now.

Nelson Ogunshakin
Chief executive, Association for Consultancy and Engineering

Governments must agree to limit the overall global temperature increase to 2C and achieve an overall, significant reduction in carbon dioxide output, particularly through the roll-out of low-carbon energy and transport. There must be absolute commitment to technology and skills transfer to less developed nations, as these will suffer disproportionately. There must be commitment to new models of green economic development. Above all, these commitments must be achievable. There must be a definite timetable of meaningful actions from each government, otherwise the Copenhagen summit will be seen as just another global PR opportunity.

Peter Ainsworth
Tory MP who introduced the Green Energy bill

The prospect of success at Copenhagen improved significantly with the election of the Obama administration. This was always going to be mainly about a deal between America and China, with the EU, Brazil and India playing supporting roles. The prospect of failure is not worth thinking about.

David Clark
Partner, Cundall

As a starting point, governments should agree to worldwide benchmarks for energy per person and energy per square metre for all building types; a standard method for calculating energy to CO2 conversion factors for electricity used in buildings; a methodology for efficient buildings; and revenue-neutral tax mechanisms in each country to reward good performance and penalise poor performance.

Ricardo Moreira
Director, XCO2 Energy

Governments from developed countries, which created the problem, need to face the political risk and commit to bold, comprehensive targets without requiring the same from the developing world. Emerging economies have a big role to play in reducing deforestation and setting their own targets, with strong international financial backing. The technological solutions are known and abatement curves show many of them are cost-effective; what we need is political will and leadership.

Joan Ruddock
Minister for Climate Change, Westminster

We need an agreement that leads the world to cut its emissions by at least 50% by 2050 and, crucially, to put in place the measures needed to ensure global emissions start to fall within the next decade. This will require all developed countries to commit to firm emissions reductions targets, and also actions from rapidly developing countries to limit their emissions growth. But we’re also seeking a deal that helps to deliver new and additional sources of funding for low-carbon development and adaptation in developing countries.

Cal Bailey
Marketing and sustainability director, NG Bailey

There must be a global solution to the various national carbon standards in buildings in order to create a single standard to replace BREEAM/LEED/Green Star and the other European methods. I am hopeful that the summit will be a success but the devil is in the detail.

Stewart Stevenson
Minister for climate change, Scottish Government

The Scottish government has taken the lead with the publication of the Climate Change (Scotland) Act, which will help us become a leading nation in developing a sustainable way of life, reducing the impact its people have on the local and global environment. The move to a low carbon economy is a major opportunity. The choices made will be critical to shaping a modern, successful and sustainable Scotland and to maintaining a quality of life which retains and attracts talented people and investment. It is imperative that other developed nations follow this lead while we also reach out to those who need our help in tackling the biggest threat facing the modern world today.

Julian Weyer
Partner, CF Moller Architects

Whether a specific reduction target, or a new methodology in assessments, or any other agreement, what would make the meeting successful would be a framework that creates a shift in feasibility for “greentech” in a wide sense – making it more attractive, economical and efficient to invest in and develop the next generation of solutions in architecture and technology. The biggest potential for movement is not just in appealing to the hearts, but also to make it good business to go green.

Jim Footer
Campaigner, Greenpeace

World leaders must agree to: help from rich countries so the rainforests are protected, because it’s a cheap way to slash emissions; cash to help developing world countries to adapt, because otherwise they won’t sign a deal; ambitious, binding emissions targets for developed countries like the UK, and commitment from developing countries that they will need to reduce their emissions in the future. We’re in this together, we can beat it together.

Caroline Lucas
Green Party Leader

We need more than polite talk and empty promises. Climate change is a global security issue, and governments must put themselves on something akin to a war footing if they are to adequately respond to the challenge. Instead of always talking about the costs of changing our behaviour, leaders urgently need to talk about the benefits that will flow from investing in alternatives to polluting, finite fossil fuels. It is essential to highlight the great potential of the Copenhagen summit to achieve positive.

Farah Naz
Building environmental engineer, Gifford

Governments must agree first, that the developed and the developing world both have a serious, pressing problem with climate change. Second, they must agree to finance and transfer lowemission technologies to developing countries, providing the stimulus for economic growth without making the causes of climate change even worse. And third, I would like all governments to recognise the need for a new, global economic model based on decarbonised technologies and a predictable allocation of capital to microfinance small-scale enterprises where appropriate.