Following the Bali summit in December there appeared to be an overwhelming agreement that we need to act now to reduce the impact of climate change.

However, there is no agreement on targets, when we start or who should take the first step. Indeed, some commentators feel a “deal” could lead to increases in emissions!

Scientists say global emissions must peak by about 2015 and then fall rapidly to well below 50% of the current level if we are to stave off irreparable damage to our planet.

Since the Labour government came in over 10 years ago, carbon dioxide emissions in the UK have increased by nearly 3%. Yet the rhetoric from Whitehall is for a 26% reduction by 2020 and a 60-80% reduction by 2050. The word “impossible” springs to mind. Perhaps we should first concentrate on achieving a 1% reduction and then doubling it!

So what is holding us back? It can’t be money. Sir Nicholas Stern, in his review of climate change, told us last year it was cheaper to act now than delay. Neither do I think a lack of skills and knowledge in the industry are to blame. The capability is there, even though we have a gap between design and what is delivered.

My conclusion is that the failing is in the leadership and vision on the client side and a failure of the procurement process to address whole-life value and costs. These failures mean most clients, especially those from central and local government, are unable to integrate capital and operational expenditure.

I have witnessed this on every public sector bid I have worked on, especially on the Building Schools for the Future programme. Surely if there is one sector in which we should be building exemplars, it should be schools. Let's make a new year’s resolution that all schools constructed or refurbished from 2008 will be zero or low carbon in design and use.

George Martin, head of sustainability, Willmott Dixon