The urgency of governments finding agreement at next month’s Copenhagen Climate Change conference is highlighted in a report from environmental thinktank the World Resources Institute. The WRI’s analysis makes clear that, so far, pledges to reduce greenhouse gas emissions fall far short of what’s needed to avert global disaster

Politicians speak readily about the need for action, but for Copenhagen to succeed governments must commit to even more rigorous emission reduction targets that are both measurable and binding. It will not be easy: the UK government has talked at length about tackling climate change, yet its own departments are failing to meet carbon reduction targets according to a report by the Environmental Audit Committee last summer.

Perhaps the government should take a leaf out of WSP’s book. As we report, the consultant has introduced a voluntary scheme to encourage staff to reduce their personal carbon consumption. Each participant is given an annual carbon allowance. At the end of the year, the scheme rewards those with a light carbon footprint and penalises the heavy-footed, but in all cases it increases carbon awareness. And it works: the overall carbon footprint of those taking part fell by 10% in the first year.

The world desperately needs innovative solutions to cut emissions and for that governments must look to engineers for the infrastructure to speed the move to a low carbon economy. New technologies such as geo-engineering must be funded. In particular, governments should ensure that developing countries get what they need to enable them to continue to grow their economies in an economically and environmentally sustainable manner.

Certainly the feedback from BSD’s vox pop of politicians, engineers and institutions is that Copenhagen must set an ambitious framework of targets if climate change is to be mitigated. Sadly, the majority of respondents expect no significant agreement to come out of Denmark. I expect they are right; but I do hope they are wrong.