SCOTLAND should give an “incredible example” to the rest of the world by taking even more action to help prevent climate change.

The call for Scotland to set the agenda on reducing toxic emissions has been made by the chief executive of the Royal Scottish Geographical Society, Mike Robinson.

As 160 countries officially signed the Paris Climate Agreement yesterday, Robinson acknowledged that Scotland’s targets were already the most stringent in the world.

However he said they could be higher still even though the annual targets, set in tonnage terms, had not been achieved in the first few years despite being “relatively modest”.

Scotland currently has an interim target of reducing emissions by 42 per cent from 1990 levels by 2020.

Robinson said that while it could be argued that more could have been done to make sure the targets had been met, it looked as though the 42 per cent mark would be hit after all – although this would be more through luck than judgment as improved scientific data had now more accurately calculated the 1990 baseline figure.

He pointed out that the targets had been set to avoid a 2°C rise in global average temperatures while the Paris climate change conference last year had recognised the need to keep temperature increases down to below 1.5°C.

As a result, he said, Scotland should set a higher target of 50 per cent or more by 2020.

“There is an opportunity to both revise these targets to take account of the new base line and revise the commitments upwards to reflect the need for greater urgency and effort,” he said.

“A higher target of 50 per cent or more by 2020 would better reflect that urgency and give an incredible example to the rest of the world to accelerate their ambition.”

He said that if the global average temperature rose by 2°C, temperature variations would be more extreme.

“It would also increase the ‘energy’ in the atmosphere, meaning more precipitation, stronger airflows, and greater storm intensity, although locally some parts of the world could experience much greater increases while others remain less affected.”

Robinson said it was essential policies were put in place to achieve the targets.

“This issue is not going to go away and the bolder we are in confronting it, the sooner we can face up to the future with confidence and help others around the world to do the same.”

He added: “Of course, each of us will also, to a degree, contribute to these targets one way or the other. The real tests, both personally and nationally, are going to be the decisions we make about how we travel, about how we heat our homes, how we produce electricity, how we grow our food, the waste we create and what infrastructure we invest in.”

Robinson made the comments to mark Earth Day yesterday (Friday) as well as climate day for the Scottish parliamentary elections next month.

First celebrated in 1970, Earth Day is an annual event co-ordinated globally by the Earth Day Network and celebrated in more than 193 countries each year with support from celebrities like Hollywood stars Emma Watson and Leonardo DiCaprio.

The day has its own flag, created by US peace activist John McConnell, and its own anthems, including one sung to the tune of Beethoven’s Ode to Joy.

The aim of this year’s celebration is to see 7.8 billion trees planted worldwide as well as divest as much as possible from fossil fuels and make cities 100 per cent renewable.

Around one billion people were expected to take part in Earth Day events, and the festivities continue today in Aberdeen where a green fun day is being held at the festival park.

Charity Sciaf calls on world leaders to follow up Paris Agreement with decisive action on climate change