NICOLA Sturgeon has told world leaders at the climate summit in Poland that they have to be ambitious in their goals for tackling climate change as she highlighted Scotland’s place as a leader in the field.

The First Minister was speaking during a session at COP24 in Katowice, when she said climate change was accelerating and they had to accelerate the “pace and scale” of their actions to combat it.

“The first strategy that we all must adopt is to be ambitious in the goals that we set to tackle climate change,” she said.

“Scotland is seeking to lead by example in what we are doing. We’ve already almost halved our emissions based on 1990 levels but we are in the process of legislating to increase our ambitions to keep pace with the Paris commitments.

“We aim to be a carbon neutral country by 2050, we aim to be net zero of all greenhouse gas emissions as soon as we possibly can achieve that and we will achieve that by taking action across a range of sectors.

“We have already substantially decarbonised our electricity supply, we aim to meet at least half of all of our energy needs from renewable sources by 2030.

“We have set ambitious targets around electric vehicles and we want to be a country that is reaping the economic benefits of being an early adopter and being in the lead on tackling climate change.”

Sturgeon went on to highlight the economic advantage for countries that become “early adopters and innovators”. With a population of five million, Scotland had a “significant” low carbon and renewable economy, with 50,000 jobs.

“It has a turnover of £11 billion, so it is significant and growing. By being a leader, for example in wind energy and tidal energy, we’ve created jobs and research opportunities and economic opportunities.

“As a country that has for the last four decades and more produced oil and gas we’re also demonstrating how we can transfer the knowledge and the skills and the employment opportunities from that sector into renewable energy.”

The FM went on to outline how the proposed Just Transition Commission would work by demonstrating that there was nothing to fear with a low carbon economy.

She said: “We will be working closely with civil society, trade unions, the NGO community and private companies to demonstrate that there is nothing to fear and everything to gain from the transition to a low carbon economy; that we can create new jobs that replace jobs in the older industries; and that those jobs can often be higher skilled, better paid.

“So we can benefit by doing the right thing for our own country and for the planet.”

Earlier, African climate leaders had called on the Scottish Government to raise its ambition on climate change.

In a letter to Sturgeon, the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA) – representing more than 1000 member organisations from 45 African countries – praised Holyrood for its pioneering efforts so far, notably the “bold step” of launching the Climate Justice Fund which has been emulated elsewhere.

However, its executive director Mithika Mwenda said that in light of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, Scotland must respond by “putting in place measures to drastically cut its emissions as science demands”.

“For communities in Africa devastated by the adverse effects of climate change, we keep hoping against hope that countries like Scotland will rise to the occasion and stand to be counted as the global community rallies against time to avoid the precipice,” he said.

Chris Hegarty, spokesperson for Stop Climate Chaos Scotland, added: “The Paris Agreement puts equity at the heart of global efforts to tackle climate change, yet this principle is under threat with richer countries unwilling to do their fair share.”