CLIMATE change has certainly been in the news in the last couple of weeks.

In a flurry of activity, the First Minister declared a climate emergency, making Scotland the first country in the world to do so. Just a few days later, in response to advice from the Committee on Climate Change, the Scottish Government announced it would enshrine in law a target for Scotland to reach net-zero emissions by 2045, meaning we will remove as much in greenhouse gas emissions from the atmosphere as we produce.

We’ve already seen a first step towards turning the declaration of a climate emergency into action less than a week later, with the Scottish Government abandoning its plans to scrap air departure tax (ADT). The announcement was explicit, saying clearly that such a move would be incompatible with our climate targets. The Government had wanted to reduce ADT by 50% before eventually abolishing it altogether, a move Stop Climate Chaos Scotland (SCCS) had long opposed.

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But what does all of this mean for you and I? By declaring a climate emergency, the Scottish Government has committed to looking at every policy area it controls and proof checking against its aims to be

net-zero. This is good news for all of us because, with the right political support, cutting our emissions can also mean accelerated actions to make our homes warmer and renewable powered, support for sustainable farming and steps to help get polluting fossil fuel vehicles off the roads – meaning cleaner air, reducing the burden on the NHS. However, we need to ensure that more action does follow the climate emergency declaration and that these measures are prioritised and costed correctly across government departments.

It’s vital that action is taken within the next decade and not kicked further into the future so it’s welcome news that the Scottish Government will soon produce a new climate change plan, setting out the next steps on the road to cutting our emissions, following the net-zero commitment. But as it stands, the Government doesn’t have to say how much it’s spending or planning to spend (if anything) on specific initiatives to help achieve this plan.

That means when the Scottish Government sits down to plan its Budget, it isn’t obliged to think about our climate ambitions. Cutting our emissions must be at the top of the agenda across government, otherwise it will be too easy not to act upon the urgency of the climate emergency.

The National: Extinction Rebellion protests helped bring the climate emergency into political discourseExtinction Rebellion protests helped bring the climate emergency into political discourse

That’s why we want Scotland’s new climate law to legally require the Government to show us the money and link budgets closer to our climate change ambitions. That way, actually delivering policies which reduce our emissions will become more of a priority and we’ll be able to tell more easily if the Government is investing the money needed to achieve it in practice.

Last week also saw the publication of a new UN biodiversity report which gave the horrifying statistic that one million animals and plants are at risk of extinction. We still have time to halt this, and Scotland can be in the vanguard of global efforts to save our natural environment. It’s important we recognise that by tackling climate change, we help protect our natural world for future generations.

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For those of us who have been working on climate change issues for many years, the growing public calls for our political leaders to stop playing with the future of our planet are welcome. From the school strikes to Extinction Rebellion, the tide is turning in the right direction.

The UN climate report last year could not have been clearer that we don’t have the luxury of waiting to act. Millions of people are already feeling the devastating impacts of climate change. We need to act now to ensure global temperature rises remain within 1.5C. Warming above that threshold means irreversible and devastating consequences for those most vulnerable as well as erratic weather right here on our doorstep.

We should be proud to have given our political leaders the confidence to set ambitious targets. Now the hard work really begins. We need to ensure declarations made by politicians are more than just words.