AT the end of April the First Minister declared a climate emergency.

When she did so she made it clear that, as far as policy is concerned, everything the Scottish Government does is under review, to ensure that the response to the crisis is up to the challenge.

Some areas need to be reviewed with more urgency and conviction than others – and transport, where emissions are out of control, is clearly one of those. Despite existing climate reduction targets, which the First Minister celebrates as world leading, we’re seeing increases in road and air traffic, and reductions in bike and public transport use.

That has resulted in a 5% increase in transport emissions over the last five years. The Government’s own climate advisers have told it that this is simply not good enough. The U-turn on aviation tax cuts was a first step, but this only avoids making the problem worse rather than actually solving anything.

The Scottish Greens want to see radical measures to reduce traffic demand, shift journeys to cleaner, healthier alternatives and fully decarbonise what’s left. Through the Transport Bill which is currently working its way through Parliament, we’re fighting to secure workplace parking powers for councils, the strongest possible backing for low emission zones, and publicly owned bus services.

We’ve already won millions to help connect communities to the rail network, reopening lines and creating new local stations. And we’ve led the way on active travel, pushing both for investment and legal changes that would give more protection to pedestrians, cyclists and vulnerable road users. Delivering a clean, reliable, accessible transport network is vital for people to lead fulfilling lives, so transport is absolutely at the heart of our vision for a Green New Deal for Scotland.

This week the Welsh Government, which also declared a climate emergency around the same time as Scotland, has just announced the welcome decision to scrap plans to build a £1.4 billion motorway relief road. It recognises what experts have been saying for years: that new, bigger, wider roads lead to more traffic not less, and no amount of “jam tomorrow” promises around electric or hydrogen vehicles can disguise the fact that internal combustion engines are wrecking the planet right now.

Yet in Scotland, the Government is pressing ahead with a dramatically bigger roadbuilding scheme, spending

£6 billion on dualling the A9 and A96. Like everything else, this policy should have been “up for review” in light of the new recognition that we’re living through a climate emergency. But this week John Swinney, standing in for the First Minister at FMQs, ruled out any question of a change of policy. Perhaps he hadn’t see the memo. He cited safety concerns, due in large part to the volume of traffic using the roads. He should know that dualling the road, increasing its capacity and encouraging faster speeds, will lead to more cars and lorries using it, not the overall reduction in demand we need and which would improve safety and cut climate emissions.

The Government has another option. It could shift spending from road building to creating a modern affordable and efficient rail network. The Highland Mainline for example runs parallel to the A9, and remains single-track and deeply inadequate.

Taking the train to Inverness recently I saw once again the limited capacity, the infrequent services, and the bafflement of tourists at the lack of basic amenities like seat reservations, charging points and decent catering services.

I’ve regularly spoken with people who’ve had their journeys delayed for many hours because the single track means that any minor problem holds up every train in both directions and prevents services getting back to normal.

Dualling and electrifying the Highland Mainline could be done at a fraction of the cost of the road projects, and would bring huge environmental and economic benefits to the region. Combined with public ownership and investment to keep rail costs under control, this would help reduce the volume of road traffic, which is the real way to achieve safety benefits.

Ten years ago the SNP Government promised the people of the Highlands the high quality rail connection they need and deserve, but precious little has been done to make that happen. The investment they’ve seen pales into insignificance compared with the billions going into the roadbuilding programme.

If the words “climate emergency” are to mean anything, we need to take new approaches to the challenges our country faces – meeting people’s needs while shifting our society to a sustainable basis instead of just providing more of what people are used to.

Responding to this emergency demands radical systemic change, like taking on vested interests which profit from the fossil fuel economy. But we can’t pretend that it doesn’t also mean changing all our expectations of the individual choices on offer.