THIS last year was a record-breaking year, and not in a good way. Here in Europe, we have experienced our hottest temperatures on record, with heat waves leading to wildfires, droughts and a huge loss of wildlife and nature.

There were extreme weather events all over the world. The flooding we saw in Pakistan submerged one-third of the country, displacing hundreds of thousands of people and turning millions of lives upside down.

The cameras may have gone, but the devastation it caused has not gone away. A recent report from the United Nations warned that more than eight million people across Pakistan could still be exposed to flood waters or live close to flooded areas.

If we carry on the way things are then these sorts of catastrophes will only become more common. It will continue to be people in the global south, and people with the least, who are affected the most.

READ MORE: 2022 to be warmest year on record for the UK, Met Office says

There is no bigger issue that we will ever face. That goes for all future generations as well. Yet, despite having all of the science at their fingertips, far too few leaders are prepared to act.

The COP27 climate conference in Egypt in November encouraged some hope, but the final package did not go anywhere near far enough and underlined just how much work there is still to do.

The agreement for a new “Loss and Damage” fund for vulnerable countries set a vital precedent.

The policy itself has been fiercely resisted by the US government and others. There are still big hurdles that will need to be cleared in terms of identifying what level of funding will be provided and how it will be distributed.

Yet, to even have an agreement on the principle was a huge step forward and a tribute to the hard work of all of the activists and governments who have called for it.

However, the bill for loss and damage will become unpayable unless fossil fuel-burning states take real action to tackle the causes.

Unfortunately, it proved impossible to convince some of the biggest polluters to take even the most basic steps. The refusal of leaders to even agree to a “phase out” of fossil fuels was not just disappointing, it will delay progress and will cost lives.

Words matter, but they can never be enough.

If we look at the UK Government, for example, it will talk a good game on climate change one day while doubling down on drilling and granting 100 new oil and gas licences the next.

This climate-wrecking hypocrisy has seen them encouraging other countries to move away from coal while at the same time giving permission for the first new coal mine in 30 years.

The science is clear and the technology we need is already there. The big thing that is missing is the political will to deliver the changes that are so necessary.

In Scotland, we are doing all that we can despite the challenging economic circumstances and the severe constraints of devolution.

We are the only government in the UK to deliver free bus travel for everyone under 22, helping household budgets and helping to ensure that public transport is always a credible and affordable option.

We delivered record funding for biodiversity and a ban on the worst single-use plastics. Last week, we published plans to more than double our onshore wind capacity. This followed changes to planning rules to facilitate the growth of renewables that were dubbed “a remarkable step forward” by the industry.

One of the steps I am personally proudest of came in June when I was able to announce that the Scottish Government would no longer be granting planning permission for new incinerators.

This is a long-term Green priority that we have managed to make into a reality. Again, it is a change which we hope all governments across the UK can replicate.

Not all of this work is glamorous, but they are the kind of changes that will have an impact. And there is more on the way.

This year’s Budget, which was published earlier this month, committed to £1.2 billion worth of climate investment, including support for warmer and greener homes, renewables and nature restoration, and a commitment to end peak rail fares to get more people out of their cars and on to public transport.

By taking these sorts of bold actions today, we are doing our part to help in building a cleaner and greener tomorrow.

READ MORE: Scotland leading the way in rewilding with new funding recognition

This environmentalism is right at the heart of our vision for an independent Scotland. How can we do our bit for the planet while we are tied to a Tory government that is driving a bulldozer through its climate commitments?

Climate change will not go away. We may not be able to reverse the damage that has been done through years of global inaction, but we can do our best to climate-proof our world and to mitigate the impacts going forward. Every fraction of a degree will matter.

I hope that 2023 can be the year when warm words turn into reality and that we finally see our leaders in Westminster and beyond recognising the human and environmental cost of the policies that they are following.

Despite the late hour, we still have time to transform our economy and introduce the green change that is needed. Our future, and the future of our planet, are far too important for anything less.