FIRST Minister Nicola Sturgeon is due to unveil her programme for government today and, in among a budget cut here and reallocation of funds there, she is reportedly going to reaffirm her commitment to already-laid-down climate-change targets.

Having declared a climate emergency at the SNP conference in April, in May Ms Sturgeon laid out plans to make Scotland carbon neutral by 2045, shaving five years off the UK Government’s own target in the process. Her speech today is widely expected to reveal how she intends to get us there.

There is no doubting that this is a cause the First Minister is committed to. She has already made the politically unpopular decision to potentially reverse a £150 million tax break promised to the airline industry in the SNP’s election manifesto and in the summer launched a series of “Big Conversation” events in a bid to engage local communities in the transformation that will be required if we are to properly embrace low-carbon living.

It is hardly likely to be enough, though, with Ms Sturgeon acknowledging at the weekend that much more needs to be done if a climate disaster is to be averted. “These actions simply cannot be left to others,” she said. “The consequences of global change will be severe — and for some parts of the world, they will be existential. We must act.”

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Her words went down like a lead balloon in some quarters, with one poster on an online forum questioning “Sturgeon’s crackpot belief that Scotland can make any impact whatsoever on climate change” while another likened any action taken in Scotland alone to “rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic”.

Of course in a sense they are right: what can Scotland, a tiny country with a population of just five million, hope to achieve on the global stage when mammoth nations like China and the US remain so committed to digging out and burning up fossil fuels? If they’re going to keep emitting carbon on a mass scale why should we suffer the expense and inconvenience of giving up our cars, throwing out our boilers and revolutionising our lifestyles?

Yet when you consider that zero carbon doesn’t mean eliminating emissions, but rather minimising and off-setting them instead, it is clear that these attitudes could not be more wrong.

Yes, we can all sit here and use China’s abysmal record on coal-fired power as the excuse for doing nothing, but that argument weakens when you consider the positives that country is contributing too. Like the fact that more electric cars were sold in China in 2018 than in the rest of the world combined. Indeed, thanks to billions of dollars of government investment coupled with a reduction in the number of licences for gasoline-powered cars, the super-power is now electrifying its transport systems at a rate European nations - none of which can yet claim the moral high ground on emissions - can only dream about.

If one of the world’s biggest polluters can also be one of the biggest contributors to carbon neutrality, why can’t we make an impact too? The answer, of course, is that we can, if we are all willing to make little adjustments to the way we live our lives. Given the political messaging we have heard to date, though, it is hardly surprising that so many individuals remain so confused.

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Take Glasgow City Council. The local authority’s leader Susan Aitken has long made it clear she is a supporter of climate justice and earlier this year she pledged that the city would not only strive to become the first in the UK to achieve carbon-neutral status but that it would beat both the UK Government’s zero-carbon-by-2050 and the Scottish Government’s zero-carbon-by-2045 targets too. “We simply,” she said in the same words used by her party leader Ms Sturgeon, “have to act now”.

Yet in one of the first big policy moves designed to help achieve that goal, Glasgow City Council couldn’t have got its messaging more wrong, with its perfectly reasonable plan to try to stop people taking their cars into the city centre on a Sunday backfiring because it cast drivers as being part of the problem rather than finding ways to incentivise them to become part of the solution.

Only after mentioning “bay blocking”, drivers who park up and leave “vehicles unmoved until well into the next day”, and motorists who “take up spaces for long spells” did the council make the positive case for scrapping free Sunday parking, with its commitment to reducing congestion and improving air quality ultimately falling on all-but deaf ears.

Just as the Scottish Government discovered when it mooted a workplace parking levy earlier in the year, people were furious about the impact of having something taken away from them rather than being delighted at the recognition they would receive if they made a small contribution for the greater good.

It was an avoidable mistake on both governments’ parts. After all, how hard would it have been for either administration to make these announcements at the same time as unveiling plans for an investment in public-transport networks or cycle-share schemes? Just think how simple it would have been to give motorists the little nudge they might need to do the right thing by offering free public transport from the point the charges came in or a free coffee for leaving their car at home. We all know budgets are tight, but surely it must be worth spending a bit now to encourage the electorate to make the changes we all know are needed to safeguard a better future?

While national governments can legislate and local governments can policy-make, none of that will make a blind bit of difference if they don’t also take action to make sure they have the populace on their side. Telling people to make inconvenient changes is one thing, but only when they are incentivised and rewarded to do so - and when they see their governments playing their part too - will they deem those changes worthwhile. It’s the message, you see, that matters.

Indeed, when it comes to tackling the climate emergency the message at this stage almost matters more than anything else. Grand gestures and political posturing are one thing, but they will amount to nothing unless we all start to play our own tiny part. Today it’s up to Nicola Sturgeon to not only convince us of that, but to incentivise us to do it too.