By Gina Hanrahan, Head of Policy, WWF Scotland

CLIMATE change is no longer someone else’s problem. Scotland has experienced a year of extremes – from the Beast from the East, to this summer’s heatwave and the challenges it posed for farmers, vulnerable people and wildlife.

And that’s just with 1C of warming. The international climate science report which hit the headlines last week explores what happens when we go further. The report, compiled by leading climate scientists and signed off by 195 governments, was prepared in response to the Paris Agreement, where governments committed to limit warming to well below 2C and to make efforts to limit it to 1.5C.

When we talk about half a degree here or there it sounds deeply abstract and inconsequential. But the latest report shows that half a degree really matters, much like it does to the human body, where small shifts can mean the difference between a healthy temperature and a life-threatening fever.

Limiting warming to 1.5C means 1.3 billion fewer people exposed to extreme heatwaves, and 60 million fewer people to droughts. It means the chance to protect up to 30 per cent of coral reefs versus the near certainty of destroying all of them – an ecosystem on which a billion people depend.

With the world currently on track for 3C warming, the scientists show that we urgently need to scale up efforts to hit 1.5C. Progressive nations are stepping up action. But so are many businesses.

Some of the biggest brands in the world – household names like Sky, Tesco, Coca Cola and Unilever recently came together to call for a net zero emissions target – eliminating our contribution to climate change – by 2050. The Bank of England recently announced that all banks will have to appoint a dedicated climate risk senior executive. And just this week, ScottishPower announced it was getting out of fossil fuel generation – further evidence the clean energy transition is accelerating.

So where does this leave Scotland? With a new Climate Change Bill before Parliament, Scotland now has an opportunity to reassert its leadership in the climate change arena. However, in its current form the bill does not go far enough. It doesn’t increase short-term ambition, though the IPCC report gives renewed urgency to the next decade, and it doesn’t go far enough in its long-term target.

In 2050, the bill aims for 90 per cent emissions reduction, equivalent to carbon neutrality. However, the new IPCC report tells us that the whole world needs to be carbon neutral by this point. It would be wrong if Scotland just aimed for the global average effort– we have abundant renewable resources, an innovation tradition and huge carbon storage potential. Instead Scotland should aim to eliminate its contribution to climate change entirely by 2050 by going for greenhouse gas neutrality. This isn’t just about the energy system but also enabling change in the land use and farming sectors. We will still have some emissions from food production and industry but they can be balanced with emissions soaked up from the atmosphere by trees, peatlands and other options.

It’s welcome that the Scottish Government has asked its advisors, the Committee on Climate Change, for fresh advice on what targets to set, expected in spring. It is likely that Scotland will be encouraged to aim higher.

This would not just be good for the environment, it would be good for all of us. Warmer homes, greener farming and cleaner travel would mean reduced fuel poverty and new jobs, breathable air, efficiencies and better health. This is surely something that every MSP now charged with contemplating the Climate Change Bill can sign up to for a better Scotland.