Last month the Scottish Parliament passed a new climate change bill.

The law sets challenging and responsible targets, reflecting the climate crisis we are living through.

It sets out to end Scotland’s impact on climate change pollution as soon as possible, and to roughly halve our emissions in just the next 10 years.

Many people across Scotland played their part in strengthening this law– none more so than the thousands of young people who organised Friday marches and strikes to demand action from politicians.

This law provides a comprehensive framework for concerted action to tackle climate change. But it’s only a framework, and attention from all of our politicians in Scotland must now be focused on delivering the necessary transformational policy action.

Action is the only way to show we truly recognise the scale of the climate emergency facing us. It’s the only thing the climate notices, and it’s the only thing by which future generations will judge us.

WWF has now published a report that sets out some of the next steps for Scotland on its journey to climate neutrality. The warnings are clear. Current action remains insufficient to meet existing climate targets, let alone the more challenging ones set in the new climate law.

Significant public investment, of the order of at least hundreds of millions of pounds, is needed, starting with the next Scottish budget. There can be no free passes – action needs to be led by the Scottish Government urgently in every sector of the economy, and that will mean significant changes to how people live their lives, and how our businesses do business.

But this report also comes at a time when concern about climate change has never been greater. Politicians across the spectrum say they recognise the challenge.

Nicola Sturgeon’s most recent Programme for Government put responding to the climate emergency front and centre. This can still be done, if the political leadership is there to deliver the necessary acceleration in Scotland’s climate action.

Climate policy can, and should, protect the most vulnerable, enhance lives and livelihoods, and create a fairer, flourishing Scotland. The alternative – dithering and procrastination of key decisions – risks only a delayed, rapid and disordered transition and lost economic opportunities to lead the way.

Or worse – the huge, systemic risks posed by allowing runaway climate change to take place.

Our report also sets out the key actions that need to be taken urgently by the Scottish Government across several key parts of the economy.

In our buildings, the vast majority of us still rely on burning fossil fuels to stay warm. Addressing this requires very significant public investment, up to half a billion annually, in both improving the energy efficiency of homes, and in providing subsidies to support switching away from gas boilers to modern and efficient electric heat pumps, increasingly the norm in many developed countries.

In transport, the Scottish Government has work under way to improve charging facilities for electric vehicles, to improve bus journey times, and to improve walking and cycling routes. This should all continue and be accelerated.

Our report calls for a clear signal that petrol and diesel vehicles will be banned from Scotland’s city centres from 2030. Doing so would provide an early signal and encourage many more people to buy an electric vehicle over the alternatives, and would give local authorities time to further develop alternatives to car travel.

There is also a suggestion that public agencies such as local authorities and the police move quickly to demanding zero emission vehicles from manufacturers. This should also apply to the purchase of new ferries.

Scotland has natural advantages that could place it at the centre of a new generation of climate neutral industrial processes. Carbon capture and storage and hydrogen are two technologies that can play an important role in decarbonising our manufacturing industries.

Both can be supported, through capital funding for the transportation infrastructure that will be needed to enable industrial carbon capture and storage projects to progress at a lower cost, and through an industrial hydrogen strategy that identifies which industry sectors and sites, such as glass making, will require hydrogen to decarbonise.

Land is perhaps the most important resource for our climate emergency response. Up to around £100 million is needed to further increase the rate of tree planting in Scotland, and to restore damaged peatbogs across the country so that they stop releasing damaging methane. 

In addition, Action is needed to continue to increase the amount of renewable electricity we produce, to support the decarbonisation of heat and transport.

This needs the UK Government to open up a route to market for the cheapest renewables, onshore wind, as well as continued planning by the Scottish Government to support the growth of all types of renewables. There is also huge scope to support farmers with changing agricultural practices, to reduce the climate emissions from the over application of fertiliser and from other aspects of farm practices. 

I believe that There has never been a greater commitment to action on climate change here in Scotland. In the streets, in politics, in business, in people’s hearts. Now is the time for us to lead, for us to step up our action to cut emissions and leave our children a better Scotland: one that is prospering, that is in harmony with nature, and that has ended its contribution to climate change.

- Robin Parker is the climate and energy policy manager, WWF Scotland.