NICOLA Sturgeon is to publish a "catch up" plan after Scotland missed its last three annual climate targets. 

The First Minister admitted the country had "fallen short" but insisted there is "much to be proud of". 

It came as she said a new energy strategy will set out how Scotland can make the "fastest possible" transition away from fossil fuels.

Campaigners welcomed the comments as marking a "really significant" shift from the Scottish Government's previous support for "drilling every last drop of oil and gas".

In a speech to an audience of young people and students in Glasgow ahead of COP26, Ms Sturgeon said the new strategy, which will be published next year, will be based on the understanding that "unlimited extraction of fossil fuels ... is not consistent with our climate obligations".

More than 120 world leaders are due to attend the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, which takes place from October 31 to November 12.

Ms Sturgeon said Scotland is "determined to play our full part" but "our ability to do that depends on our own climate credibility".

She added: "Scotland cannot urge other countries to set and meet ambitious targets if we fail to do so ourselves.

"We must lead, not by the strength of our rhetoric, but by the power of our example."

The First Minister said Scotland ranks well in most comparisons of international climate targets and aims to end its contribution to climate change by 2045.

However, she said the country had "fallen short on our last three annual milestones".

She added: "Two years ago, our emissions were 51.5 per cent lower than in 1990. 

"But to meet that year’s annual target, they needed to be 55% lower.

"The law in Scotland stipulates that if we miss any annual targets, we must outperform in future years to make up for it.

"So this week we will publish a catch up plan.

"It will highlight some of the actions already announced this year, and also set out a range of additional measures - for example, to decarbonise public sector buildings; promote home upgrades; and make bus travel cleaner and more accessible."

Elsewhere, Ms Sturgeon criticised the UK Government's failure to give priority support to Scotland's cluster of proposed carbon capture and storage projects, and called for a rethink.

The First Minister said the Acorn project in Aberdeenshire is the cheapest and most deliverable in the UK.

She said: "Despite the fact that Acorn was considered the most advanced of the projects bidding to be taken forward, it was passed over.

"I find that decision inexplicable on any objective grounds."

Ms Sturgeon said the project would support approximately 15,000 jobs over the next three decades or so - and would also be able to store up to six million tonnes of carbon dioxide a year by 2030, the equivalent of about 10% of Scotland's current emissions, with this rising to 20 million tonnes by around 2040.

She said: "I know there is a fear - and I understand that fear - that carbon capture and storage will simply be used to justify the unsustainable extraction of more and more fossil fuels.

"That must not be the case. But it is a vital part of meeting our climate targets.

"That is why the Scottish Government made clear that we would support the project. And why in my view last week's decision must be revisited."

Ms Sturgeon said the new energy strategy will be focused on achieving "the fastest possible just transition for the oil and gas sector".

She repeated her position that the proposed Cambo oil field to the west of Shetland "must be reassessed in light of the climate emergency", but did not go further.

However, she insisted it would be "fundamentally wrong" to "keep exploring for and extracting oil and gas until the last possible moment".

Caroline Rance, of Friends of the Earth Scotland, said: “This is a really significant shift from the Scottish Government to end their years of support for drilling every last drop of oil and gas.

"The First Minister said that Scotland must lead with actions not words, so this welcome change of heart must be followed with a change of policy that can truly take Scotland beyond oil and gas."

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said oil and gas workers "will be worried at Nicola Sturgeon’s latest rhetoric about the need for a more imminent shutdown of their industry" and accused the SNP of "paying lip-service to climate goals".

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton said Ms Sturgeon "is much better at shallow soundbites than she is at tackling the climate emergency".