Urgent and rapid action on climate change is needed now. Earlier this year, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned: act now or the world will overshoot the 1.5C target. The extraordinary picture of wildfires around the world in recent months, warming seas, Antarctica’s sea ice at record lows, all dramatically highlight this conclusion.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres has insisted all countries must “massively fast-track climate efforts”. But can our notoriously short-term democratic politics rise to this when there’s always another election just around the corner?

In the EU, and too in the UK, there is a clear right-wing backlash against a whole range of climate policies while stopping, in most but not all cases, before denying the fact of dangerous climate change. In Scotland too, a tetchy debate over the SNP-Green coalition risks pandering, intentionally or not, to this climate backlash on green policies.

On the more positive side, the EU has been very active in recent years. Its European Green Deal launched in 2019. Since then, a lot has been done, from a carbon border tax, due to start in three years’ time, to legally-binding targets for reductions in carbon emissions to 55% of 1990 levels by 2030, and to reach net zero by 2050.

The EU also rapidly relaxed, earlier this year, its rules against subsidies for business in the face of President Biden’s $369 billion climate and energy package. But, as the EU’s economy, commissioner, Paolo Gentiloni, said recently, many billions more will be needed.

Read more: Humza Yousaf has taken a more credible stance on Europe than Sturgeon

Yet the EU right-wing backlash was only too visible this summer. The EU’s nature restoration law just squeaked through the European Parliament, in July, after strong opposition from the European People’s Party (EPP), the main grouping of European centre-right parties. The EPP was playing to its electoral base, especially the agricultural lobby. In the process of getting it through, the law was weakened considerably - with climate activist Greta Thunberg calling it a “bitter-sweet” moment.

Now the law has to go through more dialogue between the EU institutions before it can be finally agreed - which must happen before elections next May produce a new European Parliament, possibly a more right-wing one.

The politics in each of the EU’s 27 member states is another crucial part of the mix. In Spain, the far-right Vox party saw its vote fall in July’s general election, its dismissal of urgent and vital climate actions in favour of some sort of eco-nationalist patriotism not leading to electoral success. Yet, despite Spain facing major challenges to its agriculture and land, including growing desertification, climate change was not a significant issue during its July election.

In other EU countries, different issues bubble up. In Germany, there’s a row over plans to ban new oil and gas heating systems in the next two years. In the Netherlands, a populist Farmer-Citizen Movement caused political waves in March, gaining 20% in regional elections. Ireland too now has a populist Farmers’ Alliance. Italy’s far-right prime minister, Giorgia Meloni, has labelled the EU’s Green Deal "climate fundamentalism", while emphasising too the role of business. Meanwhile, French President Emmanuel Macron, shocked many in May by calling for a pause in new EU climate laws - to allow implementation, he added.

Yet time is of the essence. And in Europe, and globally, putting climate action off will rapidly create more damage, making the pathway to cutting emissions quickly and deeply enough ever harder.

None of this has hit home to the UK’s Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak. From giving out 100 more North Sea oil and gas licences to delaying a review into the state of England’s rivers until 2025, short-term electoral advantage - or the goal, presumably, of losing less badly - is what appears to drive the UK Government.

It may do the opposite electorally. Mr Sunak risks losing Conservative voters who do care about the environment. In contrast, Sir Keir Starmer’s Labour has said it will stop all new oil and gas licenses. But it won’t cancel Mr Sunak’s new licence jamboree. Nor will it stop the development of the Rosebank oil and gas field despite the emissions that will result.

And Sir Keirhas rowed back on his biggest climate plan: to spend £28 billion a year on green jobs and business. Instead, these will start perhaps halfway through a Labour term in government. But with crucial climate targets ahead in 2030, putting off climate spending to 2027 is, quite literally, playing with fire.

Read more: Could Starmer do yet another U-turn and rejoin the EU’s single market?

Humza Yousaf, last week, said the climate emergency is “the biggest existential issue” the planet faces. A draft biodiversity strategy, currently in the works, is said to be highly ambitious. And the Scottish Government has set major climate goals, including to reduce emissions by 75% by 2030. But Scotland is currently not on track to meet that target.

The SNP is also, somewhat coyly, indicating it won’t oppose Rosebank, while saying, accurately, that there needs to be a faster, just transition away from oil and gas. Meanwhile, the Scottish Government’s Highly Protected Marine Areas strategy has fallen apart, and the Deposit Return Scheme delayed.

Labour and SNP hesitations show that electoral calculations do not only affect right-wing parties, but the right are demonstrably the worst offenders. Clearly, green strategies must bring local communities on board. And criticising parties and governments, including the SNP-Green coalition, is central to our democracy. But we need green policies and action urgently, whoever is in power. And Scottish politicians should hesitate before coming too close to Italy’s Giorgia Meloni, who last year dramatically asserted: “Ecology has been militarily occupied from the left.”

Last weekend, Scotland’s Makar, Kathleen Jamie, launched a group of nature and creative writers, called "paper boat writers", to challenge national and global leaders’ failures on the climate crisis, stating: “If they fail to take serious and sustained action on climate change, they will no longer have our support”. In the end, it is up to all of us, artists or not, to hold our politicians to account on this most urgent of challenges.