SCOTLAND has always prided itself on its climate leadership.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has frequently expressed her personal commitment to the issue when overseeing Scotland’s world-leading climate targets, and on the international stage at COP26 when championing the Loss and Damage Fund.

The Scottish Government has proved capable of making bold decisions, but with less than seven years left to hit Scotland’s legally binding target of 75% reduction in carbon emissions by 2030, and key milestones being missed, experts are questioning the credibility of Scotland’s climate leadership.

Scotland’s Climate Emergency Response Group (CERG) has written to the First Minister to express our concern about the slow progress being made to deliver the transformative action on the ground required to reduce emissions and adapt to the critical impacts of climate change.

In these challenging times, CERG notes and welcomes the Government’s continued commitment to tackling climate change, including the record investment in low carbon projects announced in December’s draft Budget and acknowledgement that decarbonisation is a solution to the cost of living crisis.

However, as shown by the Committee on Climate Change’s recent assessment of Scotland’s progress to reduce emissions, a growing policy and delivery gap exists between these high-level commitments and change on the ground.

In some cases, this has resulted in significant underspend of government budgets on net zero programmes and difficulties securing the private investment required. While public spending is tight and the Government’s borrowing powers are limited, we believe more can be done to speed up climate action with the powers Scotland has.

Earlier this month, the Scottish Government published its Draft Energy Strategy and Just Transition Plan. With its strong ambitions to increase renewable energy production the strategy has good intents. However, we have concerns whether enough is being done to use all the levers available to the Scottish Government to deliver on its commitments to reduce and decarbonise energy demand, particularly in housing and transport.

The decarbonisation of Scotland’s homes through improved energy efficiency measures and the electrification of heat is critical to meeting Scotland's climate targets. Scotland already has the technologies necessary to deliver low-carbon living and cannot afford further delay. The focus of the Scottish Government must be on insulating buildings, readying them for the installation of low-carbon technologies, such as heat pumps and solar panels. This will not only lower carbon emissions from home heating, but also help tackle fuel poverty.

The stakes are high. Further delays will only increase the social, economic and environmental costs of the transition, as well as the costs of climate impacts and adaptation on Scotland’s economy and communities. There is public support for more action – a Scottish Government poll conducted in spring 2022 found half of Scots thought the Scottish Government wasn’t doing enough.

Leadership is needed now more than ever to speed up the transition process, ensuring meaningful collaboration across sectors and public bodies, and delivering smarter public investment in order to overcome the barriers which are holding back innovation, delivery, and private investment. Resolving these issues can’t wait until the next Climate Change Plan.

Josiah Lockhart is Chief Executive of Changeworks and member of the Climate Emergency Response Group