A COALITION of environmental groups have written to the SNP leadership contenders and urged them to “pick up the pace” on action to reduce emissions and tackle the climate crisis if they become the next first minister.

Over 100 Scottish organisations signed an open letter calling on candidates Humza Yousaf, Kate Forbes and Ash Regan to commit to strong action on climate and nature, and to set out how they will deliver fast progress on looming targets.

Stop Climate Chaos Scotland and Scottish Environment LINK were among the organisations that acknowledged the positive steps made by outgoing First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and the Scottish Government, from setting ambitious climate targets to providing international leadership and committing finance to climate-induced loss and damage suffered by countries in the Global South.

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But now, the group of environmental campaigners are calling for assurances from those seeking to take over from Sturgeon, and demanded to know how they will build on her legacy.

They have asked for leadership contenders to champion climate justice and deliver an accelerated Just Transition, as well as standing against any new oil and gas licences in the North Sea.

It comes after the North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA) are due to approve over 100 licences as part of the UK Government’s bid to boost domestic production.

After the Scottish Government’s independent climate advisers, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), warned that Scotland’s climate targets are “in danger of becoming meaningless” and voiced strong concern about the lack of a clear emissions delivery plan.

Mike Robinson, chair of Stop Climate Chaos Scotland, said: “Scotland’s next First Minister must renew and deepen Scotland’s status as a credible climate champion both at home and internationally.

“While Scotland is seen by many as a leader on climate, the reality is that progress has been nowhere near fast enough.

“With seven of the last 11 emission reduction targets missed, all three candidates to be the next First Minister should publicly commit to prioritising climate action and that they would urgently pick up the pace of delivering solutions, if elected.

“The good news is that many of these positive changes bring wider benefits and would also address the other overlapping crises we face, through making our homes warmer, tackling inequality and securing more sustainable jobs.”

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Deborah Long, chief officer at Scottish Environment LINK, said: “Protecting our environment is the biggest challenge facing humanity, and it’s essential that those seeking to be First Minister commit to treating the planet as a priority.

“This is a vital decade for action – and there are enormous opportunities for Scotland to restore iconic habitats and protect the abundance and diversity of our wildlife.

“We all depend on a healthy natural environment, and nature is the first line of defence against climate change. But Scotland has suffered a high rate of historic nature loss and faces even bigger threats today.

“We hope that all political leaders can embrace this challenge“ The letter identifies several key opportunities for the new First Minister to drive action on climate and nature, such as the Scottish Government’s new Energy Strategy and Just Transition Plan, the upcoming Climate Change Plan and reform to agricultural support.

The National: Climate campaigners have urged the SNP leadership contenders to set out their prioritiesClimate campaigners have urged the SNP leadership contenders to set out their priorities

Additionally, to fund these measures and contribute to international climate justice, the organisations emphasise the need to review the fiscal measures available to raise new and additional sources of finance by making polluters pay for their damage.

Robinson added: “We know that people in Scotland are greatly concerned about the climate and nature crises and want to see action.

“The next first minister must build on the positive - but as yet insufficient - steps made, by delivering the transformational changes we need to see, and by positioning Scotland as a true leader in delivering for climate and nature.”