‘SCOTLAND will lead by example”.

“You’re an inspiration”. “We will live up to our responsibility”. These are all things I was told at the age of 14 by members of the Scottish Government.

At the time, I was part of the global school strike for the climate movement, and I spent every Friday refusing to go to school, instead protesting outside the Scottish Parliament to demand action on the climate crisis.

In the first instance, we were dismissed as truants who would never achieve anything. In April 2019, Nicola Sturgeon (below) declared a climate emergency, and our protests were cited as a central reason why.

The National: Nicola Sturgeon

A few months later, 50,000 people turned out across Scotland, alongside millions globally.

“The kids are alright” has never been farther from the truth – now 19 years old, I’m not even a “kid” anymore. In fact, despite all the wonderful rhetoric and promises accompanied by “world-leading” targets, we are still barrelling towards imminent climate breakdown.

What we do now has the potential to change the next millennia of human history, and indeed our action (and inaction) over the past decades has already altered it.

Five years ago, the Scottish Parliament voted to reduce emissions by 75% by 2030. At the time, that target was reachable. However, it has come to light, and the Government has admitted, that this target is no longer reachable.

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Had the Scottish Government acted on its promises with the urgency the climate crisis demands, the urgency it claimed it understood to be necessary, we would be well on our way to reaching this target, and beyond.

With these false promises, alongside the incredibly difficult circumstances my generation has faced while coming into adulthood, is it any wonder young people feel such a betrayal by older generations and those in power? One can lead a global movement, one of the largest in history, at 14 years old, and that still isn’t enough to invoke more than some promises, which are quickly forgotten?

In the Global North, it is easy to become complacent about the climate crisis, but for my friends in the Global South, this is already life or death. At COP28 in Dubai, leaders of Pacific Island nations said that to sign the proposed agreement was to sign their death certificates.

This crisis is not about being the “best” or “most ambitious” country in the world. It’s about justice and dignity for those who are the most impacted, but have the least responsibility.

Perhaps, if our leaders who agreed to those targets in 2019 had been more focused on taking meaningful climate action to achieve that 75% emissions reduction, rather than trying to frame Scotland as the “best in the world” and making out tackling the climate crisis to be a competition, we would not be in this dire position now.

I wish I could go back and talk to that 14-year-old sitting outside the Scottish Parliament and tell him that everything will be OK, that the Scottish Government will follow through on its commitments and promises to us, that his dedication is working and world leaders really are listening, but I can’t. The climate strikers have been let down.

I am angry. My generation is angry.

But all is not lost, we have to move forward. If the Scottish Government, and indeed all parties who committed themselves to these targets, handle this situation with humility and accountability, admitting their failures and recognising how much more needs to be done, we can still meet the target of net-zero emissions by 2045, which is desperately needed.

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The opportunity to take things slowly was lost to decades of inaction. Now, we have to act as fast as we possibly can. It can be detrimental to climate action to put so much emphasis on distant future targets, instead of taking the urgency to heart and working towards how much is possible, the minimum possible in order to meet certain targets.

Targets don’t create action, they create accountability. So, how will the Government show that it is accountable to these targets? Accountable to the Global South and to all future generations?

Climate change is here now. A fleeting chance to prevent runaway climate breakdown is still within our grasp, but this window of opportunity won’t last long.

Governments must approach this as something to tackle as urgently and as fairly as we possibly can, instead of trying to determine the minimum amount of the burden they can take on now, while leaving the rest as a mess for the future to clean up.

There is still time. The difference between 2C and 4C of warming could determine the survival of billions of people, and we have a responsibility to do everything within our power to ensure that we keep that warming as low as possible. For the sake of my grandchildren and for the sake of entire countries. Every fraction of a degree matters.

Don’t let the climate strikers down again.