In his Programme for Government, Mr Yousaf announced a range of measures and legislation his administration will bring forward in the next 12 months at Holyrood.
But concerns have been raised over legislation including the key Heat in Buildings Bill and Natural Environment Bill being delayed in the context of the climate crisis.
The First Minister pointed to plans to “halve the consenting time” for some onshore wind farms – to speed up progress, and will call on the UK Government to use its “levers over tax and financial incentives” to “unleash and accelerate the renewables potential of our country”.
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Mr Yousaf highlighted Patrick Harvie’s Heat in Buildings Bill which will be brought forward this year that will transform how buildings are heated – including replacing gas boilers with heat pumps.
The draft proposals will aim to “accelerate the transition to zero carbon homes as a significant part of a new draft climate plan”.
But that proposed legislation has been delayed, as has the Natural Environment Bill which could set statutory nature recovery targets, the Scottish Government’s commitment to protect 30% of Scotland’s land and sea for nature by 2030 and modernise National Parks legislation.
Plans for an Agriculture Bill will also finally be brought forward this year, following delays.
The Scottish Government will also publish a new biodiversity strategy.
It will also revisit the plans for Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMAs), which were sent back to the drawing board by Net Zero Secretary Mairi McAllan after a backlash.
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The focus will now be to “enhance the protection of our marine environment”, which could include “progressing implementation of a suite of management measures in marine protected areas and supporting community-led marine protection”.
Mr Yousaf frankly admitted that tackling the climate crisis “will be hard”.
He added: “But in the long run, doing nothing – or acting far too slowly – is the more expensive choice.
“It is a choice that will see far more lives lost on our planet. And it’s a choice for which we would rightly never be forgiven, by our children and grandchildren.”
But climate campaigners have hit out at the lack of concrete action by Mr Yousaf in his first opportunity to set the tone for his administration.
Friends of the Earth Scotland climate and energy campaigner, Caroline Rance, said: “This is an underwhelming programme for more of the same when what is needed is a radical change that can speed Scotland away from the damage being wrought by fossil fuel companies.
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“The First Minister talked a good game about the importance of climate action and a just transition to net zero, but warm words won’t stop a warming planet.
“The climate emergency demands scaled up action that rapidly shifts us away from fossil fuels, prioritises public transport and puts in a credible plan in place to support workers in the transition from the oil industry to good, green jobs.”
Lang Banks, director of WWF Scotland, said: “The 2020s must be the decade of delivery on tackling the climate and nature emergencies, as the impacts of extreme weather are becoming ever more evident globally and in Scotland.
“At the same time people are struggling with the spiralling cost of living, which is driven by our dependence on fossil fuels and high costs of oil and gas.
The First Minister is right to say that acting too slowly on climate change is the more expensive choice – for workers, communities, and consumers.
“While there are some welcome commitments in this year’s Programme for Government, it’s disappointing to see further delays to key legislation including the Heat in Buildings Bill and the Natural Environment Bill.”
But Mr Banks warned that Mr Yousaf’s biggest test “will be on delivery of existing climate and nature commitments” as well as “the level of ambition of forthcoming legislation, such as the Agriculture Bill”.
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He added: “We look forward to working with the Scottish Government and Scottish Parliament to ensure we reach net zero in a way that works for nature and people.”
Mike Robinson, chairman of Stop Climate Chaos Scotland (SCCS), warned that the Programme for Government “offered few, if any, new measures to deliver emissions’ reductions”.
He added: “In the context of Scotland missing annual targets in eight of the past 12 years, and the Committee on Climate Change advising that “the integrity of the Scottish climate framework is now at risk”, this is deeply disappointing and a missed opportunity to set out concrete measures to reduce emissions.
“It failed to reflect the urgency that’s needed, and there is a stark risk that if we don’t take faster action now, we will struggle to get anywhere near our 2030 climate target.
“It puts even more pressure on the upcoming revised Climate Change Plan, which must move beyond the positive rhetoric of today’s Programme for Government and contain meaningful new policies, initiatives and actions.”
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