New legislation to cut emissions in Scotland has passed its first stage at Holyrood – despite concerns that the Scottish Government’s plans do not go far enough to avert a climate change crisis.

Tory MSP John Scott complained that the bill, which was unanimously approved, was “short on costed solutions” for reducing harmful greenhouse gases, while environmental activists – who protested outside Holyrood during the debate – said ministers were “out of step with what climate science says is needed”.

I f passed, The Climate Change (Emissions Reduction Targets) (Scotland) Bill would increase the greenhouse gas reduction target from the current 80 per cent to 90 per cent by 2050. It would also introduce an interim target of 56 per cent for 2020 – up from the current 42 per cent – and 66 per cent for 2030.

Environment secretary Roseanna Cunningham pledged those new targets would be updated if The UK Committee on Climate Change (CCC), the body that advises ministers, said tougher ones could be set. The CCC is to publish new advice at the start of May.

She said:

“If the CCC advise that higher targets for Scotland are now credible the Scottish Government will act quickly in line with this advice.

“For emphasis on this important point, if in its advice in May the committee advise that a date for the net zero emission of all greenhouse gases can now credibly be set, we will act to amend the bill to this effect at stage two.”

Ms Cunningham said the proposals as they stand were already “the most ambitious statutory emissions reduction targets of any country in the world for 2020, 2030 and 2040” and would “mean Scotland is carbon neutral by 2050”.

Mr Scott complained there was little information on how the emissions reductions targets would be achieved, telling Ms Cunningham:

“The bill is strong in ambition, but rather weak and short on costed solutions.”

Green MSP Mark Ruskell said the legislation must include a commitment to keep increases in global temperatures below 1.5C, saying:

“We’re simply either on the right side of history here or we’re not.

“Going over 1.5C will mean death for millions – droughts, floods, heatwaves, leading to mass climate migration; development in the global south going into reverse; collapsing economies, war over resources we take for granted such as water.”

He added:

“It’s clear that an acceleration of action is desperately needed in the next decade rather than the current trajectory, which will cost lives.”

Meanwhile Tom Ballantine, chairman of Stop Climate Change Scotland, the group which organised the protest, said:

“We’re running out of time to act. The Scottish Government is failing to tackle climate change with the urgency the science is telling us we need.

“The devastation experienced by millions of people in Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe from Cyclone Idai at the moment shows the scale of the crisis for people living on the frontline of climate change. Scotland’s action must match the scale of the crisis, which is now better understood than ever.”

He added:

“The clock is ticking but the opportunity to avoid irreversible climate chaos is still within reach.

“The bill going through Parliament currently commits us to almost no increase in action between now and 2030. MSPs must increase the 2030 target and map out the concrete measures that will cut climate emissions from transport, housing and food production over the next ten years.

“Climate change is the most urgent and pressing crisis facing the world and Scotland’s targets for cutting emissions must reflect our commitment to meeting that challenge.

“The cost of inaction will be far greater than the cost of action.”