CLIMATE change is one of the most serious threats facing our planet – and one which I know co-operators have taken a keen interest in. While it's the world's poor, in the developing world, who will be most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, Scotland is already feeling the effects.
Winter storms have doubled in frequency in the UK over the last 50 years, and many experts believe that by the end of this century Scotland will have warmer, wetter winters, less snowfall and an increased risk of flooding.
Some changes to the climate are inevitable – even if we stopped releasing greenhouse gases today, those already in the atmosphere will still have an effect. However, we must do everything we can to avoid further changes and to adapt to the new situation in which we find ourselves.
Scotland may be a small country, contributing less harmful emissions to the world-wide problem than many other developed countries – around 0.2 per cent of global greenhouse gases – but, on balance, each person in Scotland contributes twice the global average.
Rich nations have contributed most to the problem and, as a wealthy country, Scotland has a responsibility to do its bit to help tackle climate change; with individuals, households, businesses, community groups, the voluntary sector and local and central government all required to join the effort. In short, we're all part of the problem, and must all be part of the solution.
The UK has an international target to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 12.5 per cent by 2008-2012. It also has two more ambitious domestic goals – to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 20 per cent by 2010 and to reduce them by some 60 per cent by around 2050.
To make a fair contribution to these UK commitments up to 2010 we must make sure that Scottish Executive policies save a fair share of total carbon savings from equivalent policies across the rest of the UK. This is called the Scottish Share.
The Executive has set an ambitious target to do even more by exceeding this share by one million tonnes of carbon savings – a big overachievement of the Scottish Share.
This is the first time the Executive has identified Scotland's fair share of UK carbon savings and the first time it has set a Scottish climate change target. Together, they show how Scotland will continue to make a lasting difference.
To achieve a more sustainable future we must learn to live within our environmental limits, making simple changes to our lifestyles. If we don't act now to reduce emissions and prepare for the unavoidable impact of climate change, we'll need to make even more radical changes in the future and the costs will be higher.
By 2050 the Scottish Executive wants the people of Scotland to live in a low carbon society.
It wants people to be proud to be part of a country that has shown long-standing commitment to tackling climate change; proud of a country that can boast increased numbers of green jobs and new environmentally friendly technologies to generate Scotland's energy. And of course, a place where everyone is actively involved in delivering a safer and more sustainable Scotland.
• Rhona Brankin is the Labour/Co-op Member of the Scottish Parliament for Midlothian and Deputy Minister for Environment and Rural Development in the Scottish Executive.