By Katy Clark, MSP for the West Scotland Region (Labour).

* * * * * * * * * *

THE climate emergency is the biggest existential threat facing humanity, but the nature of the news cycle means it rarely gets top billing unless something dramatic happens.

That recently happened when the hottest days ever in Scotland and the UK were recorded – 34.8C in the Borders and 40.3C in eastern England.

To start with, many newspapers excitedly splashed with pictures of revellers enjoying the sun, comparing it to the 1976 famous heatwave, and thousands of Scots flocked to Ayrshire beaches.

However, excess deaths, wildfires, burned homes and buckled roads, events set to be more common in years to come soon hit the headlines.

Such temperatures are common in other parts of the world, but the UK’s public infrastructure isn’t designed for this extreme weather.

READ MORE: Patricia Gibson MP - 'As Tory leadership battle rumbles on, backlog Britain begins to bite'

As evidenced by mass protests at COP26 last year, many are alive to these dangers. They recognise simply recycling or driving an electric car, though worthy, don’t mean much when fossil fuel producers are pumping out millions of tonnes of CO2 every year.

Nothing less than radical systemic change will address these issues, but the UK Government have their heads in the sand.

The Conservative leadership contest has been a particularly depressing spectacle, with no candidate willing to face up to the challenges we face.

It was revealed two candidates – Kemi Badenoch and Penny Mordaunt – had received donations from climate deniers in recent years, with Badenoch even initially calling for the Net Zero target of 2050 to be scrapped entirely.

The final two candidates, Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak, are hardly champions of the environment either.

Both Ministers under Boris Johnson, they’ve led a Government which has blocked essential green policies, failed to increase spending on essential infrastructure and home insulation, and scrapped the green homes grant.

READ MORE: Kenneth Gibson - 'SNP will do all we can to tackle cost of living crisis'

Even the windfall tax on oil and gas giants, finally agreed to in May following pressure from Labour, is undercut by an investment allowance which gives firms 91p in tax savings for every £1 spent on investment.

The fact is there’s no route to a sustainable planet which doesn’t involve taking on big polluters: 70 per cent of global carbon emissions between 1988 and 2015 came from just 100 companies.

It’s past time we challenged these vested interests and demanded a commitment from governments at Westminster and Holyrood that there will be no new fossil fuel investments in the years to come.

That doesn’t mean sweeping the rug away from workers in polluting industries. Here in Ayrshire, I have called for a just transition plan and an industry board devoted to ensuring well-paid jobs in green industries are secured for workers.

Similarly, thousands of jobs could be created in Ayrshire and Arran alone with an ambitious state-led programme to retrofit homes and buildings.

All of these proposals are achievable and realistic, but they require political leadership. Our governments need to step up or future generations will pay the price of our inaction.