The proposed laws stop short of the 100 per cent cuts called for by campaigners, but ministers say they remain committed to achieving net zero “as soon as possible”.
The draft bill also sets out new legally binding interim emissions reduction targets – 56 per cent by 2020, 66 per cent by 2030 and 78 per cent by 2040 – and annual goals.
Ministers claim the targets are among the world’s most ambitious and will see Scotland become one of the first countries to achieve zero emissions.
Independent advisers to the government have said the 2050 target is “at the very limit of feasibility” without new technological innovations.
But the new bill has been widely condemned for a lack of ambition and failure to deliver on global commitments set out in the Paris Climate Agreement.
Critics say the new targets look good on paper but in reality, due to changes in the way emissions are accounted for, do not represent a step up from existing intentions.
“It’s hugely disappointing that the Scottish Government has failed to live up to its own rhetoric on global climate change leadership by failing to set a net zero emissions target in the Climate Change Bill,” said Tom Ballantine, chair of the environmental coalition Stop Climate Chaos Scotland.
“Scotland is missing a huge opportunity to end its contribution to climate change in a generation, attract clean investment and retain its position as a leader on the global stage.”
He urged MSPs from all parties to push for stronger targets – net-zero by 2050 at the latest and 77 per cent by 2030.
The Scottish Greens are calling for tougher action, claiming the “timid” new aims would actually see a slowdown in progress towards climate goals.
They say zero emissions should be achieved by 2040.
MSP Mark Ruskell said: “This timid decision shows how weak the SNP are on the climate crisis. They’re making excuses but they should be seizing the opportunity. Science says we need strong action now.”
Existing targets demand emissions cuts of 42 per cent by 2020, met four years early, and 80 per cent by 2050.
Scottish environment minister Roseanna Cunningham said: “The fight against climate change is a moral responsibility” and “one of the defining challenges of our age”.