The climate change secretary said Westminster has to take decisions in reserved areas to enable Scotland to hit its proposed target of net-zero carbon emissions by 2045.
She criticised current UK Government plans, including a VAT rise on some types of renewable energy, as discouraging people to do their bit to fight climate change.
Giving evidence to Holyrood’s environment, climate change and land reform committee, Ms Cunningham said the UK Government plans to increase VAT on renewable technologies including solar, wind, biomass and heat pumps from 5 per cent to 20 per cent on 1 October.
She said: “If you are trying to get people to actually take these things up, whether in domestic settings or in any other settings, jumping the VAT from 5 per cent to 20 per cent is going to have the absolutely opposite impact to what you want.
“It’s another example of the kind of thing which we have no control over but nevertheless will have a very distinctive impact on decision-making at the level of quite ordinary people who are hoping to be able to do the right thing.”
She said further examples were the reserved areas of vehicle tax and the need to decarbonise the gas grid.
Ms Cunningham added: “These are the kind of things that the Committee on Climate Change is talking about that actually will inhibit us from reaching our 2045 target, which would otherwise be possible if we could get the UK Government to do that.”
Earlier this month, the Scottish Government agreed to a target of net-zero emissions by 2045 – an aim described by experts as the “most ambitious in the world”.
It followed recommendations set out by the Committee on Climate Change that Scotland meet the target five years ahead of the UK in 2050.
The cabinet secretary said she had written to UK energy and clean growth minister Claire Perry requesting an urgent meeting on climate change following the report, but has since sent a further letter, believing the response so far is inadequate.
Ms Cunningham said the response did not answer “any of the questions in any meaningful way”.
She added “A letter has gone back so that the points in the original letter are addressed which is to seek an urgent meeting and ways in which Westminster and Holyrood could work together on this and indeed that will include Cardiff as well as all of the targets within the UK are linked.
“We were given a proposed target of net zero by 2045 but it was quite explicitly stated in the Committee for Climate Change advice that that would necessitate their being changes taking place at the Westminster level.
“Our ability to achieve the target is dependent on Westminster doing what is necessary and that is what I need to speak to them urgently about.”