The Government has published a long-awaited piece of draft legislation aimed at tackling climate change and reducing Ireland's carbon emissions between now and 2050.

Opposition parties and environmental groups have criticised the bill for failing to include specific targets on emissions reductions.

The Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Bill 2015 includes a provision that would oblige the Government to prepare five-yearly plans to transition the country to lower greenhouse gas emissions.

The plans will outline the policy measures that each government minister would have to adopt in order to bring about the reductions within their sectors, in particular areas such as transport, energy and agriculture, which are the main polluters.

The first plan will have to be in place not later than two years after the enactment of the bill.

However, the bill does not include any country specific targets for carbon emission reduction.

Instead it adopts the targets set by the European Union and other existing and future international commitments such as the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

The bill does create a framework for the Government to prepare and implement National Climate Change Adaptation Frameworks.

These five-yearly plans will detail how adaptation to climate change should take place across a variety of sectors and by local authorities, to prepare people for the now inevitable negative impacts of a changing climate.

These will include the improvement of flood defences as well as the protection of key infrastructure, such as power and communication from extreme weather.

Ministers will also have to submit plans outlining how they will bring about the necessary adaptation in the sector they are responsible for.

If the legislation is enacted a National Expert Advisory Council on Climate Change will also be established whose job will be to advise the Government on the preparation of the mitigation and adaptation plans, and annually review progress of their implementation.

It will have up to 11 members, with the Director General of the Environmental Protection Agency, the chief executive of Sustainable Energy Ireland, the director of Teagasc and the Economic and Social Research Institute, all automatically appointed.

The bill would also oblige the Government to submit an annual statement on the progress of the transition to a low carbon economy to the Dáil.

"It is vital that we continue to prepare appropriately for adaptation, not only in the short term, as our recent experience with Storm Rachel demonstrated, but also in terms of the long term and the provisions within this Bill will facilitate that process," said Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly.

"No specific climate change legislation has ever been enacted in Ireland.

"I intend to rectify that lacuna now to ensure that Ireland's response to climate change is consolidated and that our long-term planning for future mitigation and adaptation is underpinned by statutorily robust operational arrangements."

The bill has been strongly criticised by non-governmental organisation and political parties for lacking ambition.

Stop Climate Chaos said it was deeply disappointing that the Government had ignored the proposals of the all-party Oireachtas committee.

It said the bill does not include the Government's own definition of low carbon, it does not guarantee the independence of the Climate Advisory Council, and it does not include the principle of climate justice - all of which were recommended by the committee.

The Green Party criticised the bill for failing to set out any long-term targets for reducing Irish greenhouse gas emissions.

The party said the bill it published in 2010 mirrored UK legislation in setting out a specific commitment to reduce emissions by at least 80% from 1990 levels by 2050.

It said the new bill contains nothing but vague aspirations and will undermine investment and confidence in the development of a greener economy.