Former President of Ireland Mary Robinson has said this country has a long way to catch up regarding climate change, but it is on the right track.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, she said she shared the view expressed by Minister for the Environment Richard Bruton that Ireland needs to become a leader on climate change.

Mr Bruton represented Ireland at the opening ceremony of a summit in the Polish coal city of Katowice, where politcal leaders are gathering for two weeks of talks to revive the landmark 2015 Paris deal on climate change.

Yesterday, United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres told the COP24 summit that the world is "way off course" in its plan to prevent catastrophic climate change.

The world is currently on course to overshoot by far the limits for global warming agreed in the Paris accord, which were intended to prevent more extreme weather, rising sea levels and the loss of plant and animal species.

Ms Robinson, who is Chair of the Elders, said Ireland can become a climate change leader inclusively through transition.

"When we close production of peat, it musn't be that peat farmers suffer.  

"The peat workers and their communities, they must have a just transition. They must have new jobs, new training and we need the focus of money for that".

Mrs Robinson said: "We do need a carbon tax but that too must be fair and it mustn't hit people who have to drive for their living.

"We have to be very thoughtful and inclusive as we move forward urgently now and catch up and become climate leaders, as I think everybody in Ireland would want to be".

She said people took action when there was a threat to the ozone layer and we banned the substances causing that.

"We can and must take action here but we must must do it with much more ambition".

Mrs Robinson said it is necessary to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 45% to be on track for a safe world and to get a climate carbon neutral world by 2050.

She said the voice of broadcaster and environmentalist David Attenborough was so important, because "people know that we're not heading for a safe future." 

She said "it's potentially catastrophic" but she believes it's doable.

In an address at the summit yesterday, Mr Attenborough said that climate change was "our greatest threat in thousands of years".

He told political leaders: "The continuation of our civilisations and the natural world upon which we depend, is in your hands."