The Secretary General of the United Nations, António Guterres, is getting more and more blunt about political prevarication surrounding climate action.

Consider this barb from April: "Some governments and business leaders are saying one thing but doing another. Simply put, they are lying. And the results will be catastrophic."

He was at it again last week - this time dropping bombs on the oil and gas lobby.

Mr Guterres likened them to big tobacco: "For decades, the fossil fuel industry has invested in pseudo-science and public relations with a false narrative to minimise their responsibility for climate change and undermine ambitious climate policies."

His frustration seems to stem from the ongoing inability of the world's governments to adequately respond to increasingly unpropitious scientific data and achieve the emissions reduction targets they had promised.

Secretary General of the United Nations, António Guterres

If the UN Secretary General was looking for a case study on the difficulties of turning word into deed, he might do well to tune into the ongoing political machinations here in Ireland.

That's because our government is approaching crunch time on how to achieve our staggering 51% emissions reduction target, based on 2018 levels, by the year 2030.

In the middle of next month, the Cabinet is due to sign-off on a burden sharing plan, which will designate precisely how much each sector in our economy will be obliged to reduce emissions.

Unfortunately for the three-party coalition, the challenge is onerous in the extreme.

Intensive efforts are under way - behind the scenes - to square the climate policy circle

A recent report from the Environmental Protection Agency concluded that even in the unlikely event of every measure outlined in the government's Climate Action Plan being fully implemented, emissions here would fall by only 28% by 2030.

The EPA Director General Laura Burke concluded that what was required was "the identification of new measures" to achieve the government's legally binding objective of a 51% emissions reduction.

That's quite a statement when you consider that the measures in the Climate Action Plan were already very daunting - some might even say nigh on impossible to achieve.

One example of a "brave" target is the government's commitment to ensure 1 million electric vehicles in the private transport fleet by the end of the decade.

But intensive efforts are under way - behind the scenes - to square the climate policy circle.

Under the government's Climate Action Plan published last year, different sectors of the economy were given a range of emission reductions that they could expect to be obliged to reach.

For example, agriculture was told it would have to reduce its emissions by somewhere between 22% and 30%, while industry was given a range 29% to 41%.

To a certain extent, Eamon Ryan is negotiating with himself

Now the Environment Minister and leader of the Green Party, Eamon Ryan, has to negotiate an actual figure with relevant Ministers and ensure that the combined total will deliver a 51% emissions reduction by the year 2030.

To a certain extent, Eamon Ryan is negotiating with himself.

After all, he is the Minister for Transport - one of the largest polluting sectors.

He is also Minister with responsibility for energy policy, including electricity generation.

In addition, he is the Minister taking the lead on retrofitting one third of Ireland's housing stock by the year 2030, so he will have the responsibility of residential emissions too.

While departments such as Health and Public Expenditure will have responsibility for commercial buildings in the State, the key interaction in this entire convoluted process will come down to a straight forward negotiation between Minister Ryan and the Agriculture Minister, Charlie McConalogue.

Don't take my word for this, it's also the view of the EPA chief, Laura Burke.

She said earlier this month: "All sectors have work to do, in particular the agriculture sector. As the largest contributor of national emissions, more clarity is needed on how and when it will implement actions to reduce methane within the ever-shortening timeframe to 2030."

The agri sector has been given an emissions reduction range of between 22% and 30%

When you see a phrase like "reduce methane" that's usually interpreted as lowering the number of cattle in the State - something that's an anathema for farming organisations.

As mentioned, the emissions reduction range which the agriculture sector has been given is between 22% to 30%.

The political focus is, therefore, just how much the agriculture sector will reduce its emissions - is it at the upper end or the lower end of that scale?

It's a crucial number because if agriculture is given a low range figure - say close to a 22% reduction - then every other sector is going to have to pick up the slack.

The Agriculture Minister Charlie McConalogue has tried to avoid stating publicly what percentage his sector should get - preferring instead to talk about value.

The Minister said this week: "The key objective we have is to continue to produce the food that we do, but to absolutely minimise in every way we can, the emissions movement of how that is produced."

The Minister then referenced food security - not just in the context of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, but also in the context of greater global warming.

"We've seen over the past couple of months an increasing awareness and understanding of the importance of food security. It has very much shaken the complacency that's been there over the last past decade or two that food security is something that can be taken for granted."

Take those two statements together and Minister McConalogue at least sounds like a man advocating that his sector gets the lower end of the range when it comes to emissions reductions.

Charlie McConalogue said it's about setting an ambitious target

Asked about his negotiations with Minister Ryan, he said: "It's about striking that approach and balance - about setting an ambitious target which can reduce our emissions but really importantly have it underpinned by having a really productive producer of high quality safe sustainable food."

That perception that the Minister is seeking a lower target for agriculture prompted the UCC Professor Hannah Daly to tweet: "If emissions in agriculture only fall by 22% by 2030, all other emissions - in transport, homes, business, industry - will have to fall by nearly 70% - completely implausible."

Her analysis was backed by Friends of the Earth.

Its Chief Executive, Oisin Coghlan, piled in: "It's not just that it's not fair to ask the rest of society to cut pollution three times as fast as agriculture - it's not feasible."

Farming organisations believe such statements don't recognise how far their membership has travelled along the emissions reduction road, and argue that it also fails to take into account the importance of maintaining and protecting farm incomes and jobs.

That may be so, but the EPA and others are warning of failure.

Indeed, failure is something which has characterised Ireland's emissions reduction record to date.

At the time that I was RTÉs Environment Correspondent, between 2002 and 2010, we failed to reach our Kyoto Protocol targets.

We failed to meet our EU 2020 emissions reduction targets too.

And we could be on course to fail to achieve our 2030 targets.

Sources in the Department of Climate Action seem to be more optimistic that a deal can be done in the coming weeks - a deal which will be both fair and realistic.

One person with knowledge of the negotiations pointed out that the Climate Action Plan has both "core" emissions reduction measures, which can definitely be achieved, but also "further" measures, such as technologies that are about to be scaled-up.

They feel the plan is robust enough to hit the target, as so-called further measures come on stream.

On implementation, they point to a team within the Department of the Taoiseach which will produce four reports a year on how the plan is progressing.

The Govt has committed to having one million electric vehicles in the private transport fleet by the end of the decade

They use the analogy of trying to turn around an oil tanker - action is taking place, which is both difficult and challenging, and so it might some take to see the results.

Environment Minister Eamon Ryan fought to ensure that tough climate goals were included in the Coalition's programme for government; he then steered the legislation through the Oireachtas; now he has the mother-and-father of all challenges to get climate action aligned with climate goals.

These next few weeks will be when the rubber hits the road.

A spokesperson for Minister Ryan told me the following regarding the negotiations with Minister McConalogue: "A wide range of issues with regard to the agriculture, green food production and emission targets were discussed at the first high level meeting between Ministers Ryan and McConalogue. They agreed a set of actions that will be reviewed and worked on at subsequent meetings."

So far. So expected.

However, they continued: "The understanding is that modelling within the Department of Agriculture is being done to the upper end of the target."

Now that is news!

Environmental campaigners are cautious about what that might mean. They regard the percentage reduction given to the agriculture sector as a key indicator as to whether this plan will succeed or fail - like all the others.

Oisin Coghlan of Friends of the Earth told me: "This is the acid test for the Coalition's commitment to climate action. The three-party leaders jointly backed the climate law and the 51% target. Now they have to ensure that every sector does its fair share. We're just beginning to shed our reputation as a climate laggard but if the sectoral targets aren't credible we could easily become a climate charlatan."

In a comment which might well make the UN Secretary General nod in agreement, the EPA chief Laura Burke said earlier this month: "I think at the moment we're talking the talk, but we're not walking the walk. And we need to move from these ideas to actually implementing on the ground."

Can our government talk and walk? We're about to find out.