With Covid-19 hospitalisation trends improving by the day and the vaccination programme continuing apace, it certainly feels like the country is steadily heading back towards a more stable situation.

Nothing escaped the pandemic of course. Its impact on the way we go about our activities will be with us for a long time to come.

For the past 15-and-a-half months we have shown that, as a society, "when push comes to shove" we can embrace enormous change and rise to great challenges. We have demonstrated resilience, determination, and solidarity, and compassion.

We are going to need all those attributes, and more, as we embark on our next challenge as outlined in the Climate Bill passed by the Dáil late last Wednesday night.

The Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Bill 2021 is unlike any bill that came before it.

When it is passed by the Seanad, which will be soon, and is subsequently signed into law by the President, it will set in train what can only be described as a 30-year revolution in the way we go about our daily business.

It will make it a legal requirement for us to half our greenhouse emissions by 2030. That is only nine years away.

Then, for the following 20 years, we are going to have to eliminate our net emissions entirely.

This means if we are still emitting any greenhouse gasses by 2050 - regardless of whether they come from industry or a cow - we will be legally obliged to compensate for that by removing an equal amount of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

There is a famous quote often used to describe what faith is. It says that "faith is all about taking the first step even when you can't see the whole staircase". Never has there been a more apt description of the climate action we are now embarking on.

What we are being asked to do in this Climate Bill is to "believe". It is a call to get behind the national climate effort, to be prepared to embrace huge changes to our homes, our jobs, and every aspect of the way we live our lives. Yet the technology to do most of the things required to entirely eliminate net carbon emissions has not yet been invented.

We failed miserably to achieve our greenhouse gas reduction targets up to 2020.

Yes of course, electric cars, retrofitting houses, improving insulation, more efficient appliances, generating clean electricity from wind and solar, cycling to work instead of driving, more public transport and all those kinds of things are great innovations. They could all help to give us a really good start. They represent those first few steps on that staircase of faith, and they are steps that both morally and ethically we must take.

But that is only going to get us some of the way along our climate action journey.

What happens then? How do we build houses and office blocks, factories and roads without concrete and steel, two of the biggest contributors to global greenhouse gas emissions? Where is the technology that can take carbon directly out of the atmosphere in large quantities and store it safely forever? How do we replace the filthy heavy fuel oil that powers the enormous ships that transport most of our goods to every corner of the world? How do you fly airplanes carrying hundreds of people without high octane aviation fuel polluting the atmosphere - you certainly won't be able to do it with batteries because they weigh far too much to fly.

And what about meat and dairy? Are we to abandon that altogether? What would happen to our farming communities if we did? And I haven’t even mentioned the holy grail of safe energy from nuclear fusion. When, if ever, will that become a reality?

There are no adequate answers to these issues yet. These are like the steps we cannot see that are further up the climate action staircase we are about to climb. There is no guarantee that those steps will be in place when we get to the point that we desperately need them. We are just going to have to hope they will be there.

This week, Climate Minister Eamon Ryan said not to worry, have faith. The Climate Action Bill will secure a better future for young people, it will deliver more investment, more jobs and better jobs, farmers will be better off, the air will be cleaner, biodiversity will be improved. We will help to protect ourselves from damages like flooding and storms that climate change will bring. He is right of course, although he might sound like a preacher, and Ireland has so much ground to make up in the fight against climate change.

Eamon Ryan

The seriousness and urgency of the need for climate action was highlighted on Friday when scientists at NASA and the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration published new research showing that the earth is now trapping twice as much heat in the atmosphere than it was just 15 years ago.

They described their own findings as alarming and said it is the result of greenhouse gas emissions and more water vapour as well as decreases in clouds and sea ice.

Ireland must take action to deliver on our climate commitments and cannot delay any longer. We have been the worst laggards on climate action in the European Union over the past 20 years. We failed miserably to achieve our greenhouse gas reduction targets up to 2020. It has already cost us over €200 million to pay for carbon credits and other offsets to compensate for our failure.

What a waste of scarce taxpayers' money.

Having to cut our carbon emissions by 51% in the next nine years by law is a frightening challenge. It is going to demand ingenuity, determination, resilience, solidarity and compassion.

We are going to need buckets of stamina in the face of the demands for constant change that are coming. We might have to work on our stamina, but the way we have dealt with the Covid-19 pandemic to date suggests that we do have many of those qualities. We are definitely going to need them.