Former president Mary Robinson has criticised Taoiseach Leo Varadkar for admitting Ireland had made slow progress on climate change.

Mrs Robinson, who also served as a UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and now leads the Mary Robinson Foundation for Climate Justice, said Ireland should be a leader on climate change.

Speaking on University College Cork's Plain Speaking podcast, she said "I think that history will be very unkind to us if we don't act".

In January 2018, Mr Varadkar described Ireland as a "laggard" in tackling climate change following a speech to the European Parliament. He also said it was something he was not proud of.

"It is not good for our profile or even I think for our morale that as Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said in the European Parliament that we're laggard on climate change" Mrs Robinson said.

"We need to become a leader on climate change because we were a leader in the world and still are perceived to be on hunger. Now you cannot be a leader on tackling hunger if you are a laggard on climate change, the two don't fit."

"The system we have at the moment is underpinned by rampant capitalism. The social contract with people is kind of broken. The unions are being trod upon, especially in the United States but also globally to a certain extent", she said.

She said that the Irish economy's heavy reliance on the beef and dairy sectors is "not the best from a climate point of view".

"We still have to feed people, we still have to have farming, but we need to be more diverse, more conservation agriculture, more thoughtful. It's not just agriculture, it is transport. We need to go electric as quickly as possible and so on. It's not an excuse to say we're a small country, not an excuse."

It comes as a major report on taking action on climate change looks set to include a recommendation for a four-fold increase in the price of carbon by the year 2030.

Yesterday, the Oireachtas Climate Action Committee considered a Fianna Fáil proposal to delete text in the report that would see carbon price rise to at least €80 per tonne by 2030. The current price of carbon is €20 per tonne.

Fianna Fáil had proposed that this text be deleted. However with the Committee tied with 11 votes in favour and 11 votes against their amendment was lost.

The €80 per tonne figure is a recommendation of the state's Climate Change Advisory Council.

Mrs Robinson reaffirmed that Ireland needed a carbon tax, but stated lessons from other countries need to be heeded, "We do need a carbon tax, but it must be fair. We need to pay attention to what happened in Paris, in France, when the carbon tax was the right thing to do but it was done in the wrong way. It was done when the wealth tax had been removed and people perceived a real unfairness and inequity."