The chair of the Climate Change Advisory Council has warned that Ireland's carbon tax levels are too low and need to be increased. 

John Fitzgerald also warned the Oireachtas Environment Committee that Ireland risked "going backwards" in its efforts to reach the target of decarbonising Irish society by 2050.

"Unfortunately the very limited policy action so far means that we are going backwards - emissions are rising, not falling," he told Senators and TDs.

"Improved economic performance will make this worse because greenhouse gas emissions remain strongly coupled to economic growth." 

Prof Fitzgerald also said that carbon tax needed to increase to at least €30 a tonne in the forthcoming Budget, with further increases in subsequent budgets.

"Low levels of carbon pricing do not deliver sufficient results. A significant carbon price would not only deliver immediate emissions reductions, but would also put the conditions in place for a long term ambitious low carbon transition through improved investment choices," he said. 

He told members that pollution had to be taxed if change was to be achieved, but warned that this was only the beginning. 

Several members raised concerns about the effect of some proposed measures on the agriculture community. 

Fine Gael Senator Michelle Mulherin warned against allowing farmers to become collateral damage in efforts to tackle climate change. 

However, the Director General of the Environmental Protection Agency, Laura Burke, said while they were conscious of the issues affecting rural communities, data showed that emissions from agriculture have been increasing. Ms Burke is also a member of the Climate Change Advisory Council. 

She said while emissions from agriculture were 2.4% below what they were in 1990, they have increased in four out of the last five years, which should be a "warning signal".