A post-Covid strategy for economic policy is already in formation. The Government is reviewing the 2040 National Development Plan (NDP) and a revised version is due mid-year. The NDP, released early in 2018, is the framework for public capital investment out to 2040.
It requires modifications to accommodate the ambitions of the programme for government agreed on formation of the Fianna Fáil/Fine Gael/Green Coalition last year. It must also acknowledge the financial realities - the budget must be placed on a sustainable medium-term trajectory when the Department of Finance releases the Stability Programme Update, due in April.
The State debt could be €240bn at the end of this year versus the €200bn that appeared likely when the NDP was framed.
There will be more borrowing in 2022, since it would be unwise to seek too rapid a return to budget balance and it will hardly be insisted upon by the European Union or the European Central Bank.
Protection of the Exchequer capital programme is a stated priority of the Government and will require a restoration of the VAT reductions, phased withdrawal of the Covid-related expenditures and careful control of ongoing current spending - tasks that could be shirked.
Recent non-Covid increases in permanent expenditure include a public service pay round to accompany zero price inflation and a weakening tax take, and an unfunded restoration of an unsustainable pension age.
If expenditure control is ducked, the traditional tool of budget adjustment in Ireland, namely slash the capital programme, will quickly be deployed as the ink dries on the new NDP.
To be credible, the revised plan needs to be enshrined in an overall budget framework which stacks up - capital spending in Ireland will otherwise become once again a residual, after tax increases and containment of current spending have been dodged.
It will be difficult to reconcile the programme for government with a coherent revision of the NDP. The programme is aspirational, target heavy and not always internally consistent. There is a welcome focus on climate policy and decarbonisation, but without costings. Hostages to fortune abound in the form of expenditure ambitions throughout, and rash promises not to increase taxes.
The post-Covid decade, assuming the pandemic is brought under control within a year or two, will be dominated by climate policy. Since the scientific evidence about global warming firmed up fully 30 years ago, emissions have risen inexorably and will resume their growth in the post-Covid recovery without policy changes.
The Biden administration has recommitted the United States to the Paris Agreement and the Chinese government has recently adopted a net-zero target by the year 2050. If China, the US and the EU, the world's three largest emitters in that order and jointly responsible for 55pc of global emissions, lead the charge, then there is a better prospect than seemed possible even a year ago that co-ordinated worldwide action will finally be taken.
Coincident with the change in the White House, whose previous occupant thought climate change was a hoax, dreamt up by China to damage America, the US National Academy of Sciences released a 210-page study entitled Accelerating Decarbonisation of the US Energy System. The study is a comprehensive review of available and prospective technologies. It employs a net-zero focus and is conscious of controlling the cost of getting there.
There is nothing comparable available in this country, although to be fair it must have cost a fortune - they do these things impressively well in the US. Everyone interested in the options available here should read this report. Here are a few of the principal takeaways regarding power generation.
(i) Complete decarbonisation of the electricity system is not feasible, even with technologies yet to be commercialised.
(ii) There will always be some back-up power requirement, maybe natural gas with carbon capture, a role for nuclear and for storage. Wind and solar cannot do it all.
(iii) Net zero does not mean gross zero - fossil fuels will be needed, in greatly diminished quantities, for specific purposes, and there are offset options, including new carbon extraction technologies.
(iv) The new electricity system needs a new grid, and the planning system inhibits its development.
It will prove straightforward to convert car transport to electric traction, but heavier vehicles may need a whole new fuel production and supply chain, with hydrogen a leading candidate.
The study urges greater government involvement in these emerging technologies and in promoting the 'just transition' agenda.
In Ireland, there is still no detailed and costed plan to reduce emissions to net zero or to any other figure. The programme for government contains a rhetorical commitment to a 7pc per annum fall in emissions without an adequate discussion of accompanying policies.
Two sectors that matter, energy and transport, illustrate some of the inconsistencies. Electricity is to be decarbonised, road transport is to be converted to electric propulsion, but road investment is nonetheless to be curtailed.
Public transport, equated to rail transport, is to be favoured, but no explanation is offered.
Most public transport in Ireland uses roads and buses, and electric buses are already on the market. If road transport is capable of substantial decarbonisation, as per the Government's declared intention, why is there to be a cutback in road investment?
It has become extraordinarily difficult in Ireland to secure planning consent for major infrastructural projects of any kind. Indeed, the acknowledged national priority of new housing development, which enjoys all-party support, must contend with rampant Nimbyism, which also enjoys all-party support.
There has not been a solitary residential project in the Dublin area in the last few years, including proposals by local authorities, which has not faced opposition from politicians of right, left and centre, including those whose hearts bleed most profusely for the exclusion from home ownership of the disadvantaged young.
This is not a uniquely Dublin affliction. All over rural Ireland there are vociferous campaigns against wind turbines. Eirgrid must build new power lines if the decarbonised power system is to be created.
These too are opposed by people, some of whom are unapologetic Nimbies, but some are rock solid supporters of the green agenda, according to themselves. It is not possible to pursue a serious decarbonisation policy in Ireland, or in America, without making changes and accepting costs and trade-offs.
If you would like to have a better climate policy, or more affordable housing, this brings practical reality around to your neighbourhood. If you are against electricity pylons, you are against the working out in practice of a serious climate policy. The green agenda is not credible without a reform of the veto-based planning system.