The official response to the “ticking clock” of climate change has been far too timid, the head of Amnesty International has said.
Secretary-general Kumi Naidoo said global shifts caused by rising emissions levels constitute a “death penalty” on the population of the planet.
He was speaking in Northern Ireland, where parts of Belfast face the threat of severe flooding due to rising sea levels.
He warned the agriculture sector will also encounter major challenges from changing rainfall patterns.
He said: “Our politicians need to understand that nature does not negotiate, you cannot change the science and all that is within our grasp is to change political will to act ambitiously on this issue.”
Political will is a “renewable resource”, he said, and pointed to the engagement of young people on the issue.
“Unlike other issues that humanity has faced over time, whether it was colonialism, slavery, women’s right to vote, and so on, all of these struggles did not fundamentally have a clock in the middle of the table saying you have to sort it out by such-and-such a date.
“At least there is not a clock saying you have to fix it within 10 years, which is what we are now being told by the science, to get emissions to peak and start coming down drastically by 2030.
“The response of governments, business and even civil society has been far too timid.”
He said the struggle to avoid catastrophic climate change should be dedicated to protecting our children, and their children’s futures.
“If there is one thing that unites people across the world regardless of religion, race, class and colour, it is that we all want to do the best for our children and want them to be able to be safe and live happy lives.
“Right now climate change constitutes the biggest inter-generational human rights violation that humanity has ever seen.”
Much of Northern Ireland’s power still comes from fossil fuels, although there has been an expansion in the use of renewables.
Mr Kumi Naidoo said: “The reality is that those countries that do not get ahead of the green technology curve now asap, the longer they drag on their addiction to fossil fuels, they will find themselves in a non-competitive position when the transitions happen on scale, and they are going to happen, it is only a matter of time.
“Any country that lags behind will find themselves at an economic disadvantage.
“Northern Ireland should be thinking about investments in clean energy, not only thinking about importing things but also thinking whether you can develop a domestic energy efficiency as well as renewable energy industry.”