Climate change is a bigger issue than the Brexit deadlock and governments must start to prepare for it, the Green Party NI’s Clare Bailey has said.
The South Belfast MLA was speaking at her first conference as party leader.
She took over from Steven Agnew in November.
Ms Bailey said borders “matter little in the face of climate breakdown” and she called for the restoration of Stormont in order to get policies in place.
Northern Ireland has been without a functioning devolved government since January 2017, when the institutions collapsed due to a renewable energy scheme scandal.
Ms Bailey said Brexit had reignited the debate about an Irish border poll but her focus was on challenging another issue entirely.
“Many say they want a so-called new Ireland while others are concerned to maintain the United Kingdom at any cost,” said Ms Bailey.
“There is a new reality dawning for all of us – it’s called climate breakdown.
‘Want to see change’
“A border down the Irish Sea or across the island of Ireland matters little in the face of climate breakdown.
“We have been given 12 years to the point of no return if we don’t radically change how we live.
“Climate chaos is real and that is coming, regardless of any constitutional changes.”
The Green Party in Northern Ireland has two MLAs and a number of councillors.
Ms Bailey said her focus is on increasing the party’s electoral success in the council elections in May.
She said the party would hope to reach out to young voters and target those who would traditionally vote unionist or nationalist but were frustrated with the Stormont deadlock.
“I’m not taking it as a given they’re coming to look at the Greens but we want to see change,” she said.
“We can’t keep staying with the same thing and expecting different outcomes.”