Sarah Ferguson calls herself a 'global mother' who is trying to give her children a future. ((CBC))

A one-time princess, now a duchess and self-described "global mother," is pushing Canadians to ask tough questions about what their governments are doing to save the environment.

Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York, is seeking to underline the urgency of taking action against climate change, which she says is part is part of an array of social issues that needs the developed world's attention.

"It's up to us to ask the government what in the earth they're doing about it," she told The Canadian Press on Tuesday. "I'm not making a judgment, but I'm certainly going to ask them what the situation is … so they better clean up their act."

The former wife of Britain's Prince Andrew is in Montreal to attend an international conference looking at how to meet the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, which include poverty reduction and environmental sustainability.

Ferguson warned that unless governments are pushed to act soon, those goals were in danger of going unmet by the original 2015 deadline.

Complacency on environmental matters, she said, extends well beyond governments.

"You can do so much: unplug your telephone charger when you leave, turn your lights off," she said. "Don't think that's silly because every little bit helps."

Still in public eye

Ferguson's initial claim to fame was marrying Prince Andrew, the Queen's third child, and it can be difficult to pinpoint how, exactly, she has emerged a spokesperson for climate change.

Since her divorce from Andrew in 1996, Ferguson's interests have been eclectic, to say the least.

Along with being the public face for Weight Watchers, she has penned dozens of books. As a scribe she has no genre untouched, with children's books, self-help guides, an autobiography and even a history of Queen Victoria to her name.

'What I do have is a voice, and I'm not frightened to use it,' —Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York

That comes on top of her work as a special correspondent for NBC's Today Show and a crammed public-speaking schedule.

Ferguson herself acknowledges the difficulty people can have attaching a label to her activities. And if the tabloids feed off her personal life with unusual relish, she seems happy to turn the attention into a soapbox for the myriad charitable causes she has become associated with.

"I'm a global mother fighting to give my children a future," she said. "I just happened to be put on the public stage by the best-looking prince."

In conversation, she liberally drops anecdotes from various philanthropic endeavours, be it foster care, air pollution or Indian elephants.

From Montreal, she'll head to Poland and then Norway to "fight for human rights," and that's just this week.

"What I do have is a voice, and I'm not frightened to use it," Ferguson said. "What I've learned from the children I help, is you suddenly realize how lucky you are."

The Montreal Millennium Summit runs until Thursday. Other notable speakers include former U.S. vice-president Al Gore.