Youth movement Generation Zero has called upon New Zealand to follow the lead of Denmark and phase out fossil fuels for all energy and transport needs by 2050.
The organisation, which has been lobbying the Government for action on climate change, launched a new report this morning it said set out opportunities and responsibilities facing New Zealand.
It highlighted the importance of reducing carbon pollution from fossil fuels to keep global average temperature rise under the internationally agreed 2C limit.
The recently-released 5th Assessment Report from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), compiled by more than 2500 international experts, concluded that for a two-in-three probability of achieving the goal, the world must keep further carbon dioxide emissions under a cumulative cap of approximately one trillion tonnes.
Generation Zero said it had made calculations that showed New Zealand would need to start reducing CO2 emissions immediately towards zero before 2050 to stay within a per capita share of this remaining global carbon budget.
"This report is a call from the younger generation for leadership to steer our country decisively towards a clean energy future," report author Paul Young said.
"The simple conclusions are that it's urgent, it's doable, others are getting on with it, but New Zealand has now fallen far behind with no plan and no clear direction.
"We hope the report will prompt a response from political parties and spark debate about New Zealand's direction on climate change as a critical issue this election."
Mr Young said Denmark was an "inspiration and beacon of hope for the world" by showing that tackling climate change and economic management could go hand in hand.
"We can absolutely do the same here in New Zealand," he said.
"Not only is it simply the right thing to do, it is actually a huge opportunity to drive greater productivity and innovation and grow sustainable, well-paid jobs."
In a foreward to the report, Victoria University climate scientist Dr James Renwick said many of the technologies needed for the transition to zero-carbon energy sources were at hand.
"What's required is political will and the courage and vision to seize the myriad of opportunities before us," said Dr Renwick.
"New Zealand could be at the forefront of the new energy technologies needed in the 21st century, or we could continue drilling for oil and pumping up the dairy herd. The choice is ours."
The IPCC report, released last month, said most countries, including New Zealand, were unprepared for human-influenced global warming of between 2C and 4C this century.
It found harmful climate change was already being felt in rich and poor countries in the form of extreme weather and food shortages, which had the potential to worsen military and political conflict on the hardest-hit continents.
The greatest climate-related threats to New Zealand were rising oceans and more frequent and intense flooding and these phenomena were expected to threaten coastal development, especially between Northland and the Bay of Plenty.
At the time, Climate Change Issues Minister Tim Groser said even if carbon emissions were reduced, some changes were unavoidable and New Zealand had to be prepared to adapt.
Mr Groser said it was unlikely that Government policy on adaptation or reducing emissions would change as a direct result of the report, but he had asked his officials for advice.
The Green Party has previously pushed for mandatory renewable energy generation target of 100 per cent by 2030 - the Government has a 90 per cent target by 2025 - along with a strong national policy statement for fresh water, a "fair"price on carbon, a more sustainable transport system and insulation for thousands more homes.
In March, a paper published by the Royal Society of New Zealand noted New Zealand had several targets for reducing national net greenhouse gas emissions, including a 50 per cent reduction by 2050 compared with 1990.
However, it added, recent modelling by the Ministry for the Environment indicated that by 2040 New Zealand's net GHG emissions were expected to be 51 per cent higher than the 1990 baseline.
The report's authors agreed New Zealand could avoid adverse consequences for the economy, society and the environment if it reconsidered its direction of development and moved toward a green economy.
The Generation Zero report can be read online here: www.genzero.org.nz/challengetoourleaders.