Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has issued a plea to use a collaborative approach on carbon emissions prices to tackle climate change, rather than face a "prisoners' dilemma" and wait for a different country to act first.

Ardern made the comments while delivering the keynote address at the UN Climate Summit private sector forum in New York this morning, attended by heads of state, business leaders, civil society leaders and youth.

The UN Climate Summit is considered one of the key climate change events since the Paris Agreement, which has a target to keep temperature rises within 2C this century.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern addressing the UN Climate Summit in New York this morning. Photo / PMO
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern addressing the UN Climate Summit in New York this morning. Photo / PMO

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has told leaders to come to New York with concrete plans on how to meet the Paris target, and has made specific requests around carbon neutrality plans for 2050, taxing carbon, axing coal power beyond 2020 and tackling fossil fuel subsidies.


He had specifically asked Ardern to deliver the keynote address at the luncheon, having previously expressed admiration for New Zealand's leadership in climate change.

Ardern told the audience that it was easy to lose hope, but there was still time to save the planet from the effects of climate change.

"No one has the luxury of copping out. Not those who deny climate change, nor those who believe it's too far gone.

"Now is the time for optimism and for hope and crucially a plan."

She foreshadowed an announcement she is due to make on Thursday around using trade policy to cut tariffs on climate change-related technology.

"Climate change is the perfect trade opportunity.

"New Zealand is pretty good at hydro, geothermal and wind generation, as well as producing low-emissions food. Other countries are better at making electric cars and mass rapid transit systems.

"Let's trade."

She said climate change should be at the heart of trade relationships, and also pushed countries to work together to cut carbon emissions through fairer pricing.

"It's very hard for any of us to convince our domestic industries to submit to emissions pricing on their industry when their competitors in other countries don't also face a similar price.


"And so we're trapped in a classic prisoners' dilemma, each country not wanting to go too fast or too far before anyone else.

"Surely if we're all committed to living up to the Paris Agreement, we can find ways to cooperate on putting a price on emissions whilst still competing on the quality and price of our goods and services."

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson in New York this morning. Photo / Pool
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson in New York this morning. Photo / Pool

She also told the audience that private sector partnerships could help curb emissions, using New Zealand's Climate Leaders' Coalition, which represents more than 60 per cent of the country's emissions profile, as an example.

"New Zealand has one steel mill and one aluminium smelter, both small by international standards. We know that new hydrogen-based technologies are coming on to the market in other parts of the world to make both steel and aluminium with near zero-emissions.

"How do we partner with other steel and aluminium producing nations and companies to roll those technologies out worldwide as fast as possible – whilst still honouring the original research and development and competitive needs of the companies that invented them?"

Ardern also gave one of the opening addresses to the summit, following an emotional plea from Swedish teenager and environmental activist Greta Thunberg for stronger action by heads of state.

Climate activist Greta Thunberg gives emotional appeal in which she chided the leaders with the repeated phrase, "How dare you." Video / AP

It is just the start of a hectic day for Ardern, who started the day meeting UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and is due to meet US President Donald Trump later this morning, followed by a progress report on the Christchurch Call.