Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has a big fan in former US Vice President Al Gore, who swamped her with praise during an interview on climate change yesterday.

Ardern was taking part in Gore's 24 Hours of Reality, an online event which gathers global activists, celebrities and political leaders to draw attention to climate change.

Welcoming Ardern via satellite link, Gore said he had been watching the New Zealand election and "I was cheering for you even before you were elected."

He described her as "a breath of fresh air, grounded and well balanced."


Before the interview began, he had described her as a "very powerful and inspiring new voice in the world community." And after the interview was over, he said "the whole world is pulling for you."

It was Ardern's campaign call that climate change was the biggest event facing her generation that won his attention – she had repeated it at a conference during the Apec summit.

In the interview with Gore, Ardern set out what her Government intended to do including the goal of carbon neutrality by 2050 and an independent Climate Commission to steer decisions on issues such as the emissions trading scheme.

She used the interview to call for climate change to become one of the areas on which there was political consensus, saying it should not be an issue that was "flavour of the month" for one government but not the next.

Ardern said there needed to be greater conversation about the issue, but that would require taking politics out of it.

"There are certain issues with which I hope that as electoral cycles move we'll see less of it becoming just an issue that becomes the flavour of the month for that government but not the next because we'll never get consistency around the actions we take."

She said she hoped to get consensus across Parliament on measures the Labour Government was taking, including the target of a carbon neutral New Zealand by 2050 and a new independent Climate Change Commission to look at measures New Zealand should take.

"So we as political agents can continue to be held to account for the actions we take regardless of what political party is in power."

Ardern was also asked about "climate refugees" – those forced out of their homelands by rising sea levels. That is a major issue for countries such as Kiribati and Tokelau.

Ardern said New Zealand already offered opportunities for Pacific Islanders to stay in New Zealand, such as through seasonal employment schemes.

"When it comes to the climate-refugee situation, we've started having the discussion 'well perhaps there are ways to adapt what we already have to take into account that potential future issue'."

She said although New Zealand's emissions were minute as a percentage of the global emissions, it did not reduce the responsibility for New Zealand.

New Zealand's biggest challenge was its agricultural emissions.

"Our view is if we start with having a comprehensive emissions trading scheme – and we'll leave it to the Climate Commission to tell us when it moves into that phase – will start incentivising real innovation in agriculture.

It will demonstrate to the world how you can have a smart, productive primary industry. And that's the area I think we can show real strength."

Gore said the agriculture issue gave New Zealand the opportunity to show leadership globally. "We have a problem with agriculture worldwide and the solutions are being developed but the whole world is going to be watching what you're doing."

Gore ended the interview by praising New Zealand, saying he had visited and found it beautiful. As a reward for his flattery, Ardern invited him to return.