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Ardern's focus on climate, not Nobel Prize

Jacinda Ardern Bloomberg

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has batted away the prospect of winning the Nobel Peace Prize next week, giving a favourable nod to climate leader Greta Thunberg instead.

Ms Ardern was lauded globally for her compassionate response to the Christchurch mosque attack in March, when 51 Muslims were targeted and killed, before leading an international lobbying effort to take extremist and terrorist content off the internet.

She has also positioned herself at the forefront of global efforts to restrict deadly effects of climate change, all the while becoming the second elected head of government to give birth while in office.

The Labour leader was named, behind philanthropists Bill and Melinda Gates, as the world's second best leader by Fortune Magazine earlier in the year.

She appeared embarrassed by the suggestion that her efforts might be recognised by the Nobel Foundation.

"That feels highly, highly speculative," she said.

Without nominating Ms Thunberg, the 16-year-old teenager who has capitivated the world with her advocacy, Ms Ardern said she had "deep admiration" for the young Swede.

"We need climate advocates. It certainly couldn't be easy having been thrust onto the world stage in that way. I have deep admiration for her," she said.

Ms Ardern returned to Wellington after her own advocacy at the United Nations, which caused her to miss Friday's record-breaking climate strikes across New Zealand.

Organisers reported that 175,000 Kiwis took part in marches across the country - which if true would make New Zealand the country with the most marchers, per capita, in the developed world.

"I'm proud of that," Ms Ardern said, adding the mass movement didn't grow her resolve.

"I've always felt that urgency. This government has always felt that urgency.

"We're well aware of the science and we're well aware of the signs of climate change, and the immediacy."

Central to Ms Ardern's domestic efforts is passing a "Zero Carbon Bill" by the end of the year, which aims to restrict New Zealand's emissions to their Paris Agreement target.

While the climate strikers have asked parliamentarians to pass a motion declaring a climate emergency, Ms Ardern said it was unlikely she would try again, after parliament rejected a similar motion earlier this year.

"What people want is action," she said.

"Yes, I absolutely hear the sentiment around the symbolism of an emergency. But what people want to see is us make progress."

She reeled off the government's climate achievements on climate change, including alternative and low-emission transport investment, carbon budgeting, and ending new offshore oil and gas exploration.

"That is a substantial list and I'm not going to pretend for a moment that that in itself is enough, but we are making progress," she said.

"It's progress I'm proud of, but we are not stopping."

© AAP 2019 Photo credit: AP Photo/Mark Lennihan