Jacinda Ardern replaced Prince William at an environmental summit in New York, calling herself an “extremely poor replacement”.
The Prince of Wales personally asked the Prime Minister of New Zealand to stand in for him at the Earthshot Prize Innovation Summit, a side event of the United Nations General Assembly Leaders Week.
Backed by the British royal family and beloved environmentalist David Attenborough, the Earthshot Prize awards huge sums to conservation leaders as a way to drive sustainable development efforts.
Ms Ardern was introduced by former New York mayor and billionaire Mike Bloomberg, who said the New Zealand prime minister was a “global leader on climate change” who had “dedicated her life to building a better world”.
“I am an exceptionally poor substitute, but I also know that we all understand the need for His Royal Highness to be with his family at this time,” Ms Ardern said.
She said her message was one of “gratitude and encouragement.”
“As governments, we have a responsibility to create the incentives and space for you to flourish … and the responsibility that comes with caring.
“We often think about our problems, but take a moment to imagine what can be achieved by channeling our potential.”
Ms Ardern discussed her government’s efforts to tackle climate change, including a legislative platform to limit New Zealand’s emissions to 1.5 degrees Celsius, complete with an independent agency and plan to do so.
She also confirmed New Zealand’s ambitions to become “the first country in the world to put a price on agricultural emissions”.
New Zealand’s leader is in New York this week to deliver New Zealand’s address to the UN General Assembly, which she will do on Saturday morning (AEST).
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine looms large over a global summit, and Ms Ardern told reporters in New York that more countries should condemn Vladimir Putin’s war.
“What we need here is a rallying cry to the world that what is happening here is illegal, immoral,” she said.
“This whole false narrative around liberating Ukraine, you don’t attack or threaten to use nuclear weapons against a country you claim to liberate.”
On Thursday, she will appear on a panel with her predecessor as New Zealand prime minister, Helen Clark, to discuss pandemic preparedness.
The Earthshot Prize takes its name from US President John F. Kennedy’s description of space travel as an audacious “moon shot” that led to the creation of other technologies.