Jacinda Ardern has no plans to confront Donald Trump on climate change at Tuesday's meeting

Jacinda Ardern has no plans to bring up climate change when she meets US President Donald Trump on Tuesday.

The Prime Minister is in Trump's hometown of New York for the UN General Assembly. She'll be meeting with a number of world leaders on the sides, including Trump and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

The gathering comes after millions worldwide took to the streets to protest a lack of progress on climate change. Scientists this week warned the pace of warming is speeding up, and current efforts are only about a third of what needs to be done to avoid catastrophic consequences in the decades to come.

Ardern told New Zealand media outside the UN headquarters she wasn't planning to bring it up with Trump, who is in the process of pulling the US out of the landmark 2015 Paris Agreement.

"It is a big focus here. I wouldn't be surprised if it does, but I imagine we'll talk about a number of things - even though we have a short 20 minutes together... I'm careful not to predetermine or pre-script some of the conversations that we have. Twenty minutes together, any number of things can be talked about."

Trump has rolled back a number of his predecessor Barack Obama's efforts to reduce the United States' emissions, even making efforts to boost fossil fuel extraction and use, contrary to scientists' warnings. 

Jacinda Ardern and Donald Trump.
Jacinda Ardern and Donald Trump. Photo credit: Newshub/Getty

Asked if it was important to confront Trump face-to-face about the urgency of the crisis, Ardern reiterated that the conversation would not be scripted, without confirming it would be a topic of discussion.

"I have no qualms talking about New Zealand's position on climate change to any leader, regardless of the position they may take. 

"What I think is important to keep in mind though is regardless of whether countries are signing up to the Paris Agreement - which of course would be New Zealand's preference - we are seeing climate action at a state level and often at a private sector level as well. What we need to start encouraging is even if we're not seeing politicians moving, we need to make sure we find ways that we can achieve those goals regardless."

The primary focus instead will be trade. 

"We are trying to make sure we've got resilience for our exporters by widening up the number of free trade agreements New Zealand has," Ardern said. 

"After they pulled out of the CPTPP, that has meant that we weren't able to pursue a free-trade agenda. This will be a chance for us to continue a conversation that actually the Deputy Prime Minister started some time ago."

Asked what some of the other obstacles to a free-trade agreement with the US might be, Ardern said New Zealand would "protect the Treaty of Waitangi", stick up for the Pharmac model of buying medicines and want to discuss intellectual property rights. 

As for her meeting with Johnson, Ardern said the focus would be trade in a post-Brexit environment - but she also wants to talk about Kiwis' rights in the UK.

"That's something that' I've generally raised with Prime Ministers for a number of bilaterals now. That's because of course protecting the ability to study as skilled migrants is something we've never been complacent about. That'll continue to be the case after Brexit. 

"We do want to protect the existing right New Zealanders have to both take a holiday and have their OE in the UK, but also to stay on as skilled migrants."

Negotiations for a new agreement with the European Union are already underway.

"Free-trade agreements obviously take quite some time to negotiate, so the sooner the start, the further down the track we can get."