Decisions on agricultural emissions pricing scheme delayed as UN urges swift climate action

"A survival guide for humanity."

That's how the head of the United Nations has described a major climate change report urging world leaders to take swift and drastic action to save the planet.

The report's authors say the world is already going to miss the ambitious target of limiting warming to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels. We'll likely hit that within a decade.

They say there's now "a rapidly closing window of opportunity to secure a liveable and sustainable future".

But there is some hope. They say dramatic changes can be achieved rapidly by cutting carbon pollution and fossil fuel use and adopting clean energy and technology.

There were little people asking the big questions at Waterloo School in Lower Hutt on Tuesday. The Prime Minister was visiting and taking questions. 

Among the questions was what was the naughtiest thing Chris Hipkins has ever done. The Prime Minister said he was sent to the principal's office twice at school, but he couldn't remember what for.

But it wasn't just the naughty things the children were asking about. They have a much bigger question: "What are you going to do about climate change?"

"What am I going to do about climate change, that's a really good question," Hipkins said. 

It is a really, really good question because the warning from hundreds of scientists on Tuesday could not be more urgent: the climate time bomb is ticking, the world is not doing enough.

"Humanity is on thin ice and that ice is melting fast," said United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres.

If humanity continues on its current path, when the inquisitive children are 80 years old, the world will be 3C warmer and that would be catastrophic.

Asked by Newshub whether his Government would take radical action, Hipkins said: "What I've indicated since I became Prime Minister is that my focus is obviously on reducing New Zealand's greenhouse gas emissions."

Greenpeace spokesperson Amanda Larsson spokesperson said: "The biggest source of global heating gases is the dairy industry which produces superheating methane and nitrous oxide which are cooking the climate faster than carbon dioxide."

But Andrew Hoggard of Federated Farmers said it's a global issue. 

"It's not a New Zealand-specific issue and New Zealand farmers are the most efficient in a number of areas."

The dairy industry is vital to producing the Prime Minister's pie of choice which he tucked into on Tuesday.

Decisions on the plan to bite into agricultural emissions were due early this year. But Newshub understands it's been delayed.

Hipkins said it is a "bread and butter issue".

The plan to price farm emissions was worked on by the Climate Change Minister. But he said it's no longer worth the paper it's written on and it's crunch time.

"The next Government will be in office for the three years in which those really critical decisions to dramatically cut emissions will have to take place," said James Shaw. 

National leader Christopher Luxon believes the "biggest thing I think we can do is to accelerate our embracing of renewable electricity".

The Prime Minister said, "tackling climate change has a major impact on our way of life and on the way we live, so we are continuing to focus on it". 

It's a focus for the next generation whose future depends on it.

Amelia Wade Analysis

So why has the plan to price emissions been delayed?

A combination of the floods, a cyclone and a change of Prime Ministership. Newshub understands the decision will be made in about a month or so.

Neither major party has clearly articulated their plan to meet our climate change targets.

Chris Hipkins has put a number of the Government’s climate policies on the scrap heap while National’s climate cupboard remains bare.

The heavy lifting will fall to the Greens and their strategy to increase their vote is to go after frustrated Labour voters. 

That is the reason they haven’t been tossing their toys as much as some activists would perhaps like. Voters won't like them when they're angry and they want to be seen as a stable, constructive coalition partner pushing Labour to more action.

So even in the party where climate change matters the most, it falls victim to the pursuit of power.