ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif will urge the international community to cooperate on tackling climate change at the United Nations later this month, the foreign minister said on Saturday, as the South Asian nation grapples with catastrophic floods that have covered a third of the country and killed around 1,400 people.
Monsoon rains and melting glaciers in mountains in Pakistan’s north triggered floods that have swept away homes, key infrastructure, livestock and crops, affecting 35 million of Pakistan’s 220 million people.
Officials put the cost of flood-related damage at $30 billion as the government and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres blamed the devastating deluge on climate change.
Guterres, who is visiting the country to raise awareness of the disaster, has appealed for “massive” help from the international community, and has invited Pakistan to participate in a special roundtable on climate change he is hosting, which will take place during the 77th UN General Assembly session this month, Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari told Arab News.
“This is an international issue and this all is happening due to the whole world, so we hope that we will come out of this problem collectively with the cooperation of the international community,” Bhutto-Zardari said in an exclusive interview.
“During that roundtable, the prime minister will get a chance to speak about the adverse impacts of climate change on Pakistan and highlight the destruction and damage inflicted by floods caused by climate change.”
Despite contributing less than one percent of global carbon emissions, Pakistan is eighth on the Global Climate Risk Index published by Germany-based non-governmental organization Germanwatch, which lists the countries most vulnerable to extreme weather caused by climate change.
The government will also highlight the extent of losses caused by the floods and raise awareness of Pakistan’s “immediate and long-term needs for the rehabilitation and reconstruction phase,” Bhutto-Zardari said.
With many areas of the country still inundated with water, authorities are struggling with rescue and relief efforts, especially in southern Sindh and southwestern Balochistan provinces, which officials say looked “like the sea.”
The government is also bracing for the emergence of waterborne diseases and is concerned about the potential impact of the flooding on more than 600,000 pregnant women who may face issues should they require immediate medical care, Bhutto-Zardari said.
The UN has launched an appeal for $160 million in aid to help Pakistan cope with the disaster, but the foreign minister said the amount — 45 percent of which has so far been pledged by UN member states — is “insufficient for this scale of damage.”
Officials are working with international agencies to produce a joint assessment to determine the funds needed for reconstruction and rehabilitation of the flood victims, Bhutto-Zardari said.
With help from the UN chief, Pakistan will then “arrange a donor conference to generate those funds by mobilizing the international community,” he added.
As he toured the affected areas on Saturday, Guterres appealed for the world to “stop the madness,” taking to social media to urge investment in renewable energy.
“Pakistan and other developing countries are paying a horrific price for the intransigence of big emitters that continue to bet on fossil fuels,” he wrote on Twitter. “End the war with nature.”