United Nations (UN) Secretary General Antonio Guterres said on Friday that Pakistan’s contribution to climate change was minimal but it was one of the countries most affected by its consequences.
He made the remarks as he attended a briefing at the National Flood Response Coordination Centre (NFRCC) alongside Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif.
The UN chief is currently in Pakistan on a two-day trip to seek the world’s support for the catastrophic floods which have devastated the country and to highlight the urgency to deal with the climate change crisis.
Guterres began by expressing his appreciation for all those working tirelessly to support the victims of this “unprecedented natural disaster”.
“Humanity has declared war on nature and nature is tracking back. But nature is blind. It is not striking back on those who have contributed more to the war on nature,” he said.
Pakistan has contributed very little to climate change but is one of the countries most affected by its consequences, he highlighted.
“It is like nature has attacked the wrong targets. It should be those that are more responsible for climate change that should have to face these kind of challenges.”
It is the international community’s obligation to drastically reduce emissions and support countries that need to invest in resilience and recovery, he said.
“My voice is entirely at the service of Pakistan and its people. We know our contribution is limited […] but we are totally committed.”
He went on to say: “I have always seen an enormous sense of solidarity in Pakistan. My admiration for this country and its people is limitless […] I will do my best to raise awareness in the international community.”
Speaking at the briefing, the premier thanked the UN chief for undertaking the visit, saying that his empathy and support was “great encouragement”.
“The government of Pakistan, along with the provincial governments and all stakeholders […] are working together to provide relief and rescue to millions,” he said.
PM Shehbaz said that efforts were underway and flood affectees were being moved to safer areas while also being provided food and shelter. “The challenge is absolutely beyond human capacities, yet humans have to handle it and we are.”
He once again thanked the UN secretary general for visiting Pakistan, stating that authorities would provide him with first-hand information about what was happening in the country.
During the briefing, NFRCC Major General Zafar Iqbal told the participants about the situation in the country and the number of people currently suffering.
Following this, the premier heaped praise on the UN secretary general, saying that he has spoken like a “true Pakistani”. However, he reiterated that Pakistan needed international support to come out of this crisis.
“Pakistan is doing its best with its meagre resources. We thank the international community for contributing […] but unless we get sufficient support in terms of relief, in terms of repairing the damage, we will be in trouble.”
Guterres, Shehbaz discuss flood situation
Earlier in the day, the prime minister had welcomed the UN secretary general as he arrived at the PM House along with his delegation.
The premier and the UN chief held a meeting to discuss the situation arising out of the catastrophic floods in the country.
The two sides focused on joint efforts to carry out relief, rescue and rehabilitation at international level to mitigate the sufferings of the flood-affected people.
Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb and senior officials were also present in the meeting.
UN chief arrives in Islamabad
Guterres arrived in the capital during the early hours of Friday. The secretary general had announced his plan for a solidarity trip to Pakistan soon after the launch of the $160 million UN Flash Appeal for helping the people most affected by the floods caused by what he had called “monsoon on steroids”.
He will be back in New York on Sept 11 where the 77th session of the UN General Assembly is starting on Sept 13.
Islamabad has been urging rich countries to help Pakistan and other poor countries suffering from climate change because of their massive greenhouse gas emissions that caused global warming. The rich countries have generally been reluctant to pay for the climate loss.
In a statement on Friday, Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb said Guterres’ visit will also prove to be helpful in sensitising the world about the deadly consequences of climate change.
The information minister said the international community will have to come forward to help poor countries affected by natural disasters, including floods, a report by Radio Pakistan said.
She also appreciated the UN secretary general for launching the flash flood appeal to help the country’s people.