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Guterres, Sharif and Pakistani man

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres and Pakistani Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif visited tent camps in Sindh province, which was affected by flooding, in Balochistan, Pakistan on September 10, 2022. (Photo: Pakistani Prime Ministry Office/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)


'End the War With Nature,' Says UN Chief From Flood-Ravaged Pakistan

Noting that "loss and damage from the climate crisis... is happening now, all around us," António Guterres, calls on governments "to address this issue at COP27 with the seriousness it deserves."

Jessica Corbett

As United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres on Saturday visited Pakistani communities devastated by recent floods, the Egyptian government—set to host a global climate summit in November—held an informal meeting on loss and damage in Cairo.

"That support is entirely necessary. And it is not a matter of solidarity. It's a matter of justice."

Nearly 1,400 people are dead, over 12,700 are injured, and an estimated 33 million Pakistanis have been impacted by the flooding—caused by monsoon rainfall and melting glaciers—since mid-June. Roughly a third of the South Asian country is underwater, ruining crops and infrastructure.

Guterres "toured flood-affected areas of the district of Sukkur in southern Sindh province and Osta Mohammad in southwest Baluchistan province—some of the worst affected areas of the country," according to The Associated Press. He was joined by Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif and other top officials.

The U.N. chief's tour of impacted communities followed various events Friday, including a meeting with the prime minister, a visit to the  National Flood Response and Coordination Center, and remarks to the press—during which he called for not only immediate aid but also ambitious climate action by major polluters.

Guterres first spoke directly to the Pakistani people, telling them of his long "love affair with your country" and praising their "enormous generosity" toward refugees. He then vowed that "we'll do everything possible to mobilize the international community, to support your country, and to support all of you in this very dramatic situation."

Next, he addressed the international community, saying that "Pakistan needs massive financial support to respond to these crises that have cost, according to some estimates that I've heard today, about $30 billion, and counting."

Voice of America reported earlier this week that "more than 50 international humanitarian relief flights have arrived in Pakistan as of Thursday from countries such as Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, China, France, Iran, Britain, Azerbaijan, Norway, and Kazakhstan," and the United States has started airlifting "critical lifesaving humanitarian supplies" to the country from a U.S. Agency for International Development warehouse in Dubai.

"That support is entirely necessary. And it is not a matter of solidarity. It's a matter of justice," Guterres stressed. "Pakistan has not contributed in a meaningful way to climate change. The level of emissions in this country is relatively low. But Pakistan is one of the most dramatically impacted countries by climate change. It is on the front lines of the impact of climate change. It is absolutely essential that this is recognized by the international community, especially by those countries that have contributed more to climate change."

Echoing his warning from late last month, Guterres added that "at the same time, this is the moment to say that we are heading into a disaster. We have waged war on nature and nature is striking back and striking back in a devastating way. Today in Pakistan, tomorrow in any of your countries."

In his initial remarks and during a Friday press conference with Pakistani Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, Guterres highlighted the need for loss and damage funding from the Global North.

"Pakistan and other developing countries, from the Horn of Africa to the Sahel, are paying a horrific price for the intransigence of big emitters that continue to bet on fossil fuels, in the face of science, common sense, and basic human decency. Even today, emissions are rising as people die in floods and famines," he said. "This is insanity. This is collective suicide."

"From Pakistan, I am issuing a global appeal: stop the madness; end the war with nature; invest in renewable energy now," the U.N. leader pleaded.

"Developed countries must step up and provide Pakistan and other countries on the frontlines with the financial and technical resources they need to survive extreme weather events like these deadly floods. Half of all climate finance must go to adaptation and resilience in the developing world," Guterres declared.

"Developed countries must produce a credible roadmap to back their commitment to double their financial support. Loss and damage from the climate crisis is not a future event. It is happening now, all around us. I urge governments to address this issue at COP27 with the seriousness it deserves," he added, referencing the forthcoming summit in Sharm el-Sheikh.

As Common Dreams reported earlier this week, a coalition of over 400 groups wrote in a Tuesday letter that the weekend meeting in Cairo "is a crucial moment for the governments to cooperate and act in solidarity to the escalating climate emergency."

"They must take the necessary first step to agree that finance to address loss and damage is on the agenda," the letter added, "to ensure a meaningful outcome at COP27 to respond to the intensifying suffering of people facing climate and connected crises."

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