On Monday, a United Nations conference raised funds and other support to help Pakistan cope with the consequences of last summer’s devastating floods, which the UN chief called a “climate disaster of a monumental scale”. which killed more than 1,700 people immediately afterward. Millions still live near polluted and stagnant floodwaters.
Pakistani Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif and UN Secretary General António Guterres attended in person, while world leaders including French President Emmanuel Macron and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan participated virtually as many countries contributed to better help Pakistan to raise an estimated $16.3 billion that is needed to help the country rebuild and recover.
The Pakistani authorities expect that approximately half of this funding need will come from the international community.
The conference has emerged as a test case of how much the rich world will contribute to help developing world nations like Pakistan manage the impact of weather flares and prepare for other disasters.
“We need to be honest about the brutal injustice of the loss and damage suffered by developing countries due to climate change,” Guterres told the meeting. “If there is any question about loss and damage, go to Pakistan. There is loss. There is damage. The devastation of climate change is real.”
Guterres said people in South Asia are 15 times more likely to die from climate shocks than elsewhere, and his “heart broke” when he saw the devastation left by flooding in Pakistan.
“No country deserves to put up with what happened to Pakistan,” he said. “But it was especially bitter to see the generous spirit of that country rewarded with a climate disaster of a monumental scale.”
At the UN climate talks in November, countries agreed to set up a fund for loss and damage caused by climate change. Details of the fund will be worked out by a committee this year. Vulnerable nations like Pakistan would be expected to receive compensation from the fund.
Many scientists, policymakers and others say that the emissions of heat-trapping gases into the atmosphere, mainly by industrialized countries, over generations are largely to blame for warming the global climate.
Many countries have already distributed cash, supplies and other support to Pakistan in the immediate follow-up to the floods. On Monday, Macron said France was injecting some 360 million euros into the French development agency to help Pakistan rebuild and adapt to climate change, plus another 10 million euros for emergency aid. The EU announced tens of millions in new aid.
Thousands of Pakistanis are still living in open areas in makeshift houses and tents near standing water in southern Sindh and in some areas in southwestern Balochistan, the two provinces hardest hit by flooding in Pakistan.
UNICEF warned on Monday that up to 4 million children continue to live near polluted and stagnant water, risking their survival and well-being, more than four months after a national state of emergency was declared in Pakistan.
The Pakistani prime minister compared the flooding to “a tsunami fallen from the sky”. He said the floods immediately affected 33 million people and destroyed more than 2 million homes, adding that the ferocity of the flowing water damaged more than 8,000 kilometers of roads (nearly 5,000 miles) and more than 3,100 kilometers of railways. .
“Today’s meeting is an attempt to give my people another chance to recover,” Sharif said. “We are running time again” to help victims in the midst of a harsh winter and in hard-hit areas where schools and health systems have collapsed, she added.
Alluding to a slogan often used in military contexts, he said: “Pakistan needs a new ‘coalition of the willing’: one that can save lives and put them on the path to responsible global citizenship.”
Pakistan has downplayed initial expectations of major contributions and downgraded what was originally billed as a pledging conference to a “support” conference, anticipating that donors will not just offer funds.
Organizers hope the conference will sustain a recovery and increase resilience after devastating floods between June and October, which also damaged 2 million homes and washed away 13,000 kilometers (8,000 miles) of roads. At one point, a third of the country was submerged.
Pakistani authorities last week cited a UN-backed assessment that the total damage amounted to more than $30 billion.
The world body says funds raised so far for Pakistan flood victims will run out this month, and an emergency appeal launched in October has secured only about a third of the $816 million sought for food, medicine and other supplies for Pakistanis.
Pakistan plays a negligible role in global warming and emits less than 1% of its heat-trapping carbon dioxide, but like other developing countries, it has been vulnerable to climate-induced devastation, experts say. The country has seen extreme heat, melting glaciers and rising sea levels in recent years.
Climatologists found that the flooding in Pakistan was exacerbated by global warming, although economic, social and building-oriented factors also played a role.