‘We have waged war on nature’: UN chief calls on international community to help flood-hit Pakistan

Months of monsoons and flooding have killed 1,391 people and affected 3.3 million in Pakistan

UN secretary general Antonio Guterres has said the world owes impoverished Pakistan “massive” help recovering from devastating floods because other nations have contributed more to the climate change thought to have triggered the deluge.

Months of monsoons and flooding have killed 1,391 people and affected 3.3 million in Pakistan. Half a million people there have become homeless.

Meanwhile, planeloads of aid from the US, the United Arab Emirates and other countries have begun arriving. But there is more to be done, Mr Guterres said.

Nature, the UN chief said in Islamabad, has attacked Pakistan, which contributes less than 1 per cent of global emissions, according to multiple experts.


Nations “who are more responsible for climate change… should have faced this challenge”, Mr Guterres said, seated next to Pakistani prime minister Shehbaz Sharif.

“We are heading into a disaster,” Mr Guterres added.

“We have waged war on nature and nature is tracking back and striking back in a devastating way. Today in Pakistan, tomorrow in any of your countries.”

The UN secretary general’s trip comes less than two weeks after he appealed for $160 million (€158 million) in emergency funding to help those affected by the monsoon rains and floods that Pakistan says have caused at least $10 billion in damage.

Mr Guterres said on Friday that other nations contributing to climate change are obligated to reduce emissions and help Pakistan.

He assured Mr Sharif that his voice was “entirely at the service of the Pakistani government and the Pakistani people” and that “the entire UN system is at the service of Pakistan”.

The UN chief said “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”.

On Friday, the first planeload of aid arrived from the US, which Washington says is part of an upcoming $30 million in assistance.

More US military planes are expected to arrive in the coming days as part of a humanitarian bridge set up by Washington to deliver much-needed aid across the country.

USAID announced an additional $20 million on Friday in humanitarian assistance for Pakistan, further enhancing US pledges.

Later, Mr Guterres directed his words to the “international community”, saying that by some estimates Pakistan needs about $30 billion to recover.

“Even today, emissions are rising as people die in floods and famines. This is insanity. This is collective suicide,” he said.

“From Pakistan, I am issuing a global appeal: Stop the madness; end the war with nature; invest in renewable energy now.”

So far, UN agencies and several countries have sent nearly 60 planeloads of aid, and authorities say the United Arab Emirates is one of the most generous contributors, as it has sent so far 26 flights carrying aid or flood victims.

On Friday, USAID administrator Samantha Power met Pakistan’s foreign minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari in Islamabad.

The floods have touched all of Pakistan, including heritage sites such as Mohenjo Daro, a Unesco World Heritage Site considered one of the best-preserved ancient urban settlements in South Asia.

The civilisation dates back 4,500 years, coinciding with those of ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia.

The UN heritage agency on Thursday announced it would send $350,000 to help recover flood-damaged cultural heritage sites.

Speaking at a press conference with Mr Bhutto Zardari, Mr Guterres underscored the importance of combating climate change.

“It is happening now all around us and I urge governments to address this issue,” he said, and added that what he has done so far as the UN chief is “a drop in the ocean of the needs of the Pakistani people”.

He said a proposal for a donors conference for flood-hit Pakistan is under discussion.

Since June, heavy rains and floods have added new burdens to cash-strapped Pakistan and highlighted the disproportionate effect of climate change on impoverished populations.

Experts say Pakistan is responsible for only 0.4 per cent of the world’s historic emissions blamed for climate change.

The US is responsible for 21.5 per cent, China for 16.5 per cent and the EU 15 per cent.

The floods in Pakistan have also injured 12,722 people, destroyed thousands of kilometres of roads, toppled bridges and damaged schools and hospitals, according to the National Disaster Management Agency. – Associated Press