Science

The world is paying a “terrible price” for its dependence on fossil fuels, the UN chief said.

‘Stop this madness’: Developing countries are paying the price for global dependence on fossil fuels, the United Nations Secretary-General said on Saturday on the second day of his visit to Pakistan, devastated by catastrophic floods.

“Pakistan and other developing countries are paying a terrible price for the intransigence of large issuers who continue to bet on fossil fuels,” António Guterres said on Twitter ahead of a trip to the flooded regions of the country.

“From Islamabad, I make a global appeal: stop this madness. Invest in renewable energy now. Stop the war with nature,” he said.

Since June, these floods have killed about 1,400 people. Amplified by global warming, they are caused by torrential monsoon rains and have covered a third of Pakistan’s territory – an area the size of Britain – destroying homes, businesses, roads, bridges and crops.

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres (left) and Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif (right) visit the flooded areas of Sindh on September 10, 2022 (Pakistan Prime Minister’s Office/AFP – Handout)

Guterres hopes his visit will encourage the international community to provide financial support to the country, which is estimated to need at least $10 billion to repair and rebuild damaged or destroyed infrastructure. An amount that is impossible to raise alone for Pakistan due to its high debt.

The monsoon, which typically lasts from June to September, is essential to irrigate plantations and replenish water resources in the Indian subcontinent. But Pakistan has not seen such heavy rains for at least three decades.

– “Nature fights back” –

For the UN Secretary-General, financial aid is “not a matter of generosity, it is a matter of fairness.”

“Humanity is at war with nature and nature is fighting back (…) but Sindh is not the cause of the greenhouse gas emissions that have accelerated climate change so spectacularly,” he said.

On Friday, Mr. Guterres was already outraged by the indifference of the world, in particular the most industrialized countries, in the face of climate change.

“This is madness, this is collective suicide,” he said.

Pakistan accounts for less than 1% of global greenhouse gas emissions (3% of the world’s population), but is the 8th most threatened country by extreme weather events, according to a study by the non-governmental organization Germanwatch.

This year, the country has already experienced heat waves that sometimes exceeded 50°C, devastating wildfires and devastating floods caused by the rapid melting of glaciers.

About 33 million people were affected by the floods, leaving them homeless and unable to meet their basic needs. About 500 bridges collapsed.

On Saturday, António Guterres is due to visit the thousand-year-old city of Mohenjo-Daro, a UNESCO World Heritage Site threatened by waves.

“If he comes to us, Allah will bless him,” Rosina Solangi, a 30-year-old housewife from a flooded village near Sukkur, said on Friday.

“All children, men, women are roasting in this scorching heat. We have nothing to eat, no roof over our heads. He has to do something for the poor,” she added.

Pakistan has received five times more rain than usual this year, according to the meteorological service. Padidan, a small town in Sindh province, has been covered by more than 1.8 meters of water since the rainy season began in June.

These bad weather conditions caused flash floods in the rivers of the mountainous north, which washed away roads, bridges and buildings in a matter of minutes, and a slow accumulation of water in the plains of the south, inundating hundreds of thousands of square kilometers of land.

Hundreds of improvised camps appeared in the rare still dry areas in the south and west of the country. Raised roads or railroads are often the last places where water has not penetrated.

With people piled on top of each other, accompanied by their cattle, epidemics should be feared. Many cases of dengue fever, mosquito-borne disease and scabies have already been identified.

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