An aerial photograph showing a flooded area on the outskirts of Sukkur, Sindh province

UN chief says world pays ‘terrible price’ for fossil fuel stupidity

Aerial view of a flooded area on the outskirts of Sukkur, Sindh – Copyright AFP Aamir QURESHI

Muhammad DAOUD

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said developing countries are paying a “terrible price” for the world’s dependence on fossil fuels when he visited parts of Pakistan hit by climate change-driven floods.

Nearly 1,400 people have died in the floods, which have engulfed a third of the country – an area the size of Great Britain – destroying crops and destroying homes, businesses, roads and bridges.

Guterres hopes his visit will galvanize support for Pakistan, which needs at least $10 billion to repair damaged infrastructure.

“Pakistan and other developing countries are paying a horrendous price for the intransigence of major emitters that continue to bet on fossil fuels,” Guterres tweeted shortly before heading to areas hardest hit by the floods.

“From Islamabad, I make a global call: stop the madness. Invest in renewable energy now. Stop the war with nature.

Pakistan receives torrential – often destructive – rain during its annual rainy season, which is critical for agriculture and water supply.

But such heavy showers as this year have not been seen for several decades.

– “Madness and Suicide” –

On Friday, Guterres lamented the lack of attention the world is paying to climate change, especially the industrialized nations that scientists are to blame for.

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

Pakistan accounts for less than one percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, but ranks eighth on the Germanwatch list of countries most vulnerable to extreme weather events caused by climate change.

On Saturday, Guterres is touring flood-affected parts of the south and will also visit Mohenjo-Daro, a centuries-old UNESCO World Heritage Site threatened by flooding.

About 33 million people were affected by the floods, which destroyed about two million homes and commercial premises, washed away 7,000 kilometers (4,500 miles) of roads and destroyed 500 bridges.

The impact of the heavy rains was twofold: devastating flash floods in the rivers of the mountainous north, and slow accumulation of water in the southern plains.

“If he comes and sees us, Allah will bless him,” Rozina Solangi, a 30-year-old housewife from a flooded village near Sukkur, told AFP on Friday.

“All children, men and women, are roasting in this scorching heat. We have nothing to eat, no roof over our heads. So he must do something for us poor people.”

The Met Office reports that in 2022, Pakistan received five times more rain than usual. Padidan, a small town in Sindh province, has been flooded with more than 1.8 meters (71 inches) since the start of the rainy season in June.

Thousands of makeshift campsites have mushroomed on patches of land to the south and west—often roads and railroad tracks—the only land in the landscape with water.

As people and livestock crowd together, the camps are ripe for disease outbreaks, with many cases of mosquito-borne dengue and scabies reported.

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