While Floodwaters Receding, ‘Needs Have Not’, Secretary-General Tells General Assembly, Urging Support to Pakistan as ‘Litmus Test for Climate Justice’

Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks to the General Assembly’s informal briefing marking one year since the 2022 floods in Pakistan, in New York today:

We are here for the people of Pakistan.  A year has passed since apocalyptic flooding submerged a third of their country.  I visited some of the affected areas that September.  I will never forget the climate-related carnage I saw.  Lives, homes, livelihoods, schools, hospitals — all obliterated.  And I will never forget the stories I heard — particularly from women and men who abandoned their own homes and possessions to save their neighbours from the rising waters.

Overall, some 1,700 people died, 8 million were displaced and 33 million were affected.  While much of the water has receded, the needs have not.  More than 8 million people in flood-affected areas lack access to clean water.  Millions depend on humanitarian aid.  And more than 2 million homes, 30,000 schools and 2,000 health facilities were damaged or destroyed — and reconstruction has just begun.

Meanwhile, Pakistan’s economy is in enormous difficulties. Food-price inflation is approaching 40 per cent.  And the floods devastated agriculture, raising prices and reducing incomes.  Some 8 million additional people have been pushed into poverty; and millions more have been forced to move in search of work.

When the floods hit, Pakistanis were first to help each other. And the United Nations has stood with them.  We released immediately $10 million — of course a drop in this ocean — from the Central Emergency Response Fund to kick-start the response immediately, followed by another $6.5 [million] within weeks.  But, with the Government of Pakistan, we launched the Floods Response Plan, seeking $816 million for immediate aid and protection.  I can report now that this appeal is now 69 per cent funded.

In January, together with the Government, we co-hosted a conference on a climate-resilient Pakistan that presented the Resilient Recovery, Rehabilitation, and Reconstruction Framework — known as the “4RF”. Billions were pledged — but the vast majority was in loans.  And Pakistan is still waiting for much of the funding, and delays are undermining people’s efforts to rebuild their lives.

I call on donors, [and] on international financial institutions to make good on their commitments, and put the money they have promised the “4RF” on the table as soon as possible.  The International Partners Support Group is working with the Government to channel resources to areas where attention is most needed.  A monitoring and evaluation framework to track progress will also be critical.

Pakistan needs and deserves massive support from the international community.  The country is responsible for less than 1 per cent of greenhouse-gas emissions — but its people are 15 times more likely to die from climate-related impacts than people elsewhere.  Pakistan is a double victim — of climate chaos, and of our outdated and unjust global financial system that prevents middle-income countries from accessing much-needed resources to invest in adaptation and resilience.

I have long warned that climate chaos is knocking on everyone’s door.  Today, it is beating that door down, from Libya to the Horn of Africa, China, Canada and beyond.  And Pakistan is a chronicle of climate chaos foretold.  There is nothing natural about a disaster on this scale — or about the fires, storms and droughts wreaking havoc elsewhere.  Carbon emissions are heating our planet, killing people, destroying communities and devastating economies.

Some countries claim they cannot afford to cut emissions. The truth is that no one can afford climate breakdown.  There is not enough humanitarian and development aid in the world for that.  Fossil fuel-based energy systems are a political decision.  And those decisions must change.  The science is clear; the shift to renewables is imperative.

The only question is how much suffering the world — particularly the most vulnerable countries like Pakistan — will endure before emissions are cut.  My Acceleration Agenda and Climate Solidarity Pact show the way forward.  And COP28 [twenty-eighth Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change] must see concrete action on both.

Meanwhile, the international system must support vulnerable countries.  The loss and damage fund must be operationalized, so that it can provide grant-based finance without increasing debt.  The Green Climate Fund must be fully replenished.  And developed countries must deliver the $100 billion, and double [climate] finance for adaptation and resilience.  Every person must be covered by an early warning system by 2027.  And international financial institutions must enable developing countries, including middle-income countries, to access debt relief and concessional funding when they need it most — like in the case of Pakistan.

Pakistan is a litmus test for climate justice.  The responsibility is clear.  So are the solutions — in the humanitarian appeal and the “4RF”.  The countries that contributed most to global heating must contribute most to righting the harm it has done.  Starting in Pakistan; and starting today.  And I thank you.

For information media. Not an official record.