South Asians ‘15 times more likely die from climate change impact’: UN head

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United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres
UN Photo/Mark Garten. @un.org

South Asia is the hotspot of the climate crisis with the people there most prone to die from its impact, according to Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

“South Asia is one of the world’s global climate crisis hotspots — in which people are 15 times more likely to die from climate impacts than elsewhere”, he said on Monday.

“As always, those developing countries least responsible (for climate change) are the first to suffer” because of it, he said at a UN-sponsored fund-raising conference in Geneva to help Pakistan recover from last year’s devastating floods.

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“We need to be honest about the brutal injustice of loss and damage suffered by developing countries because of climate change”, he said. and “if there is any doubt about loss and damage — go to Pakistan”.

Pakistan received pledges of more than $9 billion at the conference and for the first time more than half the commitments came from developing countries, Stephane Dujarric, the spokesperson for Guterres said.

That amount is a little more than half the $16 billion that Guterres said Islamabad will need.

Making his appeal for “massive investments” to help Pakistan recover from the flood damage, Guterres linked the devastation to climate change.

“Pakistan — which represents less than one per cent of global (greenhouse gas) emissions — did not cause the climate crisis, but it is living with its worst impacts”, he said.

More than 33 million people were affected by the floods that hit Sindh and Balochistan killing more than 1,700 people and laying waste to 1.8 million hectares of farmland, according to the UN.

Guterres, who has made fighting climate change one of the major pillars of his agenda, held developed countries to their promise made at last year’s UN conference in Egypt on climate change to fund developing nations’ efforts to cope with it.

“Developed countries must deliver on their commitment to double adaptation finance, and meet the $100 billion goal urgently, without delay”, he said.

“And we need to reverse the outrageous trend of emissions going up, when they must go down to prevent further climate catastrophe”, he added.

At a news conference, he chided world leaders for not doing enough.

“I am deeply frustrated that global leaders are not giving this life-or-death emergency the action and investment it requires”, he said.

Guterres also brought up the issue of the international debt burden faced by some countries, notably Pakistan, which he called “a victim of the manmade disaster of a morally bankrupt global financial system”.

“I renew my call to global leaders and multilateral development banks to join forces and develop creative ways for developing countries to access debt relief and concessional financing when they need it most”, he said.

Pakistan is seeking a $1.6 billion bailout from the Internation Monetary Fund.

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