COP27: The world is 'burning up faster' than it can recover, says Pakistan PM

The flood-ravaged Sindh province, southern Pakistan
The flood-ravaged Sindh province, southern Pakistan   -   Copyright  Euronews
By Euronews  with AFP

Climate change is outpacing the capacity of developing nations to cope with its devastating impacts, the Pakistani Prime Minister told COP27 on Tuesday, as his country reels from historic floods.

Talks at the UN climate conference in Egypt have been dominated by calls for wealthier nations to fulfil pledges to financially help poorer nations green their economies and build resilience.

"The world is burning up faster than our capacity for recovery," Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif warned in his speech before the summit in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.

"The current financing gap is too high to sustain any real recovery needs of those on the frontlines of climate catastrophe."

Sharif argued Pakistan exemplifies the extreme vulnerability of nations in the developing world struggling to grow their economies while confronting a perfect storm of inflation, soaring debt and energy shortages -- all compounded by global warming.

Catastrophic floods in Pakistan in August coming on the heels of a crippling two-month heat wave earlier in the year upended the lives of 33 million people and inundated a third of the country, he said.

"Raging torrents" from melting glaciers in northern Pakistan ripped up thousands of kilometres of roads and railway tracks, Sharif added.

ASIF HASSAN/AFP
Commuters make their way through a flooded street after heavy monsoon rains in Jacobabad, Sindh province, Pakistan.ASIF HASSAN/AFP

The floods, which also swamped vast areas of key farmland, incurred damages exceeding $30 billion (€29.9 billion), according to the World Bank.

Pakistan, already facing a cost-of-living crisis, a nose-diving rupee and dwindling foreign exchange reserves, saw inflation surge after the floods.

Developing nations shouldn't have to take on this 'gigantic task' alone

"We have redirected our meagre resources to meet basic needs of millions of households affected by these devastating floods," Sharif said. "And this all happened despite our very low carbon footprint."

Rich nations historically responsible for rising temperatures have fallen short on delivering climate finance on several fronts, the prime minister said.

A 12-year old pledge made at COP15 to provide $100 billion (€99.7 billion) a year to poorer countries by 2020 has still not been met and is $17 billion (€16.9 billion) short.

A lightening-rod issue at COP27 is whether or not wealthy nations should commit to a separate financial facility for unavoidable impacts - from storms, heat waves and sea level rise, for example - known as "loss and damage".

"How on earth can one expect from us that we will undertake this gigantic task on our own?" Sharif said.

ABDUL MAJEED/AFP
A general view of a flooded area after heavy monsoon rains is pictured from atop a bridge in Charsadda district in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan.ABDUL MAJEED/AFP

At a Monday meeting with Sharif, UN chief Antonio Guterres said the world needs to rethink the international financial system to provide debt relief to countries battered by climate impacts.

"Pakistan deserves massive support directly from the international community," Guterres said.

Watch the video above to see the Pakistani Prime Minister's comments at COP27.