Pakistan’s prime minister on Monday painted a grim picture of the devastation wrought by floods in his country, citing “raging torrents” ripping up thousands of kilometres of roads and huge lakes of stagnant water changing the landscape.
He said the country’s recovery was being hampered by high energy prices on world markets and growing public debt.
“We have rearranged budget priorities, but the gap is much bigger and must be filled sooner than later,” he told reporters gathered at the Pakistan pavilion.
“Millions will be going into winter without shelter or livelihood. Women and children are looking to us to provide their basic needs.
“They are picking [up] the pieces as we speak.”
Monsoon rains, likely to have been made worse by climate change, hammered Pakistan for months starting in mid-June, damaging or washing away 2 million homes. Mr Sharif spoke of 2.8 million families affected by the disaster.
The devastation caused by the floods in Pakistan has been frequently cited at the climate summit in Egypt as an example of what rising temperatures can do. The situation is being offered as another reason why the world must bring down global warming to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels.
The inclusion of loss and damage funds in the summit’s agenda should in theory benefit countries like Pakistan along with many others suffering from drought, rising water levels or desertification.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who was present when the Pakistani leader spoke, said the country was in dire need of help.
“The international community has a duty to help Pakistan at this moment. Pakistan deserves massive support from the international community,” he said. “We will stand side by side with Pakistan.”
He called on participants in the UN climate summit to find a “clear road map” to deal with cases of loss and damage such as Pakistan’s.
He regretted that Pakistan as a middle-income nation did not qualify for debt relief at the level it needs to deal with the aftermath of the floods. He proposed that Pakistan’s debt repayment be diverted into investment in recovery and reconstruction projects.
Last month, Pakistan Finance Minister Ishaq Dar said he would seek rescheduling of some $27 billion worth of non-Paris Club debt largely owed to China, but would not pursue haircuts as part of any restructuring.
He also ruled out the possibility of a default on Pakistan's debt, an extension of the maturity date on bonds due in December or a renegotiation of Pakistan's current International Monetary Fund programme.