Reeling from floods, Pakistan seeks climate compensation, debt relief

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Pakistan’s prime minister said his country would need debt relief and would seek compensation for climate damage as it recovers from catastrophic floods that cost the country some $30 billion.

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Speaking on Monday at the COP27 climate conference alongside UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said that Pakistan’s escalating public debt was hampering its recovery.

“Millions of people are going into winter without shelter or livelihood,” Sharif said. “Women and children are still looking to us to protect their basics needs.”

Pakistan and other climate-vulnerable countries are demanding that the UN climate talks this year in Egypt take steps to mobilize “loss and damage” funds for disaster-hit nations, and some say rich nations have a duty to pay these costs because their historical emissions are mostly responsible for global warming today.

“We have mobilized every available resource toward the national relief effort,” but it is not enough, Sharif said -- describing hundreds of broken bridges across the country, as well as stagnant lake water now fouling Pakistan’s southern agricultural landscape.

Guterres, who visited Pakistan in September to tour the flood damage, urged international financial institutions like the World Bank and to leaders at the upcoming G20 summit in Indonesia to reform policies that govern debt relief and concessional loan decisions so as to help middle-income countries like Pakistan focus on rebuilding rather than repayment.

“There should be a way to have a (debt) swap exchanging the payments of the debt to investments in the rehabilitation and recovery and reconstruction from natural disasters,” the secretary general said.

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