ISLAMABAD: Pakistani foreign minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari called on the United States and China to work together to tackle climate change impacts, saying all political conflicts between the two global powers could wait.
The minister’s comments come days after Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif addressed the UN General Assembly and held bilateral meetings with multiple heads of states, telling the world about recent catastrophic floods that scientists say were exacerbated by climate change and which have left more than 1,600 people dead and over 33 million people at risk.
During the annual gathering of world leaders at the United Nations last week, climate change was on top of the agenda. Low-lying island nation Vanuatu stepped up a fight to get the world to focus on combating global warming by calling for a fossil fuel nonproliferation treaty. Leaders from Pakistan — where devastating floods have engulfed large swaths of the country, causing damage estimated at $30 billion — told the world their story and asked for debt-relief and aid.
“We will not overcome climate change, we will not save our planet if China and the United States do not work together on climate,” Bhutto Zardari said at a roundtable arranged by the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.
“Everything else can wait, every other conflict, every other dispute. We’ll all fight among ourselves if there’s a planet left to fight over. Up until then, there needs to be an awakening.”
Around the world last week, young activists rallied for climate action, staging protests from New Zealand and Japan to Germany and the streets of New York to demand rich countries pay for global warming damage to the poor.
The protests took place six weeks before this year’s UN climate summit, known as COP27, where vulnerable countries plan to push for compensation for climate-related destruction to homes, infrastructure and livelihoods.
UN chief Antonio Guterres last Friday warned the world is “not even close” to making enough progress on climate change, telling a meeting of Pacific Island leaders: “Those who did nothing to create this crisis are paying the highest price.”
Guterres has also urged rich countries to tax windfall profits of fossil fuel companies and to use that money to help countries harmed by the climate crisis and people who are struggling with rising food and energy prices.
The United States and China are the world’s biggest carbon emitters.
On the fight against global warming, US President Joe Biden warned at the United Nations last week: “We don’t have much time.”