Despite being a low emitter of green house gases, Pakistan is suffering multiple natural disasters, including drought, desertification, floods, sea level rise and glacial melting, the Adviser on National Security and Foreign Affairs, Sartaj Aziz, told the United Nations Climate Summit on Tuesday.

The devastation caused by floods earlier this month have played havoc with lives, livelihood, agriculture and infrastructure, displacing millions of people, he said in a speech before world leaders attending the historic summit.

Most of the disasters were triggered by climate change and the decelerated growth and sustainable development, the adviser said.   The gathering of 120 world leaders – the first such meeting on climate change in five years – resulted in a day of impassioned speeches, including a cameo from the actor and UN Ambassador of Peace Leonardo DiCaprio, who said, “Climate change is not hysteria – it’s a fact”. Several of the speeches, including that of President Barack Obama, mentioned the 300,000 people who turned out for Sunday’s climate march in New York. The Pakistan chief delegate too made a reference to the march, saying, “World citizens legitimately expect this summit committing to build multilateral and multi-stakeholder coalitions; to provide a clear signal for a global agreement in 2015 and scaling up public and private funding for climate change.”  Aziz said Pakistan was evolving a comprehensive climate change policy, focused on mitigation and adaptation measures to deal with the menace. “Our mitigation measures cover energy, transport, town planning and agriculture,” he told the conference.  “In the past 40 years, 9 out of the 10 top natural disasters in Pakistan have been triggered largely by climate change,” the adviser told the gathering. Economic losses suffered during floods in 2010 and 2011 surpassed US $15 billion, and this year’s losses were being worked out.

These environmental calamities, he said, decelerate the government’s efforts to reduce poverty, enhance food security, improve healthcare and enhance access to energy.

In energy, Aziz said Pakistan was working to change the energy mix, develop renewable energy sources and increase the share of hydro electric power to reduce carbon emissions.

Pakistan, he said, required an additional US $5 billion annually to adapt to climate change impacts.

Describing climate change as “the defining unresolved issue,” Aziz called for an international agreement to cap greenhouse gas emissions and help avert some of the adverse effects of this menace.

“We have a historic opportunity to arrest and reverse the threatening course of climate change,” the adviser said.

Pakistan, he said, would assist the international community to reach the agreement on climate change by 2015.

“We need to generate political will and pool our strength and resources to combat this menace through practical measures,” Aziz said at the UN-convened summit. “We should negotiate a win-win outcome, he said, adding, “This would be possible only if we develop an undivided focus on evolving a substantive climate change convention.” 

“Our discussions today indicate that we have a common perception of the climatic threat and a common purpose to overcome it,” Aziz said. “We have to undertake this journey together. Our destination is the same. Unity of purpose should be our lodestar.”

Pakistan, he said, would assist the international community to reach the agreement on climate change by 2015.