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United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres (C) arrives with Pakistan ministers Malik Amin Aslam (R) and Zartaj Gul during an event on sustainable development and climate change in Islamabad on February 16, 2020. Image Credit: AFP

Islamabad: United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Sunday linked the need to merge local initiatives with global efforts to ward off climate degradation.

He appreciated Pakistan and its people for taking some vital steps to reverse the effects of global warming.

Guterres arrived here on Sunday on a four-day visit to Pakistan during which he will attend the international conference on Afghan refugees, hold talks with the top Pakistani leadership and visit the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur.

The UN Secretary-General was received by Pakistan’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations Munir Akram and senior officials of the Foreign Office and the United Nations in Pakistan on his arrival at the Nur Khan Airbase, Radio Pakistan reported.

According to the Foreign Office, Guterres will hold talks with President Arif Alvi, Prime Minister Imran Khan and Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi.

Addressing a meeting on ‘Sustainable Development and Climate Change’ the visiting chief of the global body said that though climate change posed grave and urgent challenges to the world community, he was convinced ‘they can tackle them through unity which will make a difference’.

He said though Pakistan had been facing adverse climatic effects, it was not the only country battered with negative effects, as no country on earth was immune to such chaotic changes, citing Australia and the US. Guterres said that he firmly believed that going through these challenges would not be an easy task as there were multiple and unpredictable changes in the chaotic world.

He also noted with regret the growing gap among the nations due to various national policies and stressed upon bringing them in cohesion for generating global momentum against global impacts. “I am convinced that we can tackle the challenges through unity which will make a difference,” he added. The UN secretary general further said that global warming was linked to the global swarming affecting economies of the world.

About global impacts upon Pakistan, he observed that about 80 per cent water in the country was being utilised for the irrigation purposes which had put this natural resource under huge stress, besides glaciers were melting which could pose challenge for the national food security. “Pakistan is not alone as the same story is mirrored across the world,” he said, adding that the planet was burning and some were adding to fuel the fire. He also stressed upon the need for taking drastic efforts to mitigate hazardous affects of lethal gas and smoke emissions.

The UN secretary general underlined that they required ‘to move from grey economy to green economy’ and look towards the year 2030 with optimism and determination. Guterres also congratulated Pakistan for the success launch of Ten billion tsunami trees and Green Pakistan movements. He said that he was extremely pleased that use of plastic bags had been banished in Islamabad and observed that dumping of plastic bags across the globe ended up in seas.

The UN chief also noted that achievement of sustainable development goals as agreed upon by all members of the UN was also imperative to overcome issues of poverty, gender imbalances, unemployment, food security and human rights.

He also linked the achievement of the development goals with the peace and prosperity and realisation of human rights which were critical for the future of the coming generations. He urged the global members to come forward and cooperate beyond borders and sectors. He called upon the world community for more cooperation in eradicating issues like money laundering and tax evasion.

Guterres also noted with satisfaction that Pakistan had been the first country that had embraced the SDGs, which was incorporated in its national development goals. He also lauded government’s efforts for enhancing the social protection and safety net with initiatives like Kamyab Naujawan programme and others. He said Pakistan had been grappling with the major challenges. The UN secretary general also appreciated Pakistan for hosting the largest number of refugees over the years which had affected its economy and security.