Welcome to F.I.E.L.D.- the First Ismaili Electronic Library and Database.

Speech by Prince Rahim Aga Khan at the Climate Change Conference Pakistan 2022-03-07

Monday, 2022, March 7
Prince Rahim Aga Khan addressed the conference remotely
Prince Rahim Aga Khan

Senator Javed Jabbar
Dr. Jeffrey Sachs
Chief Guest Mr. Zakir Mahmood - Chairman, AKU Board of Trustees
President Sulaiman Shahabuddin,
Provost and Vice-President, Academic, Dr. Carl Amrhein,
Distinguished University Professor Dr. Zulfiqar Bhutta
Guests and colleagues
As-salamu alaikum and good evening

VIDEO: http://ismaili.net/timeline/2022/2022-03-07-prince-rahim.mp4

I would like to begin with an acknowledgement of the importance of today’s inaugural seminar hosted by the the Aga Khan University’s Institute for Global Health & Development titled Pakistan’s Challenges of Climate Change, Health and Nutrition in the Context of Sustainable Development Goals: Strategies for Change.

I regret that I am not able to participate in this seminar with you in person. However, I am delighted to join virtually and acknowledge, and indeed celebrate the dawning of a new era that allows us all, no matter where we are geographically, to convene using technology.

The theme of today’s event is of great significance perhaps of existential importance to humanity and I carry a personal commitment to the issues covered.
The Aga Khan Development Network’s commitment to climate protection and adaptation is firmly established. Our overriding principles are built on clear values and ethics that permeate all of our organisations and operations.

Allow me to articulate our such principles that guide our work in climate change:

Number 1 – Responsible stewardship of the environment. We are evolving our programmes and operations so that they help restore and protect the natural environment wherever possible by applying environmental policies that reflect international best practice.

Number 2 – Proactive, socially responsible leadership on the most urgent issue of our time: we seek to reduce carbon emissions and increase carbon stock by investing in energy efficiency, renewable energy, sustainable agriculture and nature-based solutions while also helping others to do the same.

Number 3 – Leading by example. We are committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions from our own operations in line with science-based targets. We will reduce carbon to net zero across AKDN by 2030.

Number 4 – Putting people at the centre. We are always focused on improving the quality of life and well-being of the poorest and most vulnerable. The communities we serve are at the greatest risk. So we are building climate resilience across geographies by working with communities alongside government, civil society and the private sector.

We want to ensure that in the face of climate change, people not only survive but also thrive.

The AKDN is active on environment and climate-change issues across 30 countries and we see increased and accelerated action as a moral imperative. We can and must do more.

Before turning to Pakistan, I would like to share several examples of our work elsewhere in the world to help illustrate the range of our activities.

In Kenya we are working with local organisations to replant the forest and nurture environmental conversation along the Great Rift Valley.

In Tajikistan, the Aga Khan Agency for Habitat is working with mountain communities to help them prepare for increased disasters from flooding and glacial melt, to protect critical infrastructure and essential services and to plan for the future.
In Afghanistan, a 400-KW solar plant generates over half of the electricity supply for a 141-bed hospital - an approach we want to adopt across the almost 800 health facilities we operate globally.

Coming to Pakistan, it is a stark reality that, in the past decade, half of South Asia’s population has been affected by one or more climate-related disasters.
Between 1998 and 2019, Pakistan experienced 153 extreme weather events, lost nearly 10,000 lives and suffered tens of billions of dollars in economic loss causing 30 million climate migrants.

The floods in August 2020 alone caused damage to hospitals and clinics, decreased hygiene and sanitation conditions, increased risk of malaria, respiratory infections and diarrheal diseases.

Agriculture and food security are also disrupted by climate change with serious implications for human health. The Agricultural sector employs nearly 70% of the South Asian population. Most of these people live in rural communities. Extreme weather events are expected to reduce crop production in South Asia by 30% and lead to exposure to diseases such as malaria.

In a sub-continent where food insecurity and malnutrition are already excessive, this will have disastrous consequences.

All of the AKDN agencies in Pakistan are devoted to making a difference. The Aga Khan Foundation and the Aga Khan Agency for Habitat have a large and growing collaboration with the Minister of Climate Change and the National Disaster Risk Mitigation Fund among many other examples.

But there is a special role for the Aga Khan University to play in mitigation and adaptation efforts. There can be no doubt that we are operating amid an alarming state of affairs in terms of both the impact of climate change on human health and the impact of healthcare systems on climate change. For that reason, the interactions between these two deserve study and careful policy consideration.

Let me illustrate the challenge. The World Health Organisation sees climate change as the greatest threat to human health in the 21st century with projected impact putting the wellbeing of billions of lives at risk. The global carbon footprint of healthcare is equivalent to about 4 to 5 percent of total global emissions – and likely to grow. Hospitals and healthcare make up a large sector of the economy of any country and decarbonizing healthcare in all countries, including low and middle-income countries, should be a priority.

For 24 low-to-middle-income countries, the British Medical Journal says: “Achieving universal health coverage could result in an additional 382 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent a year.”

This would actually increase the global carbon footprint of healthcare by about 16%. So while we must pursue universal health coverage, in effect we can anticipate that doing so will cause more climate change challenges if we do not develop more sophisticated solutions to ensure we reduce the net emissions of healthcare.

Today, as you gather at Aga Khan University to discuss the nexus of global health and climate change, my hope is that you will identify concrete steps for action by institutions like ours and many others in Pakistan that have significant carbon footprint in the healthcare sector.
AKU has a leadership role to play in this regard in making its hospitals green and moving towards carbon neutrality.

As important are the profound impacts of climate change on human health and the disease burden it creates. This includes increased illness and death from respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, injuries and malnutrition, as well as infectious and vector-borne diseases. The bulk of these are also borne by the poorest of the poor, often women.

These magnify already huge inequities, compounding the effects on the most marginalized communities. The injustice is that those contributing the least to climate change are often amongst the worst affected.

And so now with the launch of AKU’s Institute for Global Health and Development (IGHD), we have a special opportunity for even more scholarship, research and capacity development in these areas.

Through events like this one and research done on a daily basis, our hope is that IGHD will be at the forefront of understanding and addressing climate change and global health - in Pakistan and well beyond.

I want to close by thanking you all for joining this event and for your continued commitment to this work. As you can see, I feel strongly about it and I appreciate the opportunity to share my perspective and to underscore my personal commitment. Nothing is more important for our future on the planet.

I would like to convey my best wishes for the seminar and a strong desire to see tangible results and recommendations.

We must act together with greater understanding, greater purpose and greater speed if we are to avoid the worst consequences for peoples of Pakistan, South Asia and the world.

Thank you

Back to top