Professor Saleemul Huq OBE (1952-2023)

Professor Saleemul Huq OBE (1952-2023)

It is with deep sadness that we share news of the passing of Professor Saleemul Huq, co-founder of Climate Action Network South Asia (CANSA), a leading authority on climate justice, a professor at the Independent University, Bangladesh, an advisor to the Least Developed Countries (LDC) Group of the UNFCCC, IPCC author, and one of the most strident voices for the climate impacted communities from the South.

In his passing, we at Climate Action Network South Asia, have lost our mentor, friend and guide who managed to push rich countries to commit to establishing a loss-and-damage fund to help poor countries deal with the impacts of climate change at COP27 in Sharm El- Sheikh. This fund he said was long overdue to the poor vulnerable countries least responsible for climate change, and suffering on account of the historically high carbon emitters.  And the win didn’t come easily – it was a result of 30 year-long campaign.  Queen Elizabeth II bestowed the Order of the British Empire on him in 2022 for his efforts. 

Prof. Saleemul Huq represented and campaigned for not only his own country Bangladesh, but for every country that has been extremely vulnerable to climate change.  Prof. Huq was involved in the development of the international climate regime from its very beginning, including the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC) that developed the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). He was there for its adoption at the UN headquarters in May 1992.

His strength as climate negotiator came from his extensive research on climate change and he was the lead author of chapters in the third, fourth and fifth assessment reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Prof. Huq was that persistent voice for climate action and justice for the global South, and his advocating for youth to come forward and take climate action led to many youth climate leaders from the global South at COPs.

He had always been a citizen of the world having grown up in three continents due to his father’s diplomatic postings. His interest in science led him to studying plant biology, and later earning a PhD in biochemistry at the prestigious Imperial College, London. Upon returning to Bangladesh, he co-founded BCAS (Bangladesh Centre for Advanced Studies – a CANSA member), an independent think tank focused on environment policy, along with Atiq Rahman, another well-known name in climate change circles. BCAS went on to becoming the Bangladesh government’s think-tank, and helped formulate the country’s first environmental action plan. He also set up ICCCAD (International Centre for Climate Change and Development – also a CANSA member)at the Independent University, in Dhaka, and was its Director. 

Prof. Huq’s reiteration that loss and damage was based on the ‘polluter pays’ principle, that it was “not aid”, put the heat on the high-emitting wealthier countries responsible for climate change in the first place to compensate those countries least responsible for climate impacts. It was at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, that creating a fund for loss and damage was mooted; it received huge opposition, but led to the 2015 Paris climate agreement. 

He not only pushed the loss and damage agenda but also established a global network for community-based adaptation, which focuses on helping rural communities find their own research-based solutions to problems in response to climate change. He was also an expert on the links between climate change and sustainable development, especially from the perspective of the developing countries.

Prof. Huq  was looking forward to see the progress at COP28, on how it would deliver on taking the climate fund forward and in adaptation.

His passing leaves an aching void in all of us in the climate change space and we will miss his endearing, gentle yet strong voice at COP28. The news has left us all – CANSA partners and members – devastated. Yet, we must keep going in his memory, for the rich legacy he leaves behind cannot be left to waste – the mammoth work done must carry on.

“CANSA has lost a Crusader, Mentor and Guide.” – Sanjay Vashist, CANSA

“As you started your eternal life, we are missing you. .. it is a great loss for them as well as for Bangladesh. We also feel that this loss has an impact on the global (CAN) and regional (CANSA) climate change family. We are praying for your peaceful eternal life and you will remain in the heart of the Eminence Family. Rest in Peace Dear Saleemul Huq Sir!!!” – Dr. Md. Shamim Hayder Talukder, Eminence

“Saleem Sir was and will always be my mentor, an institution for thousands all over the world. His departure at such a critical juncture of the fight against climate change, when an orchestrated conspiracy is formulating against the Loss and Damage funding mechanism, is irreparable. May the great soul rest in peace.” – Mrityunjoy Das, CARE Bangladesh

“The climate community lost a pathbreaker and an enthusiastic leader!” – Prof. Jyoti Parikh, IRADe

Can’t believe that Saleemul Haq is no more. He has left a legacy through his work for the cause of environmental sustainability and climate resilience. May his soul rest in peace. We’ll miss his dynamic leadership in the COP process. – Abid Suleri, SDP

Lost of words. Prof. Saleemul will be dearly missed by all those who knew him, the ones of us who had the privilege to exchange with him and learn from him. The whole climate movement lost a tireless climate justice fighter… upon us all to continue his work with our humble contribution… – Chiara Martinelli, CAN-Europe

Our hearts can’t handle more breaks with everything happening around us, this absolutely devastating news he has been a knowledge go-to person, especially to people from the south he has been always in touch and always there whenever we need support since Copenhagen until today. May his soul rest in eternal peace. Earth has lost a protector his legacy will remain with all of us. – Safa’ Al Jayoussi, Oxfam

It is very unfortunate that we lost him in this important time where a strong negotiator required to make fruitful the L&D fund allocation and make a effective mechanism. We are deeply mourned and shocked for demises of legendary climate activist. We never recover this loss. Rest in Peace. – LEDARS Bangladesh

Dr. Saleemul Huq is not only the loss of the CANSA Family but the entire climate community. He was an inspiration to many of us. Please send the condolences from the entire climate community to his family and relatives. – Sandeep Chamling Rai, WWF

Farewell, old friend. You had a huge impact on our world, and also a deep personal impact on those of us privileged to spend time with you. –Navroz K. Dubash, Centre for Policy Research

”We have lost a true climate warrior, an amazing leader, mentor and dedicated advocate for climate-vulnerable nations. Saleem served as a mentor and a source of inspiration for many of us who began our careers in the field of climate change during the late 1990s and beyond. … He was a guardian for my work in my capacity as an Advisor to the LDC Chair, and in recent years, collaborated closely on the endeavor to bring together universities in least-developed countries, by establishing the LDC University consortium. His remarkable accomplishments and enduring legacy within the realm of climate change will continue to serve as an everlasting source of inspiration for all of us.” – Manjeet Dhakal, Climate Analytics

“…For those of us lesser in experience and age, we hung onto his every word and referenced them in other conversations. A true legend. Hope his legacy will be carried forward by those who knew him best.” – Avantika Goswami, Centre for Science and Environment

It’s really difficult to believe that Prof. Saleem is no more with us. Only a few days back, at the Adaptation Forum in Incheon we heard him. Vibrant, elite and magnanimous. So many genuine works, collaborations and action-oriented research have just been planned. We all would miss his esteemed mentorship. It’s a global loss. May his soul rest in peace and contentment. His works would guide us ahead, I believe. On behalf of SAFE, I pay my sincere homage to this great soul. – Dipayan, SAFE

“… We have lost a veteran. I remember the times at COPs discussing about adaptation issues. Extremely knowledgeable and grounded. He will be missed. – Nitu Goel

This is a big loss for entire Global South climate movement. He touched many lives with his light and persistence! – Krity Shreshtha

“May Dr Saleem ul Huq Rest in Peace. He has been a great stalwart in the domain of climate change and environmental conservation. His services rendered to protect our global commons will be long remembered. We will always miss this gem of person.” – Azhar Qureshi, Eco-Conservation Initiatives

“We have lost a great veteran, light, leader, and a motivator. He will be with us in spirit.” – Md. Moniruzzaman NETZ

“Absolute shocker … A huge loss to global south’s climate fraternity and fight for climate justice. Was always keen to see that climate issues of transboundary Sundarbans is taken forward jointly … Personally knew him for about a decade and interacted, took his interview so many times. I propose CANSA does something to ensure Saleemul sa’ab’s contribution comes to the fore for all.” – Jayanta Basu, EnGIO

“He was a kind soul, always willing to assist others, no matter what his level is; he worked with juniors and treated them with respect, I think this was a good lesson for all of us.” – Shakeel Ahmad Ramay, Asian Institute of Eco-civilization Research and Development

“Very saddened to hear about the passing away of Dr. Saleemul Huq. This is a loss not only for his family, friends, students and ardent admirers but also for the Climate Change activists around the world, especially in the Global South. His strong advocacy for the Loss and Damage Fund will remain fresh in the minds and hearts of everyone. He will be missed but he will continue to be an inspiration.” – Vinod Menon

We’ve lost one of the Giants from South Asia. His contributions will be remembered for time to come. Rest in Peace Saleem!! You did your bit. – George C Varughese

It is a great loss for all of us. May Allah bless him.- Md. Mustasim billah, ASPS

It is great loss. Our heartfelt sympathy goes and his family members. May God give strength to him and his family members to overcome this mournful and difficult situation. – Keshab Raj Bhusal, EcoHimal Nepal

So sorry to hear it. May the departed soul rest in peace, om shanti – Partners in Prosperity PnP

We are really shocked to hear the sad news. We mourn and pray to the almighty for his family and friends to overcome unexpected shock. – Nazer Hossain, ISDE Bangladesh

So sorry. This is a great loss. – Md. Shafiqur Rahman, VSO Bangladesh

“We lost one of our good friends, especially from the climate front. It is really sad news, greatest loss.” – Pradeep Mohapatra

Dr Saleemul Huq will be with us in spirit. May his departed soul rest in peace. – Nushrat Chowdhury, Christian Aid

“Very shocking news. It’s a great loss of our journey. May Allah give him the highest place in Jannat. I express my deep condolence to his family members.” – Mohammad Shahjahan, YPSA

It is a great loss for all of us. May Allah bless him. – Mohuya Monjure, Arjon Foundation, Bangladesh

We mourn and pray to the Almighty for his family to overcome unexpected shock. – Aminul Hoque, COAST Foundation

It is really very sad, and shocking news for all CANSA members. We have no other option other than to pray for him to almighty Allah forgive him and place him in paradise. – Dr Juma Khan Nasir Khairzada, SAF

A sad news…a leading light has moved to other part…May his soul rest in peace. With condolence to family and fraternity – Praveen Prakash

Shocked to hear this sad news. May Allah grant him Jannah and I express my deep condolence to his family members. – Rabeya Begum, SDS-Shariatpur, Bangladesh

Songshoptaque family- We are Deeply Shocked, that the departed soul rest in peace. – Liton Chowdhury, Songshoptaque