It was with deep sadness that I heard the news of our dear Saleem’s passing last night.
Saleem touched us all, inspired us all. He was our family. A giant. Not only was he a renowned academic, scientist, teacher, and mentor, he was also a lifelong activist and embodied all these seamlessly. He always spoke truth to power. His life’s work was to ensure that climate justice was achieved and in particular addressing the climate vulnerability of those least responsible for the climate crisis. His years-long contributions to the climate movement and decision-makers’ work on adaptation and loss and damage leave an indelible mark.
In recent times, it was Saleem who inspired CAN’s fight for a Loss and Damage Fund by calling on us to make this a litmus test for COP26 in Glasgow. It is now our duty to make this his legacy.
I will personally miss him, his humor, his wisdom, his ability to rage and give hope at the same time and his consistent willingness to give of his time.
The climate movement mourns this loss, but we also celebrate his life. We commit ourselves to continue the work he dedicated his life for.
We convey our condolences to his family, his loved ones, his colleagues and comrades.
Rest in Power and Peace dearest Saleem.
Tasneem Essop, CAN-International
Tasneem, you have written such a beautiful tribute that reflects so much of what I could say about my friend, co-conspirator and mentor for 30 years.
He was the one I turned to so often in my early career when he was a top IPCC scientist and world-renowned author. He is responsible for putting adaptation, resilience, loss and damage on the scientific and policy radars through decades of writing and practice, he helped the formation & and functioning of the LDC Group, the Climate Vulnerable Forum. He pioneered Development & Adaptation Days and created a whole community of people & and practitioners around locally-led adaptation. The list of his achievements could go on and on, including the recent work on done by ICCCAD with his colleagues in supporting loss & damage where he played a pivotal role and thankfully was acknowledged by Nicola Sturgeon and the UK with an OBE. He was a man of deep integrity, generous with his time, and very funny. I will miss him so much but as you say Tasneem let us unite to continue his work and create a fitting legacy for him.
Sending everyone in CAN, ICCCAD and his friends and family deepest condolences on the passing of a giant in our movement.
Farhana Yamin, Coordinator, Climate Justice & Just Transition Donor Collaborative
Dear CAN family, like many of you, I am also so sad and shocked to hear the news of Dr. Saleemul Huq’s untimely death. Deepest condolences to his family and friends from all of us at UCS who greatly admired him and his work.
Dr. Huq was a towering giant in the climate arena, a great champion for climate justice. As many of you have said, he helped lay the intellectual and moral foundation for much of our work on Loss and Damage and climate adaptation. He was the embodiment of the best of scientific thinking combined with the fierce heart of an activist.
And what made him really special was how open and welcoming he was to new people coming into the field, what a generous mentor he was. I am deeply grateful to have had the chance to learn from him and am fired up to continue the work with all of you. Let’s honor his memory by getting the ‘Saleemul Huq loss and damage fund’ operationalized at COP28 and let’s make sure it serves those on the frontlines of this deeply inequitable climate crisis.
Attached a photo of a happy memory from COP27 when we secured the Loss and Damage Fund.
Rachel Cleetus, Policy Director, Climate and Energy Program, Union of Concerned Scientists
It is such devastating news…I am so heartbroken!!!
Adding My Tribute to Saleemul Huq
Saleem, your departure was far too soon. Our mission remains unfinished…
It’s hard to grasp that you won’t be at COP28, especially when you’ve attended all 27 preceding COPs.
Just yesterday, as I virtually attended the Loss & Damage session in Bangladesh – a session you missed due to illness – none of us could have imagined the heart-wrenching news that was soon to follow.
Throughout the years, you have inspired countless individuals. Your pioneering global voice on adaptation, along with your unwavering advocacy for loss and damage finance, are just a few of the many accomplishments that will forever be etched in our memories.
Your steadfast dedication to those impacted by climate change, even until your last breath, coupled with your advocacy for the poorest and most vulnerable, has crafted a legacy that stands unparalleled and inspiring.
Your genuine humility, unwavering responsiveness, and being so accessible, touched many, including me, at profound levels.
I cherish the camaraderie we shared, evident in your fondness for my colorful outfits and the countless selfies we took together. Those images, especially our last one from Bonn this June, will be treasured forever.
Your life, Saleem, serves as an enduring beacon of inspiration for both present and future generations.
Together, we fought for the establishment of the Loss and Damage Fund. The battle for climate justice remains ongoing.
I pledge to redouble my efforts, to uphold the torch, and to champion the cause with even more passion and hard work. I’ll do this in honour of your legacy, feeling your guidance and blessings from the heavens above.
Forever your admirer and comrade…
Harjeet Singh, CAN-International & Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty
It is with great sadness that I receive your news on the demise of my friend, Professor Dr Saleemul Haq on October 28.
Please convey heartfelt condolences to his family at this difficult time.
Saleem was a giant in the field of Climate Change and within CAN. In fact, it was only last week that I was describing Saleem to a group of colleagues in Washington DC as “the most knowledgeable person on Adaptation in the world”. He had attended the Rio Summit in 1992 and been at every COP since COP1.
I had known Saleem since COP7 in 2001 when I first became Editor of ECO. He was a regular contributor of articles on Adaptation, which, at that time, was getting lower emphasis than Mitigation.
We had been in touch since 2001 until very recently at SB58 in Bonn, Germany in June this year. We always took the opportunity to have a quick chat.
In his untiring efforts to raise the profile of Adaptation, he had influenced thousands of individuals.
During the SBs in Bonn, I always noticed how he would sit at the roundtables by the bottom of the escalators, and serve as a resource person to wave after wave of groups coming to seek his advice and expertise.
I always made a point of attending the CAN pressers during the COPs and SBs when he was a speaker. He was always so frank, direct and outspoken with his messaging on the need for greater action on Adaptation and Adaptation Finance.
Saleem’s demise is a huge loss to the global climate community and will leave a gap within CAN. His legacy will be that there is now a cadre of leaders, Youth and above, able to competently step into his very large shoes.
He will always remain in my memory.
Dear Saleem – May You Rest in Peace.
Nithi Nesadurai, CAN Southeast Asia
I join with Nithi and surely with all of the ECO editors in saluting Saleem on his passing. One of the finest and wisest people I’ve ever known. What most stands out is how he moved deliberately and congenially to make a big difference in everything he got involved in.
This past week it was quite a thrill to learn his co-authorship of a new paper coordinated by faculty here at Oregon State University, entitled “The 2023 state of the climate report: Entering uncharted territory” (below and attached).
Saleem was a potent force within CAN, keeping us all focused not only on where we need to go but how we get there, with intention, equity, and focus. I mourn his passing, smile with his remembrance, and commit to continuing to work with the example of his vision and perseverance.
Fred Heutte, Sunlight Data
When I saw the news this morning i felt deeply sad. Actually, a few days ago I was thinking how he might be as I have not heard of him for quite some time, so this news struck me even more.
Much has already been said about him in this chain, but I would like to share some reflections as well.
When I started work in the climate and development space in 2005 with Germanwatch, in my memory he was one of the first persons to get in touch with and to learn from. Back then, hardly anyone in Germany or Europe talked about adaptation and that it required more attention, which became my main area of work including in the UNFCCC. So raising awareness on the need to step up adaptation, learning from examples in Bangladesh, was a key task back then (as it is still today). For many years he has been a key motivator but also intellectual sparring partner.
In 2011/2012 Germanwatch, ICCCAD and UN University/MCII undertook the Loss and Damage Vulnerable Countries Initiative, which I think was the first bigger research-policy undertaking in politically difficult territories. It supported LDCs in developing comprehensive positions for L&D in the UNFCCC, alongside scientific case studies on what L&D actually meant for people on the ground. Those who were there at the COP in Doha will probably never forget the moment when the US Head of Delegation (I think it was Todd Stern?) marched with a bunch of American lawyers into the L&D negotiation room, seeming to eventually understand that L&D is not just a little niche issue but critical for the climate justice demands by LDCs and other countries. Or the fights to get L&D into the Paris Agreement 3 years later. Saleem has always been at the heart of this.
What I admired over the years was that he never ran out of ideas, whether it was around fostering LDC collaboration and capacity development, networks of LDC universities on climate change, inspiring the founding of Climate Vulnerable Forum to strengthen the voice of vulnerable countries across usual country groupings, encouraging campaigns for 1.5°C like we undertook with CVF, CARE and CAN ahead of Paris etc.
What I will also always connect with him are his endless efforts to bring young people, young scholars and researchers, young negotiators into the climate community, whether from Bangladesh or elsewhere, a critical investment into our common future. I also still have a memory when he proudly introduced his son to me, at I think the first COP he was able to attend.
While being very clear about the underlying responsibilities of the climate crisis, I think he never stopped at calling out countries, in particular developed countries, for their lack of action, but I also see him as someone who always looked for building bridges and understanding that we are all connected in this. When heavy extreme events hit cities and communities in the rich countries, whether in New York or in the Ahrtal (30 km from Bonn), there was always a message of solidarity with those affected, and that much can be learned in the rich world from the adaptation efforts and experiences in LDCs and other countries. He often appeared in German media with those messages.
It was not easy trying to share some of those memories with my family this morning in this sad moment. The world has lost one of its greatest warriors on climate justice of the last 3 decades
Let us turn the memories of his tireless efforts into additional energy advancing climate justice, including the L&D Fund, at COP28 and beyond!
With condolences to his family
– Sven Harmeling, CARE International
This is really a surprise. I thought Saleem was going to go on forever.
Saleem was out front on the justice issue, starting oh so many years ago . . .
He really will be missed.
– Tom Athanasiou, EcoEquity
This is indeed such sad news personally and professionally.
In the early days of my career I had the great privilege to work for Saleem at IIED – before there were any academic courses on adaptation, my education was to learn directly from him – and I could not have asked for a better teacher and mentor. Everything he taught me is everything I am today.
He was an incredibly generous person with his time, knowledge and wisdom – and generous in giving opportunities for those working with him to flourish and progress – despite me being quite junior at the time, he frequently gave me opportunities to co-author papers with him and to travel with him to attend groundbreaking meetings and events. Though keeping up with him was difficult – he worked tirelessly to put the issue of adaptation on the map – and his influence and achievements are unmatched.
He will be missed enormously by everyone who knew him and the entire movement, but his legacy lives on in all of us that he taught and inspired.
Please convey condolences to his family from myself and everyone in CAN-UK – the UK climate community benefited enormously from his time living and working in the UK – and I know there are so many here who would want to celebrate the life and work of this incredible person, so please let me know how we can help with that.
Our eternal thanks to you Saleem, rest in peace and love.
Much love to everyone, – Catherine Pettengell, Climate Action Network UK (CAN-UK)
The climate movement lost one of its undisputed leaders, Bangladesh its greatest climate policy and action pioneer and spokesman, and his family and friends a warm-hearted person.
I will forever remember Saleem, the many intense conversations and joint conferences with him over the past 15 years, his wise counsel, but most of all our joint commitment to Bangladesh’s first climate center, on whose advisory board he served until the very end.
My deepest condolences on this very sad day to his wife, son, daughter and family. May Saleem rest in piece and may the great work that he has built up in Bangladesh continue successfully.
– Thomas Hirsch, Climate & Development Advice
What sad news. Saleem will be missed dearly by his family, to whom I’d like to express my deepest condolences, but also the whole climate movement. I hadn’t met him again in person since leaving the international climate negotiations after Paris, but while engaged in these, his words of wisdom, his calmness, his untiring engagement against climate change were an inspiration in the many times we met.
I would like to make an additional point to the many in the moving tributes already expressed by others much better than I could: one of Saleem’s particular strengths was that he stood above partisanship. In this current world, where we see divisions of all kind, north vs. south, left vs. right, one religion against another, etc. etc. he was a voice of reason and saw the world as one where we all have to do our best to find solutions together, where people from all walks of life must cooperate if we want to overcome the climate and other challenges. This, even more than his towering intellect and knowledge made him so admirable. We can all learn from him, an honor his work by continuing ours with that type of mindset.
In sadness, Delia Villagrasa
I would like to also offer my sincerest respects, noting what an inspiration Saleem was across the Global South, including here in Africa. Saleem and ICCCAD offered us an inspiring example of the value of building endogenous capacities in the Global South, including but not limited to me and colleagues personally here in Morocco as an inspiring model in setting up a climate think-tank in our part of the world.
As others have eloquently said, Saleem was both a fighter and a scholar, and we lose him at such a critical time in the fight for loss and damage finance and finance more widely. But he leaves us with such a massive legacy of moral leadership with which to continue his struggle. I had the honor of writing this piece with him just last year, and I know others will have so much more to share from him to inspire us, regarding his advocacy for the vulnerable, on the responsibility of “polluters” (the term he urged me to use), for the right kind of finance…..
I look forward to working with you all in continuation of his struggle.
Iskander Verzini Vernoit
We have this unfortunate emotional blow with the sad news that Saleem is gone.
Furthermore, his loss constitutes a loss in our fight. Thanks to you, those who have cited the exemplary work that Dr Saleem Huq has done with his life in the service of our cause. May it be pluralized in new recruits. To do this we must spread Saleem’s example, and try to follow his example. Hard work awaits us.
Mario Caffera, Amigos del Viento – Uruguay, CAN-LA
It was a shock to hear that he passed away, like many others I didn’t imagine that day would come.
During these deeply troubled times, his passing hit really hard and feels like a great great loss for us all. Because we need more people like him, so clear, so steady and also a visionary. He knew how to move people and get them to see what he saw. He had a way of pulling people into his dreams for a better world. His integrity and commitment to ensure the most vulnerable were never forgotten was unparalleled. He was gentle, always present and always willing to listen. His voice within the movement gave it direction. As others have said he’s the one who championed loss and damage and made people care about issues like adaptation. But for me and many others who were encouraged by him he made the movement a safe space, where we could voice what we thought and we knew he’d hold space. He lifted up so many young people, young women and especially women from the global south.
I can’t imagine any global south gathering without him, I’ll miss his ways to gently push but not mince words. May his memories be a blessing. My love to his family, friends and all those mourning him.
Meera Ceder (nee Ghani)
Like so many others I feel deeply saddened and shocked by Saleem’s death.
It feels like a terrible void at a time when we need his voice and vision the most.
There was one CAN press briefing I recall in Glasgow at COP26 where he made a moving yet determined plea for a Loss and Damage Fund. The whole room was silent as he talked about intergenerational justice and global equity.
As Meera said, above all else, he was a kind and wonderful person and so welcoming to people new to CAN and the climate movement. No airs and so gracious with his time and knowledge. Hard to imagine a COP without him.
For those interested, and seeing all the tributes here, IIED has started a remembrance book to honour his legacy
Dharini Parthasarathy, CAN International
Our prophet said: “When a man dies, his good deeds come to an end, except three: Ongoing charity, beneficial knowledge, and a righteous child who will pray for him.”
We are all Saleem’s children. May his family and friends find great strength at this testing time.
Jamie Williams, IRWorldwide
I was not sure whether I should add my comments but I cannot help it – he was such an extraordinary man.
Besides of his sharp intellect and his passion for climate justice, he possessed the ability to listen and be fair, even to his opponents.
Maybe there is a way to let his family know how much he was respected and loved.
We should strive to continue our fight in his spirit.
Rest In Peace, dear Saleem
Prof. Dr. Hermann E. Ott, ClientEarth gGmbH
Saleem’s death over the weekend came as huge shock, and many of us are still in something like stunned disbelief. I know from private conversations with many in our family last day many of us are waking up feeling like a huge void has opened up on our lives, a compass lost.
I remember him and Gurmit Singh as our south Asian crew WAY back at the INC’s in the early 90’s as we negotiated the UNFCCC, and he was there as one of the very first members of CAN when we set it up all those years ago.
He never gave up and he was always the one to put a positive spin in the face of the many setbacks we’ve had in the climate fight over the years.
He will be missed by so many, across the world, and especially at CAN South Asia – sending my thoughts to all of you.
We have lost a true climate warrior, a truly great spirit, an amazing leader and mentor the likes of which this movement has rarely seen.
With input from Saleem’s many friends and colleagues at Climate Analytics we posted this piece in his memory
May he rest in peace
Bill Hare, Climate Analytics
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. I personally had the privilege of participating in several of his training sessions and sharing panel discussions with him. He was a guardian for my work in my capacity as an Advisor to the LDC Chair, and in the recent years I had an opportunity to collaborate 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
Lost for 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… up on us all to continue his work with our humble contribution…
Condolences to his family, friends and close colleagues on behalf of CAN Europe.
May he rest in Peace!
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