Professor Saleemul Huq OBE (1952-2023)
Following the passing of Professor Saleemul Huq, senior fellow of IIED. This book of remembrance is open to all who wish to share their memories of Saleem.
Professor Saleemul Huq was an environmental and climate change giant and senior fellow and dear friend of IIED and many IIED colleagues past and present.
Director of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD) and a senior associate of IIED, he was awarded an OBE by the Queen in the 2022 New Year's Honours List for his services to combating international climate change.
The honour was awarded in recognition of his work to build climate expertise in Bangladesh, the UK and across the world.
Saleem was an expert on the links between climate change and sustainable development, particularly from the perspective of vulnerable developing countries. A constant voice for climate action and justice for the global South, he was the lead author of chapters in the third, fourth and fifth assessment reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Huq's work with the IPCC spanned 1997 to 2014 and he contributed to reports that led to the panel being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007.
A professor at the Independent University, Bangladesh, and an advisor to the Least Developed Countries (LDC) Group of the UNFCCC, Huq published hundreds of scientific as well as popular articles and was named by Nature in 2022 as one of its top 10 scientists.
He set up the climate change research group at IIED in 2000 and was its initial director – continuing as a senior fellow until 2021 – and worked across the institute to ensure climate was at the heart of all that IIED did.
IIED executive director Tom Mitchell said: “I would like to offer my deepest sympathy and condolences to Saleem’s family and loved ones on behalf of IIED. There was no one quite like Saleem and I will remember his unique combination of warmth, generosity of spirit, academic prowess and enormous standing in climate science.
“Only a few short months ago I was with Saleem in Dhaka discussing our collaborative work on loss and damage, in his role as director of ICCCAD. He leaves an incredible legacy to us all in his body of work and spirit in the fight against climate change, and we will miss him deeply. This book of remembrance will serve as reminder of that legacy.”
IIED’s senior director of strategic impact and former climate change director, Clare Shakya, added: “It’s a huge loss. Saleem made a monumental contribution to climate justice globally and particularly for the poorest countries, the least developed countries. His efforts to ensure adaptation and loss and damage are core aspects of the climate response were unparalleled.
“He was the warmest man and shared his wisdom with us all. He stood for climate justice and spoke truth to power. Saleem’s family are in our thoughts.”
A COP stalwart and visionary
One of the few people to have attended all 27 of the United Nations climate change conferences, Huq was known for his clear communication and strong opinions. He was a key member of the COP28 Advisory Committee, and COP28 issued a statement that “the world has lost a visionary whose climate action legacy will guide and inspire generations to come”.
Sunday’s pre-COP G77 meeting and the Climate and Development Ministerial started with a minute’s silence in his memory.
He was also the founder, at COP8 in Delhi, of the successful Development and Climate Days event that takes place during COPs, and marks its 20th year in 2023.
UK Climate Change Champion Nigel Topping said he was shocked and saddened to hear of Saleem's passing. “[He was a] friend and mentor who did more than anyone to encourage me to move beyond mitigation to work on resilience".
Born on October 2, 1952, Huq was the son of diplomats and grew up in Europe, Asia and Africa. He moved to the UK in the 1970s to study at Imperial College London, where he obtained his doctorate in botany in 1978. He was also awarded the 2020 National Environment Award by the Bangladesh government.
In early December 2023, it was announced at COP28 that a loss and damage scholarship had been created in memory of Huq, along with a 'Saleemul Huq Memorial Prize for Loss and Damage Research'.
Book of remembrance
IIED has opened this page of remembrance so that colleagues and friends can share their memories of their time with Saleem. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org with your memories.
We send our deepest sympathies and condolences to Saleem’s family, loved ones and colleagues at ICCCAD.
Last updated 30 November (69 tributes)
Simon Anderson, senior fellow, IIED:
Dr Huq initiated many things – one of which was the IIED Climate Change research group more than 20 years ago. While at IIED Dr Huq was also the guiding force behind the CLACC (Capacity Strengthening in Least Developed Countries for Adaptation to Climate Change) fellowship, the community-based adaptation community of practice and conferences, the programme of legal and technical support to the Least Developed Countries Group and the Least Developed Countries Universities Consortium on Climate Change (LUCCC).
Saleem – as many of us knew him – was a climate change visionary; he was also a pragmatic revolutionary. He advised governments and mentored students. His political foresight enabled him to lay the ground for many developments in the world’s responses to climate change. He championed the linkage of climate change and development before others were prepared to so.
This led Saleem to foresee and promote the importance of climate adaptation everywhere – and particularly locally-led adaptation. More recently Saleem worked tirelessly to call attention to the need to address climate loss and damage, and particularly the need to understand how the world’s poorest, marginalised and most vulnerable were paying the loss and damage costs imposed upon them by anthropogenic climate change impacts. He was a force for climate justice.
Saleem was, in his own words, a COP junkie. He knew the history, the intricate machinations and the frailties of the UNFCCC process. How many of us stopped by his unofficial ‘office’ at COPs and to learn how the complicated negotiations process was developing? He was very generous with his clarity of analysis and vision. The late evening debriefs and early morning strategy meetings at COP were the place to be for so many.
Saleem was a thoughtful guru to many – including me. He supported, guided and shaped many people’s work on climate change. He spoke truth to power in effective ways and he was prepared to challenge what he saw as climate injustices in ways that enabled many others to understand and act on the true nature of the climate crisis we face.
We remember Saleem with fondness, gratitude, admiration and respect. It is up to those us who he helped to maximise his legacy and bring about climate justice where we can.
Nahida Karim, Imperial College student
He inspired me and the future generations into climate action. He was the voice for the voiceless and shall be greatly missed.
Saleem was an absolute inspiration for me - a brilliant visionary thinker and thought leader yet so warm, compassionate, responsive and always accessible and helpful. He loved connecting everyone and building bridges.
I first heard him as a guest lecturer, then met him at COPs, engaged with him at the various CBA conferences as a host and panellist, as a research expert and then as a mentor. Losing him feels like a deeply personal loss, because he had an amazing way of making those around him feel like family. May his legacy live on always! With heartfelt wishes for who are feeling this irreplaceable loss.
Dr Pia Treichel, School of Geography, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences; Melbourne Climate Futures, The University of Melbourne
I am so sad to hear the passing of Saleemul Huq. His drive, commitment to equality, his ability to navigate and contribute equally to the research and practitioner space, and his warm and kind demeanour were all things I admired, and together made him my role model. Most of us can only dream of making such a contribution to the world.
I was lucky enough to have a number of interactions with Saleem over the years. Two of these were at CBA8 in Nepal in 2014 and at CBA9 in Nairobi in 2015. I was working for Plan International, and alongside both conferences there were youth-focused CBA events that Plan helped to organise. While all CBA attendees were invited, few who weren’t expressly part of the youth activities involved in those locations attended, with the exception of Saleem.
Saleem made the effort to come and speak with and listen to these young people, and to try to provide them with some motivation and recognition of the importance of the work they were doing. It’s such a small thing - to take an hour out of your conference to visit another event to interact with the next generation of climate actors - but so few leaders, in any field, can find the time.
Saleem always appeared to have limitless time and limitless energy - his writing output was prolific! - and it is such a loss for the climate community that we have no more time with him. May he rest in peace.
Dr. Tamara Plush Knowledge Management Lead, Climate, Environment, Energy, and Disaster Risk Reduction & Recovery (CEED)
In 2008 I moved to Nepal to research community understandings and solutions for a changing climate using participatory video. I was beginning to learn the connections between climate impacts and social justice. I was fortunate to attend a workshop Saleem led in Kathmandu as he built capacity in least developed countries to engage and have a strong voice at COPs for the last decade.
His clarity, vision and deep commitment to the most impacted communities was moving. He made the connections I needed to work in this area. I am incredibly thankful for the foundational experience.
Just last month I was honored to work with him again on a loss and damage workshop for adolescents where he could convey the complex topic in accessible, child-friendly language as only he can do... and I was once again inspired.
Hearing about his passing hurts knowing the huge loss around the world from his time in this world. I want to offer condolences to all friends, colleagues and family who knew him and learned from his knowledge, kindness and humanity.
James Mayers, director of IIED’s Natural Resources research group
“I’m glad you like mangroves, I NEED mangroves” – I remember Saleem saying this in 1999. We were discussing forests and climate change and he was pointing out that I was missing half the story. Trees, including mangroves, are good at storing carbon – and that’s a great but intangible global benefit, and meanwhile some trees are vital for everyday life. Mangroves have saved lives by tempering storm surges during cyclones in Bangladesh and elsewhere, and as the climate changes we are going to need them more and more.
Saleem always homed in on the big issues staring us in the face. At the time, he was scoping how best to set up work on climate change at IIED. I urged him to pitch for a big team but his modesty and collegiate working instincts meant that this was out of the question. When he got the IIED climate change programme going in 2001 people wanted to work with him so much that the team quickly grew anyway.
His interests and expertise were wide and deep and he attracted so many great people to join what became the climate justice movement. And he was always there. He quoted the line that “decisions are made by those who show up” – and came to every meeting, always asking the best questions and looking for the next practical move.
He became a hugely influential person yet was always available for the great many people he cared for – being funny, kind and inspiring. I will miss him greatly. I would like to express my deep condolences and warm wishes to all of Saleem’s family and friends.
J. Timmons Roberts, Ittleson professor of environmental studies and sociology, Brown University; executive director, Climate Social Science Network; director, the Climate and Development Lab
I have so many clear memories of Saleem. At IIED's Development and Climate Days 20 years ago introducing me to wonderful people who would become close colleagues. Working together on policy briefings and pushing out their findings. Sitting with him in Bonn while he drank coffee and smoked and coughed worryingly, and texted negotiators, telling them what they should do.
I remember sitting with Saleem at the agreeing of the Warsaw International Mechanism on Loss and Damage, which he had a huge impact upon. He was proud, but knew it would take a decade for loss and damage to become the third pillar of climate agreements that he knew it needed to be. He was brilliantly strategic, thinking through what was needed, and how to make it happen.
It was extraordinary how Saleem so generously welcomed my students from Brown University's Climate and Development Lab to be his aides at COPs, opening his network and all his resources to help them begin careers of impact and meaning. He was my North Star as I sought to make a difference on climate justice - I always figured out how to say yes when Saleem reached out with ideas for projects, and never regretted it.
Saleem gave my life meaning and direction, and he understood when I shifted from working on climate finance and LDCs, to working on climate obstruction in the United States. He became a member and supporter of our Climate Social Science Network which focuses on that work. He saw how obstructionism had blocked so much of the climate action we need. I will forever be grateful to Saleem, and in his debt. I will endeavor always to live up to his vision for humanity. Thank you, Saleem.
Dr Andrew Norton, IIED director (2015-22)
The loss is unfathomable in so many ways. Saleem had a genius for action and inspiring others to fight for change that was greater than anyone else I have ever known. He was very brilliant but also very wise, hugely committed but also hugely compassionate.
He was visionary in understanding the ways in which history moves, and that strategic gift meant he was always far ahead of others in understanding what was important – what really needed to be done in the here and now. The pioneering work he did on loss and damage from climate change is one example – but a poignant one in this moment when a strong and just outcome on that issue at the upcoming COP is still in the balance.
In human terms the efforts he made to develop the next generation of leaders for climate justice were extraordinary. He always looked to the future. It was a huge privilege to know Saleem, to work with him as an IIED colleague, and to enjoy hospitality from him and his wonderful ICCCAD colleagues on visits to the Gobeshona climate conference in Dhaka.
In 2018 I saw his genius for inspiring action bearing fruit in the way climate resilience was being built in the town of Mongla, on the edge of the Sunderbans. That’s a particularly powerful memory for me, but I know there are thousands of other examples of his influence, all equally powerful.
Saleem’s passing is a huge loss. But I am sure his memory, his story and his many great achievements will continue to inspire activists and scientists across our whole global community.
Sunita Parajuli, National Planning Commission, Kathmandu, Nepal
Prof. Saleemul Huq is one of my inspirations to work in the climate change sector. He’s a great source to reach out to for any queries and questions. I found him always responsive.
We were friends on Twitter for years. I got a chance to meet him in person during the COP27 in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt for the first time. Being a party representing the LDCs, we had the same voice and shared the same platform to raise our voice and our agenda to the global community. His dedication and expertise in climate justice will always remain alive. I am so heartbroken to hear this unbelievable news.
Rosalind Goodrich, IIED head of research communications
Saleem was a true mentor. I sent him my Masters dissertation once I had got my degree and despite his huge workload, he read it and offered to share it with colleagues. He could have said he was too busy, but that wasn’t his style. Impressive and utterly genuine in wanting to help people grow.
Saleem was such a kind, warm-hearted and caring man as well as being the utter embodiment of knowledge and reality of climate change.
I met Saleem when I was doing an MSc at Imperial College and he advised and helped me with my dissertation. He was quite simply the most open and generous expert and professor I came across. He showed a depth of patience and humility with us students that was remarkable and deeply empowering. I don’t think my dissertation would have been anything worthwhile without his help, guidance, encouragement and support. He was quite simply inspirational - both in knowledge and insight about climate change but also in character.
I am so grateful for having known him and having benefited from his brilliance. I am cut to the core to hear of his passing. A huge light of the fight against climate change has been lost and will be very much missed.
I will cherish his memory and mourn our loss. My heartfelt sympathy goes to his loved ones but I hope they know what a good man he was and how many of us are better for having known him and will carry that forward in our own lives.
Kate Lonsdale, Climate Sense
I am deeply saddened to learn of this news. I had the privilege of meeting Saleem at BCAS in 1995, when I was in my 20s, long before I had even started working on climate change. Throughout my 27-year career in climate adaptation, I had the honour of working with him on numerous occasions, spanning the Adaptation Policy Framework, COPs, D&C Days, and CBA sessions.
His absence leaves a significant void, with the loss of his profound wisdom, sense of humour, and unwavering dedication to creating a better world. Saleem served as a great source of inspiration for me, and his legacy will continue to inspire.
Cynthia Awuor, former CLACC fellow, Kenya
I first met Saleem in 2006 ahead of the UNFCCC's COP12 in Nairobi. I will forever be grateful for the instrumental role he played in launching and growing my career in climate change adaptation and resilience.
Prof. Saleem was a remarkable human being. He was visionary, intelligent, kind, humble, always cheerful, diligent and unwavering in championing for the cause of developing countries in the global climate change discourse.
Saleem facilitated and enabled me to access to important spaces, institutions and people through the CLACC Fellowship programme. These include the UNFCCC, the Adaptation Fund Board, IIED, key government of Kenya and other African countries' officials in charge of climate change, research institutions, various UN agencies and INGOs among others. He encouraged me to undertake research and facilitated the very first publication of my work in a reputable international journal. This opened doors to fulfilling community-based adaptation work, fruitful collaborations and achievements over the years.
I am deeply saddened by Prof. Saleemul Huq's demise. I draw many lessons from the way he lived his life. I will continue doing my part to improve climate change cause for developing and least developed countries.
Clare Shakya, director of strategic impact, IIED
Saleem was a close friend, ally and mentor to so many of us – the father of our movement.
So many of us were in touch with him in just the last days where he was, as always, endlessly supportive - ready to put his name to an initiative, help strategise and provide advice.
Saleem was an inspiring visionary with great clarity in his messaging. He was the ultimate champion of climate justice for the poorest countries and communities, connecting climate and development in powerful ways, making the case for adaptation as well as loss and damage. While also being so open, approachable and kind.
Saleem was a movement builder. He had time for everyone and helped people connect with others, creating vibrant networks around the issues of the moment. Inviting him to speak would guarantee the room would fill while he spoke truth to power, with people hanging on every word and coming up to him afterwards to ask how they could help. He was a strong believer in the value of conversation, of dialogue and of collective action. He would engage whenever he was asked to bring people together.
Saleem was a creator of institutions. He set up the climate group at IIED – which has grown from the two original people (Hannah Reid and Beth Henriette) to 50 strong, all still focused on the issues he started the group to work on – learning, good partnership, effective interventions on adaptation and loss and damage and building the LDCs’ capabilities in the climate negotiations. In fact he helped bring about the formation of the LDC Group in the UNFCCC space – mentoring and supporting so many LDC leaders in their early years. He moved to IIED senior fellow and then associate in order to set up ICCCAD, which has also gone from strength to strength, and is a preferred partner to so many of us.
Saleem was a creator of learning events. Facilitating spaces where the tacit learning of practitioners and the questions they had could be responded to by researchers and policymakers. These were also movement building - three annual events that bring people together to engage on how to act as a collective. The D&C Days just had its 20th anniversary and still represents a critical moment for the community to come together during COP to share experience and develop messages to feed into the COP process itself. The CBA community of practice is now planning its 18th event and focuses on adaptation practitioners – and so many of us got to know Saleem through these moments. And then, the relative new kid on the block was the Gobeshona conference, now an incredible virtual week long experience with 24/7 sharing of research and experience organised by ICCCAD.
All these events and the communities of practice around them helped develop the principles of locally led adaptation (LLA), which Saleem himself was instrumental in getting political buy in for and supporting the two champions in the Global Commission for Adaptation – Sheela Patel and Dr Musa. He worked closely with the leading figures in LLA to develop the core commitment – joining the learning journey on LLA and hold themselves to account on our progress in the three learning events of the year.
He will perhaps be most remembered for his work to push loss and damage up the agenda – and ensure recognition of the needs of countries and communities for whom adaptation was too late or insufficient. He had been closely partnering with IIED and a number of others on the ALL ACT initiative, to set out effective and pragmatic approaches to ensure those who have done least to cause climate are not left to manage its impacts on their own.
He and his family were so happy when his life’s work was recognised through the OBE. I am sure we will see many more ways his contribution to climate justice will be remembered in the coming months.
I am sure I am not alone in struggling to believe I will be going to climate events without Saleem there, finding a good central spot, setting out his sign ‘Saleem’s mobile office’, and making time for us all to discuss strategy and help us all in effort to build ambition. A massive loss to the climate community and to our work. But also a massive personal loss to us all of a trusted friend and mentor.
So let us remember him together – his massive contribution to climate justice will live on through us all. Let’s make him proud.
Vincent Gainey, climate resilience advisor, adaptation and resilience team, Energy, Climate and Environment Directorate, Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office
I was so shocked when I learnt of the death of Saleemul Huq. Saleem has been such a champion for the unheard, the unrecognised, the poor, and without his voice, his gentle presence and his guiding wisdom, the world is a poorer place today.
While the climate crisis gathers place, Saleem was always there to remind us that those who did least to cause it are being hit the hardest by it. His lifetime of experience and knowledge and his clear science-based advice have been invaluable in shaping the response of the global community to addressing the needs of those most vulnerable to climate change.
I will miss his words of wisdom, his humility and his quiet gentle smile and he leaves a void hard to fill and a presence, somehow irreplaceable.
Xiaoting Hou Jones, IIED
The first time I actually managed to have a longish conversation with him was during a panel at NYC Climate Action Summit in 2019. His eloquence, warmth and positive spirit was contagious and infected the whole room. He was also so warm and encouraging to me - the most junior member on the panel. I still remember his encouraging smiles when I spoke during the panel discussion. He also took time to congratulate me on my presentation and inputs after the panel with such sincerity and warmth.
He kindly and patiently inquired after my work at IIED and suggested partners and ideas for my area of interests. I remember thinking: wow, if all world thought leaders (which he truly was) can be like him - generous, encouraging, and approach everyone with grace and humility - then our world will be so much better a place.
I still can’t believe he has passed away and sincere condolences to his family, friends and close colleagues. I will forever hold that memory of him and try to pass on his positive and warming energy to others through the work I do.
Nazneen Khan, BCCC research fellow, University of Cambridge, UK; researcher and coordinator, ICCCAD, Independent University, Bangladesh
Prof. Saleemul Huq, whom I respectfully referred to as Sir, had a profound and immeasurable impact on my professional journey. Words cannot fully capture the depth of gratitude I feel towards him for his exceptional contributions. He is truly incomparable.
For those who had the privilege of being mentored by him, his guidance was invaluable and I consider myself incredibly fortunate to have crossed paths with such an extraordinary individual. Wherever you are Sir, stay blessed.
Dr. Nathanial Matthews, CEO, Global Resilience Partnership
I learned so much from Saleem over the years. He was a mentor to many, including me for his genuine caring, his great generosity with his time despite his demanding schedule, his wonderful sense of humour, his brilliance and his wisdom. He was truly the people’s climate champion.
While he will be sorely missed I am grateful to have known him and to have called him a friend. May his enormous legacy across climate justice and science, and his generosity continue to inspire and uplift those whose lives he touched.
Stefan Raubenheimer, executive chairperson, management board, File Foundation
It was such a blow to hear that we have lost our friend and colleague Saleem. I met Saleem at COP5 and during that COP we formed SouthSouthNorth, and together with Brazil, South Africa, Tanzania, Mozambique, Bangladesh and Indonesia, started one of the earliest global South collaboratives on climate change.
It was quickly apparent to me that Saleem was a huge figure in the ‘climate world’, which at that stage was still embryonic, with barely 3,000 people at the COPs. Already, it was clear that Saleem was fundamentally and deeply a champion for the South, for the poor and climate vulnerable countries, and for a concept of climate justice which, as a human rights lawyer, rang true to me at the time and still does.
Saleemul was a visionary, holding the flag for issues that were at risk of being trampled by a commercial and expedient approach to climate change which duly dominated the next 20 years. Saleem was not swayed and always saw the issues clearly, and voiced them tirelessly. For him, the concept of injustice was central, and reversing it was his life’s work.
More recently, Saleem was instrumental on leading thinking on loss and damage issues, and the legal implications of claims of redress - his untimely death deprives us of a mind that we will sorely need as we enter the era of deepening climate impacts and pressing need for support to the poor and climate vulnerable. We need to continue this important work in his name.
Saleemul, I remember your keen laugh, your love of people, your welcome to me in Dhaka. We will miss you dearly.
As a junior consultant at IIED, my first encounter with Saleem – whom I had admired on Twitter for years - had me a little starstruck. It was hard to remain that way while peaceably munching sandwiches in the gardens near our London office and enjoying Saleem’s relaxed demeanour and willingness to share both good stories and opinions. Saleem’s work has shaped a significant part of my experience as a climate adaptation practitioner – through the Climate Change group at IIED, the drive for locally led adaptation, and the community-based adaptation conferences.
It has been an absolute privilege to help build the CBA conferences that Saleem started. The conferences became the home for community-based adaptation practitioners to connect, share their learning, and amplify their collective voices. If the atmosphere of this community of practice has always been mutually supportive, collegiate and caring, it is because of the warmth and commitment to personal relationships that Saleem and others brought into building it. Saleem was always available to step in, share advice and shape key sessions. His willingness to make time for anyone, to set them at ease, to offer guidance, support or connections, have created opportunities and inspiration for countless community-based organisations and local NGOs.
Saleem has been at the foundation of so many of the initiatives that shape the adaptation landscape that we work in. It will take some time to understand how that landscape will function without him.
Daniel Morchain, global climate adaptation director, The Nature Conservancy
What a beautiful and brilliant mind led us through many years in asking the truly right and important questions on the climate crisis, and pushed us to understand what the answers needed to be about... Farewell, dear, wonderful Saleem!
The words you share on Saleem resonate deeply with me and the Avina team. We had established direct/formal contact with him only this year, although we all knew him for his visionary work. We received the news with shock and heavy hearts for the loss him leaving represents to the entire climate community and the advocates for climate justice.
Just a few weeks ago, we held a webinar with him as a speaker on the path towards COP28. We were actually scheduled to share it publicly this week, but will now change the plans on dates, and framing too.
Meanwhile, I leave with you the link to the video for the book of remembrance.
Mimansha Joshi, former visiting researcher of ICCCAD
Dr. Huq had a profound impact on my life. When I relocated to Bangladesh in 2019, I reached out to him to get insights on climate adaptation and to work with him, given his and ICCCAD's significant contributions in this field. I composed a formal email and, to my surprise, he responded within minutes. He offered me a visiting researcher position at ICCCAD, and I happily took this.
My initial task under his guidance was to develop a theory of change for ICCCAD. At that point in my career, I didn't fully understand what theory of change meant, but with his mentorship and support, I managed to complete the task - with pride. Recognising my potential, he entrusted me with research and article writing on potential funding sources for loss and damage. I don’t think my work ever met his expectations, but nonetheless, he would always be impressed by it!
I was eager to learn more about climate adaptation and loss and damage, and he provided me with numerous opportunities, from supporting Bangladesh with a Green Climate Fundreadiness fund to assisting him in his role as an advisor to the Global Center on Adaptation, V20 and Climate Vulnerable Forum. I took pride in being his go-to person for new projects and presentation preparations.
Since then, I became his trusted person, his "Mim."And one day, he asked if I could support him in his role as the Action Track chair of the UNFSS. How could one refuse a request from him? I wholeheartedly agreed, not fully comprehending the impact this would have on my career. He simply stated that he needed support, but the role I took turned out to be transformational.
He introduced me to a wide network of food systems professionals. He continually provided me with opportunities and guidance. And whenever he required assistance in structuring his thoughts into beautiful graphics, I was his preferred choice. Our collaboration continued without any formal agreements, and we decided to keep collaborating in creating infographics on loss and damage. In fact, I have an unpublished one in progress.
I was hoping to see him at COP and receiving one of his warm, embracing hugs, a gesture he was known for. I was looking forward to the ICCCAD alumni dinner which he organised every year.
I am still in disbelief that I won't have the privilege of his embrace or guidance any longer. I will sorely miss his optimism, wisdom and leadership. Dr. Huq was truly exceptional, he was larger than life.
Dr Bimal Raj Regmi, senior associate, IIED
As I sit down to write this heartfelt tribute, I am overcome with a wave of emotion. It feels like just yesterday when I first met you and was so much inspired by you. It was then that you inspired a group of 12 LDC fellows in having us to join your programme on enhancing the capacity of young and inspiring fellows in LDCs to actively engage in climate change. I was just an early leaner in 2005 filled with enthusiasm and a dedication for advocating for the cause. Little did I know that destiny had a beautiful surprise in store for me: I would gain a mentor and guru who would not only shape my skills but also guide me through the destiny.
I remember your charismatic leadership for LDCs in pushing for a fair, just, and equitable agreements at COPs. I remember your constant support to the Climate Action Network (CAN), LDC negotiators and country delegates in understanding the gravity of issues, taking firm positions and appropriate lobbying skills to gain more from the developed countries dominant negotiation process. I remember the Development and Climate Days (D&C Days), your speeches, your facilitations and your inclusive strategies to allow LDCs and people from the region to share their stories, raise their concerns and participate in the global discourse.
I saw you as an inspiring global leader in community-based adaptation. Your constant guidance has helped CBA to grow and expand helping the researcher, practitioners and policymakers in LDCs and developing countries to advance strategies that benefit the poor and most vulnerable populations. I attended the second CBA in Dhaka which was so full of enthusiasms, commitments and sense of urgency among us to do something.
I saw you being a leader of everyone. You represented us, the region, the voice of the vulnerable people and the victims of climate injustice. You shaped adaptation debate, you argued for adaptation financing, you challenged the developed countries negotiators. You were a true representative of me, my country and my people. You have always helped Nepal to do more and more on locally led adaptation by inspiring and citing examples of Nepal's success on LAPA. Your contribution to advancement of agenda on loss and damage is so worth appreciating.
Lately, I had a chance to work on loss and damage framework and developing knowledge product under your leadership with IIED and ICCCAD. I was expecting more and more meetings with you, more in-person dialogues and learn more. Although it is a incompleteness within me, but whatever you have left me in terms of memories and knowledge, is so worth appreciating and remembering for ever. You will be missed so much.
Fred Heutte, Sierra Club, Portland, Oregon US
Saleem was a good friend (as he was to thousands) during my time in the UN climate negotiations from 2005 onward through involvement with the Climate Action Network. We always wondered how he could do so much in a day!
One moment in particular stands out. We were chatting in the late afternoon on the patio of the Maritim Hotel in Bonn, the site of many UNFCCC mid-year meetings. Amid our conversation, a series of journalists came over to say hello and for mini-interviews, including the BBC. He knew them all well and just how to make a quotable phrase that would both represent the state of play in the negotiations fairly and connect to the principles motivating this work.
He was a prolific author, including a paper in BioScience just last week coordinated by faculty at Oregon State University: "The 2023 state of the climate report: Entering uncharted territory." But I most appreciated his viewpoint pieces for a broader audience at Climate Home.
We must never forget his commitment to humanity and our planet, and we must never stop our effort to continue his work accelerating the pace of climate equity and action.
Mizan R Khan, deputy director, ICCCAD
Prof. Saleemul Huq was a guide and mentor to me for the last 25 years. For the last 20 years we have so many co-authored publications, including a Book on Capacity Building published by Routledge in 2018.
There is so much outpour of individual and collective grief from the whole world at his sudden death. He was a crusader to ensure climate justice for the most vulnerable communities and countries.
Since I formally joined as deputy director of ICCCAD in May 2019, I could see him very closely. I have never met as yet a visionary like him. Above all, he was a superb gentleman, rarely found. Let us all try to realise his dreams.
Emmanuel S. Seck, director, Enda Energie
Thanks to the climate guru. It was a real pleasure working with you Saleem and benefiting from your wise advice. You have always defended the populations of the most vulnerable countries to climate change and have been a pioneer on many issues raised in climate negotiations, including adaptation, loss and damage.
Thank you climate guru for the work accomplished and I hope that future generations will be able to perpetuate it.
Carol N Kiarie, geomatics engineer and GIS/environmental data analyst
Less than five months ago, I had the privilege of attending a lecture by Professor Saleemul Huq at the Oxford Net Zero Global Youth Training. It is with a heavy heart and deep gratitude that I remember the wisdom and insights he shared during that lecture. In his words, I found not only knowledge but also inspiration that continues to guide my actions and perspectives. His lecture was not just a moment in time; it was a catalyst for ongoing action and advocacy in pursuit of a better, more sustainable world.
Professor Huq's lecture was a transformative experience, offering a profound understanding of climate change, with focus on loss and damage and the importance of collective action. He had a unique ability to distill complex topics into clear, actionable insights that left a lasting impact on all in attendance.
His passion for the subjects he discussed was contagious, and it ignited a flame within me to become more engaged in addressing the global challenges we face. His dedication to creating a sustainable and equitable world was evident in every word he spoke, and it resonated deeply with me.
The knowledge he imparted continues to shape my perspective and drive my commitment to advocate for integration of loss and damage management with climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies. His legacy lives on in the hearts, and minds of all those who had the privilege of learning from him, and I am truly grateful to have been among them.
In his memory, I am more determined than ever to carry forward the lessons he shared and to contribute to the causes he held dear.
Beth Chitekwe-Biti, director, Slum Dwellers International
This is very sad news. SDI joins all movements that benefited from Saleem's tireless work to bring locally led solutions to the forefront of the discourse on climate change. It was a personal privilege to have met Saleem and shared his vision of how global South movements and activists are contributing to addressing the climate crisis.
Slum Dwellers International joins the LLA community in recognising Saleem's contribution. Our deepest sympathy and condolences to his family and loved ones.
Duncan Macqueen, director of forests, IIED
Saleem was a lovely man – always with a twinkle in his eye, always with time to offer support and advice. He looked out for people and mentored so many younger climate activists.
He was such a brave and outspoken champion for climate justice. He knew so much about how things worked at the global level in climate negotiations, and he was able to shape them, in part because he was so articulate, in part because he was right and passionately believed in what he said, and in part because he represented his own country and its frontline climate impacts so eloquently. We all miss him.
Celine D'Cruz, Slum Dwellers International
I had the opportunity to work with Saleem and the ICCCAD team during the two years of COVID on the Climate Bridge Fund and leading the South Asia Resilience Hub. The new knowledge on LLA helped me understand better my own work in development with urban poor communities and showed me that the same inequities that cause the housing inequity in cities is also responsible for climate change.
May the soul continue its journey in peace and in the light - the same peace and light that Saleem exuded in all his encounters and everything he touched. Viva Saleem Viva!
Cathy Yitong Li
It felt like yesterday when he hugged me goodbye in London and as always, I said 'see you soon'. I'll miss sharing the stage with him once every few months and all those times we sat down at WCCB's canteen (and random places around the world), chatting about why GGA sub-goals would be a brilliant idea, transformative and life-saving resilience solutions, tokenistic youth engagement and the time he overheard me being stressed over some MDB reform slides.
And every single time, Saleem looked at challenges from the positive side, always inspiring and cheerful. My thoughts are with Saleem's family, friends and colleagues. Saleem, you will always be my hero.
Laura Schäfer, Germanwatch
With Saleem, the world loses a warm-hearted person and a great champion for climate justice with whom Germanwatch had been closely associated for more than two decades. During this time, he has been a constant advisor, intellectual sparring and cooperation partner in the engagement for the concerns of those particularly affected by climate change. In the early 2000s, when climate change adaptation was barely talked about, Saleem shared his expertise.
Our long-time friend, climate expert with citizenship of Bangladesh and the UK, was among others the founder and director of the ICCCAD in Bangladesh and a professor at the Independent University Bangladesh (IUB). He has repeatedly launched new initiatives to support developing countries, such as the establishment of the Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF) and the strengthening of universities in the least developed countries (LDCs), but also at the national level in Bangladesh. It is impressive how he has also been a mentor for young people - whether as budding scientists, climate negotiators or activists.
In 2011/2012, Germanwatch, together with ICCCAD and the UN University in Bonn and the Munich Climate Insurance Initiative (MCII), implemented the Loss and Damage in Vulnerable Countries Initiative, which played an important role in putting loss and damage on the agenda of the UN climate negotiations. We are currently working with ICCCAD on the development of a national mechanism on climate damage in Bangladesh.
At every COP, our meetings with Saleem were a highlight of warmth, humour, empathy, strategy and friendship. He also had a unifying effect across the great disparities, with solidarity for those affected in the global North - whether in New York or in the Ahr Valley - and with the conviction that richer countries can also learn something from the decades of experience in climate adaptation in developing countries for their own protection.
We at Germanwatch are grateful to Saleem for the initiatives and memories we have shared, for what we have learned from him in many ways, and for his commitment to a more climate-friendly world. His memory will give us additional energy to stand up for the concerns of those particularly affected by climate change, even in times of multiple geopolitical crises, and to advocate for key building blocks of climate justice such as loss and damage and the 1.5° degree limit. Thank you, Saleem!
Anne Hammill, on behalf of the resilience team at the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD)
We are deeply saddened by the passing of Professor Saleemul Huq and send our heartfelt condolences to his family and loved ones during this difficult time.
The tributes pouring in from around the world confirm what we’ve long known – Saleem was a visionary, a champion for climate justice, a community builder, a changemaker, a friend.
Saleem was part of IISD’s own origin story on climate change adaptation. Back in 2001, he served as a member of the Task Force on Livelihoods and Climate Change, which laid the foundations for a new programme of work – and way of thinking – at the organisation. As the task force worked to define a research and policy agenda that stitched together poverty reduction, ecosystem management, and disaster risk reduction for a new (back then) and integrated approach to adaptation, he pushed to ensure it was all rooted in the livelihoods of the poorest and most vulnerable communities. It was a defining contribution.
For me, personally, I was an intern supporting the work of the task force and it was my first real foray into adaptation. He was a generous and principled presence who certainly influenced how I came to understand and engage with the field. Other team members have similarly shared memories of Saleem’s impact on their work in adaptation – from discovering its justice dimensions and new partnerships at global gatherings he convened, to casual conversations that changed the way we thought about our role in driving solutions.
Over the years, there’s no question he became the leading voice on issues to which so many of us have devoted our careers. He was a compelling and effective communicator, and we all benefitted from the attention he brought to our collective work. But it was also his ability to shape the global conversation around adaptation – telling policymakers what needed to be done and how – while drawing links to local realities and mobilising grassroots efforts that was one of his biggest gifts. Indeed, we all learned a lot from watching and working with him. That Saleem invested so much of himself into preparing – and making space for – future generations of researchers and voices on adaptation makes his passing all the more moving.
For those of us who are getting ready to travel to Dubai for COP28, it’s unfathomable that Saleem will not be there. We looked forward to hearing, “we need to do more together” and “come to Bangladesh, you’ll see how it’s done!“ and watching him in action. Yet, while we will feel his absence, we will also be reminded of what he fought for and created, and that we are in a much better place because of it.
Tom Tanner, professor of climate and society, SOAS University of London
Like many, I have felt a deep sadness over the passing of Prof Saleemul Huq. Yet this grief is tempered by reflection on what an incredible life and legacy he provided the world. He has had profound influence on the UNFCCC and the academic and development communities, along with setting up organisational legacies on adaptation. But I would like to remember how these accomplishments were built on Saleem’s attention to people, to individuals.
Working in Bangladesh in the early 2000s, Saleem helped me personally to understand the culture, to make connections and to navigate the institutional politics of the government, NGOs and donors alike. I won’t ever forget the warmth he showed me then and since.
The burst of social media posts about Saleem have a common denominator – that Saleem was so kind, so supportive, so helpful, so warm to individuals. He asked what you were up to, he listened, he understood and helped you make connections. And he remembered - wow, what a memory for people, faces, roles and activities!
I will miss Saleem deeply. His passing has an incredible legacy in terms of the action agenda we must continue, but also a lesson for us all in how to carry ourselves and bring along others as we do so.
Liam Upson, FCDO climate and environment adviser
Saleem was the ultimate networker, bridge-builder and ambassador for the climate and development agenda. He has been both a mentor and an inspiration to me and I count myself incredibly fortunate to have spent time with him in Bangladesh while at ICCCAD, as a visiting researcher in 2016.
No matter someone's expertise and credentials, Saleem found the time for everyone and invested considerable efforts ensuring that young leaders were capacitated and empowered to exercise their moral authority to realise climate ambition. We have lost a climate titan and beacon of hope and justice, but through those he inspired, his legacy with live on.
Professor Andy Long, vice-chancellor and chief executive of Northumbria University
Northumbria University is greatly saddened by the passing of Professor Saleemul Huq. Saleemul was a vocal champion of climate justice for the global South. He contributed to several Intergovernmental Panels on Climate Change Reports and was one of the few people to have attended all of the UN climate change conferences.
Professor Huq was awarded an honorary degree by Northumbria in 2022, in recognition of his contribution to climate science and campaigning for climate justice. We extend our condolences to his family and all who worked with him.
Hohit S. Gebreegziabher, Global Green Growth Institute/Institut mondial de la croissance verte
The news of Saleemul Huq's passing shook me to my core. Saleem was not just a colleague or a mentor, he was an amazing genius whose intergenerational contributions to the climate community were unparalleled. He had a plethora of innovative ideas and was always willing to share them with everyone unconditionally, and that made him unique and stand out within the community.
I had the privilege and honour of working with him when I first joined IIED in 2009. Saleem had a unique ability to connect with anyone and everyone, regardless of their background or expertise. What I appreciated the most about Saleem was how he found time to make himself available to all of us, despite his busy schedule. He always responded to emails, and I remember one time, I had asked him how he could manage to respond to all the tons of messages he received. He told me that he always put himself in others' shoes and that one would be happy to get a response to their email. His response spoke volumes about his character and his commitment to helping others.
Saleem's contributions to the field of climate change will be deeply missed, and his legacy will continue to inspire generations to come.
I had the pleasure of sharing his schooldays in Nairobi in 1969 and Imperial College thereafter (see a photo in the gallery above).
He was a great source of inspiration and the ability to fight against the odds for the downtrodden or voiceless.
Bhim Adhikari, International Development Research Centre (IDRC)
I am still trying to recover from this weekend’s tragic and sad news about Saleem’s untimely demise. This is a huge personal loss to so many of us as he was our dear friend, colleague, mentor and above all a wonderful human being with a great purpose and conviction.
He was a climate warrior, activist, scientist, academic, climate diplomat, author and educator. It’s hard to express our condolences in words after losing someone like him who we love, respect and admire.
I was supposed to talk to him this week about an IDRC/ICCCAD side event on loss and damage in Canada Pavilion at COP28. I know this is never going to happen, and I am really sad about it.
Amali Tower, founder and executive director, www.Climate-Refugees.org
Saleemul Huq is a giant in climate justice. He was a force of nature and a climate warrior. He is a personal hero to me, and I am devastated by his passing.
Even though I was a humanitarian with minimal climate knowledge, Saleem was there for me from the very start. Long before I believed enough in myself, Saleem championed me and my work. Ever willing to speak at Climate Refugees’ events, speaking truth to power and validating my little organisation when such encouragement was in short supply.
“Of course there are climate refugees,” he would tell me with a laugh when not-so-nice naysayers overwhelmed me. “Just tell them to come to Bangladesh.” The countless times I have returned to his encouraging words in the early days when funds and confidence were in short supply: “No Amali, you must speak up! You must continue to tell it like it is, and you must continue!” have been a guiding light.
I shared our Kenya loss and damage report with him this past September, he replied within minutes: “You must come to Bangladesh and do the same here.” I wonder if he knew the immense encouragement and validation received in these few words? I hope he did.
Even with my unrooted beginnings, as global South and South Asian people, we spoke a common language. And he did that for so many people, regardless of where and what background they came from. And each time I saw it, I was in awe of his generosity and energy.
What struck me immediately about Saleem was his humility. Being so senior and knowledgeable in this field never prevented him from granting you his time, his knowledge, his energy, his encouragement. He replied within seconds to emails I had painstakingly crafted, fretting about every word because of his stature and the immense respect I had (and will always have) for him.
His contributions to climate justice, to loss and damage, to global South actors, to inspiring and spurning new climate advocates like me, are immeasurable.
We were going to work on a new project together. A long-held idea that I had finally gathered up my nerve to talk to him about this June in Bonn. Characteristically of Saleem, he not only replied within seconds, he suggested a face-to-face meeting the next day and said, “I’m in!”.
I’m gutted at his passing. I’m gutted for the gigantic void his passing leaves behind, but I’m determined to join the so many that admire him, respect him and are grateful for him, in continuing the work. His work. I have no doubt that his contributions and support to us all was for this very reason: to charge us with a community, for no one does it alone. Saleem taught us that with his immense contributions, and we must now carry forward the work with his team at ICCCAD. Thank you Professor. Thank you Saleem. With gratitude, we will endeavor to fight on to fruition.
Dr. Jean Palutikof, Adjunct Professor of Climate Change, NCCARF, Griffith University
When I heard the sad, sad news of Saleem’s passing, I reflected on how long I have known him and realised he and I collaborated together on and off for 20 years, since I started working for the IPCC as head of TSU, by which time he was an ‘old hand’. When I moved to Australia to head the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility he paid an academic visit and spoke at what became the first Adaptation Futures Conference on the Gold Coast in 2010.
We worked together on the World Adaptation Science Programme (WASP). And when NCCARF led a grant to work on heat stress in Bangladesh he helped us to carry out the work despite COVID and closed borders, by strongly supporting the work at ICCCAD.
I have thought about what I most admired about Saleem. He was such a fantastic ambassador for Bangladesh science. His work at ICCCAD, and for me especially the annual Gobeshona conferences, really put Bangladesh adaptation activities on the global map. And he was such a wonderful promoter of young scientists. In his time at WASP, he saw ways to bring young developing-world scientists together to build networks and capacity, when the rest of us only saw financial barriers to progress. He saw clearly the strengths of bottom up and community-led adaptation and was a tireless advocate for the global South.
He was a warm and generous man who will be deeply missed by the adaptation science community, and by his many friends in Bangladesh and across the world, for many years to come.
Sophie De Coninck, on behalf of the Local Climate Adaptive Living Facility at UNCDF
It is with great sadness that we heard about the loss of Pr Huq. He has accompanied many of us as we developed as climate professionals, from university classes, to workshops and conferences, and to the negotiation rooms; he was everywhere, bringing his experience and thought leadership.
Pr Huq could create bridges among countries, among constituencies and among school of thoughts and among people from all backgrounds. His legacy will last for generations.
Reinhard Mechler, senior research scholar and group leader, Systemic Risk and Resilience Group (SYRR)
I am very saddened by Saleemul’s sudden passing. I remember him largely through work on the loss and damage issue, where he kindly supported us with a chapter contribution to a multi-authored book we edited. As well he provided co-authorship to a section on loss and damage in the IPCC’s seminal 1.5C report - the first time loss and damage was openly presented and reviewed in an IPCC report.
I fondly remember the good discussions had during the writing, at COP and beyond. He indeed always had an open mind and time for advice. Saleemul leaves behind a strong and lasting legacy that has made and will further make a difference to all efforts dealing with the climate emergency.
A great shock to hear of Saleem's passing. He was an erudite fixture in climate negotiations, always striving to hold the reality of climate impacts on real people in a political arena that often did not want to listen.
Saleem was indefatigably courteous, wearing his experience and knowledge lightly as he continued to speak truth to power. He will be much missed.
Camilla Toulmin, senior fellow Africa Europe Foundation; professor Lancaster University; associate Institute for New Economic Thinking
Saleem has been a colleague and friend for 20-plus years. We first met when I took on being acting director of IIED in May 2003. He was the go-to person for everything climate, and helped steer IIED into recognising that climate change had to be at the heart of everything we do.
We set up a Climate Change research group at IIED with Saleem as its first director. While it started small, it rapidly grew to draw in exceptional people from across the planet. He had an assured understanding of both the micro-level impacts and the global architecture for trying to get action on climate, having worked closely with compatriots such as Dr Atiq Rahman in Bangladesh’s Centre for Advanced Studies.
Documenting and feeling the harsh climate impacts in his home country were at the root of his powerful advocacy, and we owe him a lot for the wealth of illustration and experience he brought to describing and analysing how people were adapting to such impacts.
But he was also able to harness this deep understanding with powerful empathy for all parts of the world feeling the rough edge of droughts, floods, storm and heat. His voice was strong and clear on the gross injustice facing poor and vulnerable communities across the planet, with no responsibility for greenhouse gas emissions yet at the harsh end of their consequence. The loss and damage debate within the COP process would have been nowhere without Saleem presenting the evidence and keeping up the pressure.
Everyone gravitated towards Saleem, whether in IIED’s café club, where he could be found happily ensconced on the sofa, or in a succession of conference halls, hotels and coffee bars from one side of the globe to another. Having exercised great will in giving up smoking, he took up Twitter with enormous gusto, becoming one of IIED’s top tweeters. Looking at his stream today, I see he had 65,000 followers, and his last post was a photo in memory of his friend and mentor Professor Sir Gordon Conway, of Imperial College, where he had studied.
In his turn, Saleem was mentor to a very large number of people, especially colleagues at ICCCAD and IIED. He had time for everyone, and he had an inexhaustible optimism that if you keep on pushing for an idea, finally you will win out. I hope we can all do Saleem proud by adding our momentum to the climate justice movement of which he was such a staunch pillar.
Richard Ewbank, global climate advisor
When I started this job years ago, Saleem invited me over to IIED to discuss climate adaptation and I spent an invaluable lunch benefitting from his vast experience and expertise. He put us on the locally-led, community-based track that we have tried to stick to ever since.
Since then he has regularly provided his advice to Christian Aid, both directly and through networks such as CAN-UK, always given with great kindness and wisdom and always unmissable.
At the CBA conference in Kathmandu, I was discussing an adaptation presentation with him after a long day and asked how he found his amazing energy to lead and organise such a big event year after year and he said, with typical generosity, that it all came from us, the participants, and the work being shared. He will be enormously missed.
Ian Burton, University of Toronto
I fully share and join the overwhelming sense of loss expressed by so many of Saleem’s friends and colleagues in Bangladesh, in the United Kingdom, and around the world, including here in Canada.
Saleem has been and will continue to be a source of inspiration in the existential struggle to solve and overcome the phenomenon of anthropogenic climate change. Let us all, from oldest to youngest, stride and leap forward, and redouble our efforts to ensure the advent of climate justice globally and as rapidly as possible.
Against whom or what is this universal effort being waged? As Saleem has helped us in his calm, challenging, and kindly way, it is no less than humanity. No less than we ourselves, no matter how we are grouped or classified by ourselves or others. All of us, in different degrees and ways, or as specified in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, bear “our common but differentiated responsibilities”.
Let Saleem’s surprising, unexpected, passing from our midst be taken as a moment for reflection and recommitment to achieve his goal and ambition for humanity.
Jamie Williams, senior policy advisor - poverty reduction, Islamic Relief Worldwide
Saleem was a great friend of Islamic Relief over 25 years. Throughout this time he advised our programming to support the resilience and development of some of the world’s most vulnerable communities. He was with us encouraging Muslim leaders build on Islamic teachings to develop the Islamic Declaration on tackling climate change in 2015. He wrote the introduction to our 2020 publication ‘Adapting for Climate Justice’.
But it was Saleem’s openness and patience with which he shared his tremendous experience and knowledge which we will miss most. He became mentor, guide and inspiration to so many that he will be remembered and celebrated as the founding figure of climate action.
And as the world pays homage to this great leader, may we continue in his name the struggle for climate justice for the poorest and most vulnerable.
It has been suggested that the new institution slated for inception at COP28 in December should be called the ‘Saleemul Huq Loss & Damage Fund’. This would be a fitting and lasting memorial to a person who dedicated his life to the wellbeing of others with compassion and always a ready smile.
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.
Amina Kashoro, Greener Tanzania Livelihood Organizations
I fondly remember Saleemul Huq as a true pioneer in the field of climate change and action. His unwavering dedication and expertise in addressing the pressing global issue of climate change left a lasting impact on the world. His tireless efforts to bridge the gap between research and policy, particularly in vulnerable communities, have inspired many. Dr. Saleemul Huq's legacy serves as a reminder of the urgent need for collective action to combat climate change and create a sustainable future for all.
His never finished and don't give up messages on the loss and damage fund among other climate change action will remain with the entire world.
I remember sitting with him in the closing plenary in CBA12 in Malawi, such a polite listener and mentor who listen and implement.
I recommend for special documentary and sessions to be named after him in honouring his tireless efforts.
Dinah Awino, Kenyatta University
My thoughts and condolences to you for the loss of a great enigma in the climate space.
I joined IIED at about the same time as Saleem, in 2001. We had adjoining offices on an attic floor, from which our respective programmes of work took shape. When I think about him, I shall remember Saleem’s modesty and his generosity with time and ideas in our interactions. He was somehow ageless, and combined innate gravitas with more than a little twinkle – an energetic and enthusiastic participant on the football pitch at IIED social gatherings, for example.
I also remember warmly an occasion about 20 years ago when Saleem agreed to my request that he don a barrister friend’s wig and preside, in role, over the gavel at a one-day courtroom-style discussion at IIED about how law and legal skills could contribute to our work as an institute. Rest in peace Saleem.
I was devastated to learn that my friend and former colleague Saleemul Huq died at his home in Bangladesh on 28 October. Few individuals have had a greater impact on humanity’s response to the climate emergency than him. It was an honour to know and work with such a man.
Without Saleem, the world would be hotter today than it is. Communities the world over would be less prepared to face what is coming. And we would have less hope of ever reining in the climate monster. He was an inspirational and visionary leader, a master strategist, and a mentor to hundreds of people. His death has sent shockwaves through the vast community of people working on climate change.
I first encountered Saleem when I was working as a journalist and needed a comment on a story on climate change. Soon, and for eight years, I was working alongside him at IIED, where he led the climate change group and I was the organisation’s press officer.
Saleem was a dream to work with as he never turned down a chance to talk to journalists about climate change. He would be ready at 4am for an interview with a reporter on the other side of the world. He would say “yes” to a media request whether it came from a major broadcaster or a tiny newspaper. I introduced him to hundreds of journalists and he gave his time and knowledge to them all. Saleem was on a mission and he knew that each second counted. He took every opportunity to push the world towards a sustainable future.
Other colleagues and friends have written about Saleem’s immense impacts on climate change policy. He also did more than nearly anyone to inform and educate journalists and, through them, raise awareness of climate change among hundreds of millions of people worldwide. Some of the journalists who knew Saleem well and who have written obituaries include Joydeep Gupta, Jayanta Basu and Seth Borenstein.
Saleem’s passing is hard to take in. I will remember him for his softly-spoken words and the glint in his eye, his warmth, good humour, generosity and tireless commitment to justice.
The outpouring of love for him on social media this week has been a powerful reminder of how many lives Saleem touched and how many careers he shaped. This is perhaps his greatest legacy, the small army of Saleem-inspired researchers, activists, negotiators, policymakers, journalists and others in every corner of the world who have committed their lives to addressing the climate and ecological emergencies. I’m sure his passing will inspire many to redouble their efforts.
Goodbye Saleem. The work goes on. We will never forget you.
Jerry Danny, Small Grant Catalytic winner 2021, Tanzania
What more can I say? Climate change groups is under the silence which will took a while. I always appreciate his efforts, let live his legacy... Go champion go.
Joie Chowdhury, senior attorney - climate and energy programme, Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL)
Saleem was such a relentless, inspiring advocate for climate justice, an absolute giant, and will be so missed. Am deeply saddened by news of his passing. An immense loss for Bangladesh, for all of South Asia, and the whole world.
I first met him in Bonn. We spoke in Bangla, which is rare in international spaces, and gave me joy. He was generous with his time, in the moment, and since then, providing guidance on how to be strategic in connecting very specific local struggles to address loss and damage and international climate negotiations.
I will always be grateful for his rich insight and moral clarity. His towering legacy, brilliance, and kindness will live on in our work and in our hearts. May he rest in peace and power.
Saleem's commitment to address the needs of low income residents was immense. While so much of his attention and interaction was with climate change experts and (very senior) government officials, he never forgot the injustices of exclusion and dispossession, and the terrible burden of climate change falling of low income and marginalised population include those living in informal settlements across the global South.
He understood the imperative to move climate finance down, just as he understood the need to build up the expertise about how that might be achieved particularly among the emerging cadre of climate change professionals in the global South.
Tara Shine, chair of the board of trustees, IIED; CEO, Change by Degrees
I have such fond memories of Saleem. He was a constant presence at COPs, always in a strategic spot, finger on the pulse and giving wise counsel. He is the grandfather of the work on adaptation and loss and damage, a fierce advocate for climate justice and was determined to build capacity in climate vulnerable countries to address climate change. Saleem was fun, witty and wise – always a pleasure to spend time with. He was a strategic influencer and thought leader for whom visibility was 100% about purpose and not ego.
I can picture him now outside the Maritim Hotel, sitting beside his old friend Benito Muller, smoking cigarettes before he swapped them for Twitter. He always knew what was going on because everyone spoke to him and trusted him and he was always there to help when something was stuck and seemed impassable. He was creative in finding solutions in the face of the most difficult geopolitical negotiations. I remember going to him in the tough days of the second week of the negotiations in Copenhagen – when the adaptation talks hung in the balance over a discussion vulnerability indicators. Always wise. Always ready to help.
Saleem was a great ally and supporter of the Mary Robinson Foundation – Climate Justice when I worked there. He was the original climate justice advocate in the COP world and that is what he will forever be remembered for. As a long-time friend and board member of IIED I have had the privilege of following his work up close. His shaping of the climate group to be an influential and supportive facilitator of the LDC group has been so significant. I also really admired Saleem’s influence on the IPCC, bringing the most vulnerable people and their communities into the minds and realities of climate scientists and policymakers alike.
Saleem created coalitions and meeting spaces for people working on issues of injustice, adaptation, compensation and the need to reshape COPs into more inclusive spaces. He had a knack for anticipating the critical issues well in advance. He was an excellent climate communicator (a rare thing) - I learned lots from how he got his message across. Setting up ICCCAD (International Centre for Climate Change and Development) was the realisation of a dream for Saleem and a wonderful legacy. Saleem had endless energy – waking early to take public transport to COPs and staying late to advise and support. He was generous with his time – helping so many of us to shape ideas, write decision text and always connecting us to the people we really needed to talk to.
I among so many will miss him dearly and will work hard to make the most of his legacy and seek to build on his foundational work to secure a more climate justice world.
Thomas E Downing
Academies and assessments
People and projects
Actions and activism
Dr. Helena Wright, policy director, FAIRR Initiative
It is a great shock to hear that Saleem is no longer with us. I first met Saleem when he was a visiting professor during my Masters and his lecture inspired me to change the topic of research to focus on climate change adaptation. Later, we worked together on the IPCC report in 2013, as a PhD researcher which involved long hours responding to hundreds of peer review comments and reviewing literature on the impacts of climate change.
He always remained positive and optimistic even in the face of all the impacts of climate-related disasters taking place around the world. He leaves a huge legacy in all his pioneering work on loss and damage under the UN climate change process.
On a personal note, I met my husband through a climate project that we collaborated on with Saleem. He was an inspirational leader, teacher and mentor - great at connecting people and bringing people together. I hope we can all continue his legacy by recognising the rights of those who are most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.
Charles Tonui, ICCCAD alumni, former research fellow at African Centre for Technology Studies (ACTS), and currently a PhD researcher at the Wageningen University & Research (WUR), Netherlands & African Research & Impact Network (ARIN) fellow
I was introduced to Prof Saleem in 2009/2010 by Prof Judi Wakhungu (former executive director, African Centre for Technology Studies (ACTS)); I became assured of a mentor I have been looking for in the climate research because at that time I was an ACTS climate change intern and 'climate actions', particularly 'participatory/community based adaptation' were perceived by many actors including state actors as a non-state actor agenda.
Prof Huq guided, trained and mentored us under the IDRC/UKRI funded Community Based Adaptation in Africa (CBAA) project, the Capacity building for the Least Developed Countries on Climate Change (CLACC) and CBA conferences where I understood better 'participatory action research' and 'community based adaptation' approach/framework from local community to policy to UN climate negotiation level.
Prof Huq facilitated a series (five visits to Bangladesh) of my ICCCAD' climate trainings, CBA conferences, visits, interactions and learning with the local and highly vulnerable communities in Sundarban, Dhaka city and other regions in Bangladesh, which helped me to understand better concepts such as vulnerability, CBA and LLA.
His Saleem' mobile office’ at every COP taught me a lesson: be always available to all generations and different clusters seeking knowledge, learning spaces and guidance! Our COP and CBA conference' catch up and photo sessions were amazing! Prof Huq accepted to be my referee and granted me strategic recommendations for my academic growth until his last moment! I have lost a mentor, teacher and friend! RIP Prof!
We are all facing the climate crisis, and at times it is difficult to stay optimistic and to find the energy we need to take action. But then I think of Saleemul Huq. Always engaged, always with energy, and always with suggestions, proposals and ideas for how we can move forward, and how we can manage this crisis we are facing.
I am forever grateful for Saleemul Huq, and all his contributions to the world, to the debates, and for the guidance and the inspiration he gave to me. Saleemul was a true champion, and a leader, and his death is a huge loss for us all.
Rest in peace Saleemul. You will be missed, and remembered, and we will do our best to continue to share your messages about the need for climate action in this, as Saleemul has described it, new era of loss and damage.
Filippo Berardi, senior climate change specialist, Global Environment Facility (GEF)
Like many others, Saleem for me was a mentor and a source of endless admiration and inspiration. I first met him at Imperial College, during my MSc in environmental technology and policy, when he came to give us a lecture on ecosystem-based adaptation, a concept he created and spearheaded, now widely used. Saleem’s kindness immediately struck me, as much as his knowledge and dedication to the cause of protecting the most vulnerable, the most exposed to climate change.
I went to see him at the IIED, where he had a tiny office, packed with papers and books, at the very top floor of a building in Russell Square. He kindly agreed to be the supervisor for my MSc thesis, and we started a relationship that lasted until his premature passing, for almost 20 years.
Saleem was the one that sent me to my first climate conference, the Subsidiary Bodies in Bonn in 2006. I would visit him at his informal office, a coffee table by the entrance where he would be chain smoking and chatting with every single person passing by.
Saleem was the one that arranged my thesis research trip to Tanzania, helping me with the logistics and research questions. He reviewed the manuscript, and as if not busy enough, always was extremely generous with his time with me. Every year since, I would stop by his COP or Bonn office to say hello, and to share a few news on my latest job change. He was always supportive and genuinely interested.
I have rarely met someone so kind and dedicated, in my professional or private life. Like many others how have left thoughts and stories about Saleem, I will miss him dearly. Rest in peace, Saleem, confident that the world is a better place because of you.
Sven Harmeling on behalf of climate justice colleagues at CARE International
We sadly learned of the recent passing of one of the great contemporary climate change advocates and we would like to extend our sincere condolences to his family, friends, and colleagues.
Dr. Huq was known to three generations of environmental and climate change activists, adaptation practitioners, scientists, programmers, government officials, media professionals - and many more.
He was a friend, mentor, and collaborator to many of us at CARE over many years. He was a beacon of Southern voice and a fearless spokesperson for justice and equity, and we are immensely proud of and humbled by what he achieved. It is a truly sad time for the climate change community, and we take heart that Dr. Huq’s legacy will be honored in all our collective efforts.
I am utterly heartbroken about the passing of Professor Saleemul Huq. A colleague since I worked on water governance at IWMI in 2011, Prof Saleem has been such a pillar of support and encouragement. Not only was he a fantastic and admirable climate activist and an advocate for Bangladesh globally, he also took time to help and advise young scholars and development practitioners. Without his advice and our conversations, my PhD research would not have taken the shape that it did, my book not written.
Whenever I was looking to collaborate, Prof Saleem was quick to respond, always extending his hands and support no matter the query large or small. Most recently, he organised a book talk for me where I presented the Bangladeshi edition of my book Misreading the Bengal Delta: Climate Change, Development and Livelihoods in Coastal Bangladesh at the Independent University Bangladesh. I'm so happy I was able to thank him and give him a copy of my book in person, a book that would not have been written without him.
I just cannot fathom that was our last meeting. He was so happy for me that I'd be starting a faculty position and we were talking about future research collaborations between Sweden-Bangladesh. I was so excited for all that we would do together.
After his death, it is so clear that he touched - and changed - so many lives. As an individual, he was truly remarkable in just being such a generous, kind and supportive person. Thank you so much Prof Saleem, for all that you have done not only for the world, but also for me as a scholar. Thank you.
I first met Saleem at the Bangladesh Centre for Advanced Studies in Dhaka in 1993. I was new to Bangladesh and he welcomed me warmly, telling me of the work of the centre. I met him regularly for 20 years in Dhaka, London and other places and during that time I became more interested in climate issues, having worked on open capture fisheries and shrimp cultivation in Southeast Bangladesh. He became an informal mentor, although he didn't realise that, as I learned more of his work at BCAS, the Independent University of Bangladesh and IIED.
What I remember most about him was his calm and committed manner as a global spokesperson for climate and environmental justice. His capacity to listen to all who knew him was inspirational. His work was monumental in its importance but he carried that responsibility with quiet and forceful dignity.
Since I retired I have followed with great interest his many activities and achievements and it was a great shock to hear of his passing when at the peak of his influence. I know his work will be carried on by others but I am greatly saddened by his death.Thank you, Saleem for all you have done. You will never be forgotten.
Yvan Biot, Smailholm, Scotland
When DFID’s very young and inexperienced adaptation team was wracking its brains over how to avoid clashing with developing countries as it was designing a fund to support country led adaptation, to be hosted by the World Bank, I knew I could rely on Saleem to help us…
Acall on a Saturday morning settled it: we agreed not to use the word adaptation, to stress that we were not competing but piloting, and to add a sunset clause - thus was the Pilot Project for Climate Resilience born, and much aggravation at the Poznan COP avoided.Saleem was always there, at the end of a phone line, a quick response to an email, a sit down for a chat.
The news of your passing has left me deeply unsettled, Saleem. I always thought we’d meet again some day in Dhaka at the next CBA conference or in a restaurant in Bonn plotting with other, like-minded negotiators, how we could convince our political masters to ditch their narrow 19th century national straightjackets and dish out a nicer future for our children.
I really, really miss you and will endeavour to continue to make you proud. Perhaps somewhat closer to home, though. Goodbye good friend.
Although I only met him once, I was extremely impressed by both his clarity of understanding of the issues of climate change and his cheerful determination to make a positive difference in the world.
Humanity is poorer for his passing. May his memory be a blessing to all who knew him.
Isabel Whisson, Head of Policy Initiatives, BRAC
Saleem bhai, we will not be discouraged.
Like so many of us working in the fight against climate change, I was not prepared for the shock of losing Dr. Saleemul Huq (or Saleem bhai as we affectionately called him at BRAC). At the risk of sounding trivial, as a 90s kid the best way I could describe the gravity of this loss to friends and family was that for young advocates this was like Harry losing Dumbledore, or Frodo losing Gandalf. Suddenly the fight for the future of our world feels so much more daunting without him. He would not stand for this.
In the days leading up to Saleem bhai’s passing, I had been taking a break. I was in Morocco with my teenage sister and together we visited a historic village that had withstood four hundred years of change all around it. As we stood on a stony riverbed our guide described how the river that used to provide water to the village had been dried up for the last five years. She gave me a knowing and grave look. Another sign of the climate crisis. It frightens me to think about the world we are leaving to the next generation – a concern that connected deeply with Saleem bhai.
Later found us scrambling up a sand dune to take in the stars. Sitting there contemplating the universe, she turned the conversation back to this world, our world, and how much it needed to change. I told her the only way to change it was through people like her and me (and all of you). That all we’ve got are individuals, but that individuals can achieve so much.
The ability for people to make an enormous impact is a lesson I have had the immense privilege of learning throughout my career at BRAC, and most recently, directly from Saleem bhai. The tributes to him that poured out over news outlets and social media have been consistent in capturing his indefatigable spirit, his warmth and generosity, his passion and compassion, his deep knowledge, his wise intellect, and most of all his ability to inspire, lead and teach others. A true professor if there ever was one.
I recently took up the role of leading BRAC’s policy engagement on the climate crisis as somewhat of a novice on the issue. In the five months I have been in this role, I leaned heavily on Saleem bhai’s steady and generous guidance. This didn’t take the form of detailed instruction (he was too busy supporting everyone else in our community!) and I sometimes felt like I was following a trail of breadcrumbs that somehow always led me in the right direction. Knowing we were following his path was all the assurance I needed.
Prior to his passing, I had been mentally tallying up a number of questions I looked forward to taking back to Saleem bhai. In his absence the best I have been able to do was to reflect on the example he set for me and so many others. Here are my takeaways on what we must collectively do as we carry the torch forward:
- Convey the gravity of the situation in a way that connects with the people on whom we depend for change
- Inspire with real examples of the solutions we have, the progress we are making, and the power we possess to course correct
- Never lose sight of the people who cannot be in negotiating rooms that we must give voice to – the people, women, youth and children who are most vulnerable to the climate crisis, and
- Deliver a call to action that is uncompromising on what is needed and grounded in what can be achieved.
In June 2023, during the Summit for a New Global Financing Pact, hosted by President Macron and Prime Minister Mottley in Paris, Saleem bhai told this group of young advocates from Bangladesh that the key to this fight is to never give in to feeling discouraged.
Saleem bhai, losing you is an unfathomable blow in our effort. Thank you for everything that you taught us. We will not be discouraged.
Dr. Robert Kay, principal | Americas climate and sustainability portfolio lead, ARU
Saleemul was always there. Always there to mentor, cajole and advise. Always available at COPs to explain what was going on both in real time and uniquely to place the urgent issue of the day within broader context.
The first time we met was in Dhaka in 1991. I was helping to coordinate one of the first climate change impact assessments of Bangladesh. Unusually, he drove himself around the city. Burned in my memory is being in the backseat of his car while he drove us from meeting to meeting. My boss, anchored in the front seat, was holding on so tight that his knuckles were literally white. Saleemul pulled a move where he drove across the median strip to the other side of the road and weaved through oncoming traffic while cars, busses, trucks and baby taxis hurtled towards us. When asked what the rules for driving were in in Dhaka, Saleemul calmly replied: “It’s less about rules and more about creating space”. I always thought this was how he approached UNFCCC negotiations!
I’ll miss him terribly at COP28. But what I’ll take with me to Dubai is his constant focus on doing what is right and to always strive to bring a voice to the climate negotiations for those who do not have the privileges I do. Thank you Saleem.
Dr Merylyn McKenzie Hedger
I have finally had to face up to the passing of Saleem, who has been a constant in my climate professional life since my UKCIP days in1998. He was an enthusiastic supporter and wanted the model adopted for development but sadly HMG were not interested at that time.
Because he was such an effective advocate for research on Bangladesh but too busy to undertake it all, I became involved in several major projects and worked with him there.
As such an effective enabler of institutional and political change his absence would leave a big hole, but that institutions like ICCAD, mechanisms on adaptation and the loss and damage agenda are framed to move forward. But his calm personal presence, wisdom and geniality are irreplaceable.