This dedication to late Professor Saleemul Huq was written by Moumita Das Gupta. She is an Advocate for the Supreme Court of Bangladesh and Research Fellow for the Centre for Climate Justice, Bangladesh (CCJ-B).
Professor Saleemul Huq, a Climate Revolutionary (1952-2023)
Dr. Huq was a visionary leader. Even after his passing, he will lead many people around the world to chase their personal and professional goals in the field of climate change mitigation. The life and works of Dr. Huq have been much discussed recently; still, it is worth recalling the positions he was serving and to cherish some of his remarkable achievements.
Prof. Dr. Saleemul Huq was the Director of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD), a Senior Fellow of the International Institute on Environment and Development (IIED), and a Professor at Independent University Bangladesh (IUB). Further, he served as the Chair of the Expert Advisory Group for the Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF), and as the Senior Advisor on Locally Led Adaptation of the Global Centre on Adaptation (GCA). He was globally respected as one of most trusted commentators on the climate crisis.
Regarding the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), he was an advisor for the Least Developed Countries Group. Beyond his incredible advisory work, he was widely published in renowned journals, both national and international. Additionally, he was one of the lead authors of the third, fourth, and fifth Assessment Reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Despite his busy schedule, he would never forgo the chance to promote public awareness and to influence policy makers in the fight to combat climate change, through his remarkable expertise.
Prof. Dr. Saleemul Huq received the National Environment Award 2020 from the Government of Bangladesh. In 2022, he was appointed to be an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) and was named one of the top ten scientists of the world by Nature. Even more recently, in August 2023, he was chosen as one of seven scientists for a new Scientific Advisory Board of the United Nations, which was established to advise UN leaders on “breakthroughs in science and technology and how to harness the benefits of these advances and mitigate potential risks.”
He was unwaveringly dedicated in his work to serve the communities most affected by and vulnerable to the adverse impacts of climate change. He felt the realities of the additional burdens borne by the most marginalized people due to climate change adversities very deeply. In particular, ensuring Locally Led Adaptation and funding for Loss and Damage were two issues he worked tirelessly to bring to fruition until his passing.
Even with all of his extraordinary achievements and accomplishments, his obituaries written by climate change campaigners all over the world primarily center the memories of the insight and inspiration received from Dr. Huq. His guidance and mentorship are the first things remembered by many experts and activists at both national and international levels. He was a fountain of inspiration and encouragement for young professionals and volunteers alike, who are raising their voices to speed up the fight against climate change.
While being a mere learner of climate change law and policy, I was fortunate enough to meet him in person in regular intervals over the last four years. Even though I did not directly work with him, he did not miss an opportunity to guide me in setting my professional aspirations. His ideas of story-telling and going back to the field have always inspired me to think again and again to determine how a professional lawyer of a climate vulnerable country can work to serve the affected and vulnerable communities with legal remedies. Still, I can feel his smile and silent encouragement whenever I hesitated talking in front of him. Whatever I thought very silly to say was never worthless to him; he could transform those thoughts into some great ideas.
71 years seems too short for a visionary leader like Dr. Huq. His ideological legacies will continue to inspire the international community of climate change campaigners for years yet to come. I cannot but express my heavy hearted condolence to his family members in solidarity with his followers worldwide. ICCCAD has opened a petition to the UNFCCC to name the Loss & Damage Fund the ‘Loss & Damage Huq Fund’ in memory of his profound standing for ensuring the legal rights of the climate vulnerable people of the LDCs, including his home: Bangladesh.
We at GNHRE will wholeheartedly miss the inspirational Professor Huq.