Ah Tan Blog
Remembering Dr. Saleemul Huq, Global Champion of Climate Justice
By Kevin Li, CarbonCare InnoLab (CCIL)
The climate justice community deeply mourns the sudden passing of Dr. Saleemul Huq on October 29th. As co-founder and director of Bangladesh’s International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD) and professor at the Independent University of Bangladesh, Dr. Huq was one of the most vocal advocates for climate adaptation, resilience and loss and damage funding for developing countries.
Since the 2012 UN Climate Change Conference in Doha, Dr. Huq had been a leading proponent of the concept that polluters must compensate people affected by climate disasters – what we now know as “loss and damage.” Over the past decade, he successfully pushed for the realisation of loss and damage mechanisms, including last year’s COP27 commitment to establish a loss and damage fund. At COP28 this year, the operationalization of this fund will continue to be a focus of climate negotiations.
I had the privilege of briefly meeting Dr. Huq at the Asia Pacific Adaptation Forum in Korea last August. I was deeply impressed by his passion for advancing global climate adaptation efforts. I recall his insightful remarks on the urgent need to accelerate progress on the loss and damage fund, which reflected his lifelong devotion to this critical issue.
Born in Bangladesh in 1952, Dr. Huq obtained his PhD in plant biology from the University of London before returning home. In the 1980s, he established Bangladesh’s first environmental think tank – the Bangladesh Centre for Advanced Studies – pioneering ground-breaking research on the grave threats climate change posed to low-lying countries. His insights caught global attention and led him to author key chapters on adaptation in 1990s IPCC reports. His work highlighted the vital importance of strengthening community climate resilience against escalating impacts.
For over 27 years, Dr. Huq tirelessly attended nearly every UN Climate Change Conference, pushing for climate justice on behalf of least developed and vulnerable countries. He leveraged his expertise to advocate for landmark victories, including hard-won progress on establishing a loss and damage fund. As an advisor to the UNFCCC’s Least Developed Countries (LDC) Group, he published extensively and was named by Nature magazine in 2022 as one of the world's top climate scientists. His wisdom and guidance will be profoundly missed at future climate summits as the fight for equity continues.
From 2001 onwards, through his role at the London-based International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), Dr. Huq championed the concept of community-based adaptation (CBA). This emphasized communities’ agency in deciding how best to adapt, and the duty of experts, funders and governments to support climate-impacted communities. He was a senior fellow at IIED until his passing.
In 2009, Dr. Huq co-founded the influential International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD) in Bangladesh to advance South-South cooperation and local solutions for climate resilience. Through ICCCAD and global partnerships, he mentored countless youth and nurtured present and future climate leaders with humility and empathy.
With his seminal contributions across IPCC assessments, UN climate talks, research institutions and academia, Dr. Huq cemented his legacy as a visionary climate justice champion. The worldwide movement he helped inspire will continue marching forward to build the more just, resilient world he tirelessly fought for. His enduring impact deserves commemoration. Though passed, his message carries forward through the countless lives he touched.
Dr. Huq was undoubtedly an iconic figure among climate activists and vulnerable communities in developing countries. On behalf of CarbonCare InnoLab, I express my deepest condolences to his family, colleagues and mentees. Though passed, his vision will live on, and it is our hope that our work can build upon his meaningful achievements going forward.