It is with a heavy heart that the Degrees Initiative bids farewell to our friend and colleague Saleemul Huq, who died at his home in Bangladesh on Saturday. He was one of Degrees’ trustees since it became an independent NGO in 2021, and a good friend to Degrees’ predecessor, the SRM Governance Initiative, for many years before that.
Saleem’s contributions were invaluable. As a veteran of every UNFCCC COP, he advised us on the subtleties of climate policy and strategy. He was an accomplished scientist and a champion of intellectual rigour, earning his PhD in botany from Imperial College London in 1978. As the founder of ICCCAD he was a mentor to junior colleagues and a natural leader, as well as being a tireless advocate for the interests of the Global South.
These values and qualities, which made him a global leader on climate change and development, shone through his every interaction with Degrees. He recognised the controversies of SRM but was adamant that scientists from developing countries should do their own research and develop their own expertise.
He didn’t shy away from difficult topics. Saleem was an early champion of climate adaptation at a time when it was highly controversial. His expertise was recognised by the IPCC when he became a lead author for chapters on adaptation in three different Assessment Reports.
He was one of the driving forces behind the establishment of LUCCC (the Least Developed Countries Universities Consortium on Climate Change) and provided guidance to Least Developed Countries negotiators in the UNFCCC.
These achievements won him international renown. Nature recognised him as one of the ten most influential scientists in the world in 2022, and the same year he was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) – a British honour given to people who make outstanding contributions to public life. This year he was appointed as one of only seven external members of a UN Scientific Advisory Board.
The Global South has lost one of its great champions. Despite his achievements and accolades, Saleem always remained kind and humble, and this is what we will miss most – the humanitarian, the mentor, and the friend.