Diana Mitlin and David Hulme
It is with the deepest sadness that friends and colleagues of Professor Saleemul Huq OBE at the Global Development Institute, The University of Manchester mark his passing away on 28 October. Saleemul was an outstanding scientist (one of Nature’s ‘Top 20’ global scientists in 2022) who committed his early academic training in Botany towards the understanding climate change and its consequences alongside promoting policies and actions to reduce the negative impacts of climate change. For those of us at Manchester who had the privilege of working with Saleemul he will be remembered for his intellect, gentle nature, personal humility and generosity – with his time, his ideas and his companionship, especially when sharing fine Bengali food with his many visitors.
Saleemul made so many contributions to research, research capacity development and national/international policy on climate change. He was a lead contributor to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Reports and shared the IPCC Nobel Prize in 2007. He established the Bangladesh Centre for Advanced Studies (BCAS), a leading think-tank, and later the International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD) at the Independent University Bangladesh. These organisations have helped thousands of scientists and environmental mangers to develop their personal capacities and commit themselves to “making the world a better place”.
Alongside his scientific achievements as a researcher and a teacher, Saleemul had a well-honed understanding of international relations and politics. He made highly important contributions to UN agencies and groupings to ensure that scientists from developing countries (the G77, the UN’s LDCs and the V20 of countries facing the worst effects of global warming) had voice at international scientific meetings. He also fostered the capacity of scientists and politicians at the national level (in Africa, Asia, Latin America/Caribbean and the Pacific) to cooperate with each other and act together to change local, national and international policies.
Saleem had a high status as a pre-eminent climate change scholar and an equally high standing among governments in the global South for the work that he did to support more equitable climate change negotiations. However, he maintained a deep commitment to nurturing the contribution of community researchers and early career academics. He was renown for supporting the voices of grassroot activists at the International Institute for Environment and Developments annual Community Based Adaptation conferences. He was equally supportive of a wide range of professionals and academics who sought to advance climate justice and deepen the knowledge required to respond to the climate crisis.
Despite his enormous achievements Saleemul, as the Daily Star so accurately reported, “was as modest as he was brilliant”. At Manchester all of us who knew Saleemul send our sincerest condolences to his family, colleagues and friends. His was a life truly well-lived. We shall miss his sharp intellect, trust in humanity, advice… and welcoming smile.