Remembering two cherished friends who left us too soon

The work of Citizens’ Climate International is all about people. We believe a livable future is a human right, and we are determined to support people of good will coming together to protect others, including future generations, from the preventable impacts of climate destabilization.

We wish to remember here two important allies who contributed in important ways to our work, and who have left us too soon.

Saleemul Huq was a driving force for progress on climate action and defense of the vulnerable, for decades. He was a scientist, researcher, campaigner, and adviser to governments, negotiating groups, civil society organizations, and change-making coalitions. He mentored many who now lead, and helped secure the new Loss and Damage Fund.

Saleem was generous with his wisdom and his time, and kindly joined the founding Advisory Council for the Citizens’ Climate Engagement Network. He helped us design the Engage4Climate Toolkit, to support the convening of meetings where any stakeholder could have a say in climate policy. His guidance helped us create the multilayered organizing and empowerment strategy to welcome a global network of advocates and allies to the daunting work of facing down an existential planetary threat.

He understood the stakes, not only for the Earth system, for nature and for regions, but for the most underserved people and communities. Saleem asked all of us to work toward outcomes that would be not only climate-resilient and sustainable, but just and conducive to the everyday thriving of all people. His steady, unpretentious leadership will be dearly missed; his many students and allies will carry on his world-building work.

Sam Terblanche was a brilliant and dedicated intern for Citizens’ Climate International. He was wise beyond his years and a vital part of our team who filled others with hope for the hard work ahead. Sam was bright, inspired, and also humble and focused. He worked hard, laughed with colleagues, and helped more experienced climate advocates learn more about the work they were engaged in.

Sam was the kind of young leader Saleem would welcome to the table, empower with responsibilities, and support in turning his values into cooperative climate action. He fearlessly took on complicated issues related to economics, the environment, and human rights, knowing that it was critical to get things right to create conditions for a future of shared sustainable thriving, for the benefit of countless people who would otherwise face devastating hardship.

While we mourn the loss of our friends and colleagues, we also know they would want us to keep our eyes on the challenge that focused their energies. Just a week ago, the 2023 State of the Climate report was released, and it brought together critical science on planetary boundaries and Earth system vital signs, building on the IPCC’s vital 6th Assessment Report. The State of the Climate report finds that we are “entering uncharted territory” in terms of the human relationship with the Earth system, that massive human suffering is already happening now, and getting worse, and that food systems and entire societies could face collapse as global heating advances and related impacts accumulate.

The report also found that:

“By the end of this century, an estimated 3 to 6 billion individuals—approximately one-third to one-half of the global population—might find themselves confined beyond the livable region, encountering severe heat, limited food availability, and elevated mortality rates because of the effects of climate change (Lenton et al. 2023).”

Saleem was a co-author of this report, and his message in the face of such worsening alarm calls was consistently that: We must find ways to work together, we must advance clear evidence and dare to move the global community toward the responsible actions mandated by underlying moral duty, and by common sense. Sam would take on this news with a moment of sobering thought, and then get straight to work adjusting our efforts for higher ambition. He reminded us that being a team makes it much easier to face this overwhelming challenge.

As we watch climate disasters unfold, and people around the world experience climate damage in real time, we will remember Saleem and Sam, the heart and mindpower they devoted to helping others, and stay focused on moving the world toward a future in which we can still achieve climate-resilient, shared prosperity.