Dr Saleemul Huq is Director International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD) at the Independent University, Bangladesh. In this short interview, Dr Huq talks about his work and explains how those most vulnerable to the effects of manmade climate change are seeking recompense from the worlds greatest polluters.
Nick Breeze: Can you tell me the global region where you are working, what your objectives are and the kind of work that you are doing?
Saleemul Huq: I’m based in Bangladesh, which is in South Asia, but I also work across the least developed countries, which are 50 of the poorest countries int he world across Africa and Asia. I guess Bangladesh primarily and then the least developed countries as a group, rather than a geographic group.
NB: And what does your work entail with those regions?
Saleemul Huq: I have 2 types of interests and activities within the countries I work. I am focussed on adaptation and helping the countries to figure out how to adapt to the impacts of climate change, given that they are all vulnerable countries and poor countries as well.
Increasingly now we are looking at the issue of loss and damage, which is beginning to be a reality and not something of the future. But also in the negotiations I advise the group of least developed nations, they are a caucus group with the Chair now being Ethiopia.
I advise them on issues related to adaptation and also loss and damage in the negotiations.
NB: We are at the COP now. Is Loss and damage something you are raising?
Saleemul Huq: Absolutely. I think this COP in particular has, under the presidency of Fiji, the Prime Minister of Fiji himself is the President of this COP, even though we are in Bonn and physically hosted by Germany, has raised this issue because for the island nations loss and Damage is actually an existential threat for some of them.
I think in 2017 we have passed a tipping point in terms of attributability of events around the world to human induced climate change. So if we take the hurricane season in the United States, in the Caribbean, you know, they call it hurricane season, they have them every year, but they have never had 4 successive category 5 storms causing $300 billion worth of Loss and Damage.
South Asia in the Ganges River, we have the river flooding every year in the monsoon but this year we have had a one in a hundred year flood. This is unprecedented. So now we have tipped over into seeing human induced climate change causing additional Loss and Damage over normal weather events.
NB: Do you get push back from countries like us in Europe when you start raising Loss and Damage?
Saleemul Huq: Well we used to get push back. We resolved in COP19 something called the Warsaw International Mechanism on Loss and Damage. So they agreed to talk about it. It is a mechanism with an executive committee, it has a five year work programme.
So, the process in the UNFCCC of taking an issue on is to set-up a committee to examine the issue. It doesn’t necessarily solve the problem… and they are doing good work. I have nothing against the committee.
But the particular issue in this COP is the committee has produced a five year work programme which we are going to adopt here. It is by and large fine, but what we, the developing countries, are asking for is a bit more push to look at innovative financial mechanisms to deal with Loss and Damage.
At the moment the only one that developing countries seem to want to talk about is insurance. Which is fine but it doesn’t solve everything and for the most poorest and vulnerable countries, insurance is not really the most ideal tool to use.
NB: So what is the most ideal tool to use in your opinion?
Saleemul Huq: Well we from civil society, I am not a negotiator, I am not a negotiator so I can propose things and the negotiators can accept or not accept, we are saying that the time has come to put the polluter pay principal into practise.
In the context we have a set of maybe a few dozen very large multinational fossil fuel companies who are making billions of dollars of profits by mining the fossils and selling and burning that causing the loss and damage.
So we know who is causing it. They are companies and they are making profits out of it, so tax them! Let’s put a Loss and Damage levy on them and let the countries apply that levy and put the money into a Loss and Damage fund. They could probably raise billions of dollars that way.
NB: Do you think this is actually going to happen?
Saleemul Huq: We are not going to get it here but we are going to push for it. Maybe not COP23, made COP24, if not there then maybe COP25, but sooner or later they are going to have to do it. It is unconscionable for polluters to be allowed to profit from pollution and cause Loss and Damage to people around the world and we sit and do nothing about it. We let them get away with it.
NB: It really is profiting from destruction isn’t it?
Saleemul Huq: Precisely. They are making profits by killing people, it is as simple as that!