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Global Ideas

Saleemul Huq, Climate Change Expert, Bangladesh

"I feel very very strongly and passionately about trying to prevent the poorest and most vulnerable people on the planet suffering because of the inability of the rich who cause the problem."

His steady, unerring delivery as he addressed a room of COP21 delegates from vulnerable countries spoke of a man with experience. And that he is. Writ large. The Bangladesh-born scientist has been taking part in climate talks since their birth all those years ago. This time round, he has come with a very clear message: the two degree target is not ambitious enough. "We say 1.5 degrees." The difference might seem slight to the unversed but little could be further from the truth.

"Global leaders should have a goal that includes all of the human beings on the planet and not exclude roughly a hundred million if we have a two-degree goal," he said.

Yet, given that recent debate has been trying to redraw what many now see as an elusive "two" to create a dodgy three in the hope that it will slip through more or less unnoticed, how realistic is it to be insisting on a lower cap?

For Saleemul Huq, who for all the quiet of his demeanor, is clearly alive with determination, it is a no-brainer. "We have enough money, we have the technology, but we do not have enough political will." And that, he insists, has to change.

Though he speaks for all vulnerable countries in the official forum, he is particularly vocal on his native Bangladesh, which is at extreme risk from the impacts of our changing global climate.

"We are already seeing salinization in coastal areas, we see people migrating from the coastal areas to the cities." Nonetheless Bangladesh is not sitting idle and waiting for someone to mop up the mess. "We are not just a vulnerable country, we are actually a very resilient country. We will survive. We will manage."

In part because, he says, awareness of climate issues is widespread, more so than elsewhere in the world, Huq explains. "Everybody there knows about it. Bangladesh has three private TV channels here at COP21. People at home are watching, and they want global action here in Paris."

And if he has his way, that is exactly what they will get. "I will do whatever I can to try and make the rich do what they are supposed to do. Sometimes they promise but they don't deliver. Now we make them promise and deliver."

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