Keynote speakers

Dr. Debra Roberts, eThekwini Municipality, Durban

Debra founded and heads the Environmental Planning and Climate Protection Department of
eThekwini Municipality, Durban, South Africa and is co-chair of the IPCC Working Group 2.
Her key responsibilities include ensuring that biodiversity, natural resoursebase and climate
change considerations influence all aspects of planning and development in the city.

Zen and the Art of Urban Monkey Wrenching: A Practical Guide to a (more) Just and Sustainable City

Debra Roberts' talk at the Realising Just Cities conference:

What does co-producing a just and sustainable city mean for those who are tasked with doing it at the local level – as opposed to just talking about it at the international and national level? Three decades of experience in the city of Durban (South Africa) suggests that implementation of these urban ideals is a complex and messy process, often with an ill-defined, politically contentious and ever-evolving road map. At the local level ideological battles are still being waged over: the role of nature in the city; the possibility of moving to a greener economy in the face of political short-termism; the linkage between rural and urban; and whether the concept of resilience is the most appropriate metaphor for urban development in the 21st Century? This experience suggests that if we are to create or remake cities into just and sustainable spaces it is likely to require: decades of lobbying; the constant deployment of new tools; determined champions and the ability to manoeuver in the grey institutional spaces of local government. The challenge of this multi-scalar, multi-sector and multi-stakeholder transformation should not be underestimated if there is to be a new urban agenda that leaves no one or no place behind.

As a further introduction to Debra Roberts; Here is 'a talk about cities and climate change in the film embedded below (5:34)


Prof. John Robinson, University of Toronto

John Robinson is a Professor at the Munk School of Global Affairs, and the School of the Environment, at the University of Toronto; an Honorary Professor with the Institute for Resources, Environment & Sustainability at The University of British Columbia; and an Adjunct Professor with the Copenhagen Business School, where he is leading the sustainability component of their campus redevelopment process. Prof. Robinson’s research focuses on the intersection of climate change mitigation, adaptation and sustainability; the use of visualization, modeling, and citizen engagement to explore sustainable futures; sustainable buildings and urban design; creating partnerships for sustainability with non-academic partners; and, generally, the intersection of sustainability, social and technological change, behaviour change, and community engagement processes.

Engaging Futures: Creating Sustainable Cities

John Robinson's talk at the Realising Just Cities conference:

While work continues on national and international approaches to climate change and sustainability issues, much of the impetus and energy has shifted to the scale of cities, which will be the home to all global population growth over the next century. But what does it mean to create a climate friendly or sustainable city? This presentation argues that this implies going beyond traditional climate and sustainability policy levers to explore the potential for transformative change in the underlying development paths of a city. In turn this points to the need for much more fundamental levels of community engagement  and local experimentation than has been the case in the past. Following a discussion of how such engagement might be undertaken effectively, the presentation concludes with some thoughts on the role of the university in fostering transformative social change.

As a further introduction to John Robinson; Here is 'Are we the monsters?', John Robinson's talk at TEDx Stanley Park about regenerative sustainability and the role of universities (18:03)