Prof. Debra Roberts holds a PhD in urban biogeography and is currently head of the Sustainable and Resilient City Initiatives Unit in eThekwini Municipality (Durban, South Africa). She was a lead author of Chapter 8 (Urban Areas) and a contributing author to Chapter 12 (Africa) of Working Group II’s contribution to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
She was elected Co-Chair of Working Group II in 2015. Under her co-leadership Working Group II published the IPCC Special Report on Ocean and the Cryosphere in a Changing Climate (SROCC) in 2019 and contributed to the Special Reports on “Climate Change and Land” and “Global warming of 1.5°C in 2018. She was a member of the Scientific Steering Committee of the IPCC co-sponsored International Conference on Climate Change and Cities in 2018 and IPCC-IPBES co-sponsored workshop on “Biodiversity and Climate Change” in 2020. Prof Roberts co-led the Scientific Steering Committees of the IPCC-UNHabitat-GCom co-sponsored Innovate for Cities Conference and the IPCC-ICOMOS- UNESCO international co-sponsored meeting on Culture, Heritage and Climate Change, both held in 2021.
Prof. Roberts is an Honorary Professor at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in the School of Life Sciences and has been an advisor to the Global Commission on Adaptation, United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG) and the United Nations Secretary General’s 2019 Climate Summit. She was a member of the South African United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) negotiating team until December 2015, and has sat on various international advisory bodies focused on climate change issues in cities (e.g., the Rockefeller Foundation’s Asian Cities Climate Change Resilience Network and UN-Habitat’s 2011 ‘Cities and Climate Change’ Global Report). In 2019 she was included in a list of the World’s 100 Most Influential People in Climate Policy.