Dr Debra Roberts is currently head of the Sustainable and Resilient City Initiatives Unit in eThekwini Municipality in Durban, South Africa. Prior to taking up this post in 2016, she established and managed the Environmental Planning and Climate Protection Department of the same municipality for 22 years (1994–2016) and was selected as the city’s first Chief Resilience Officer in 2013. Dr Roberts was a Lead Author of Chapter 8 (Urban Areas) and a Contributing Author to Chapter 12 (Africa) of the Working Group II contribution to the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report. She was elected as Co-Chair of Working Group II for the IPCC’s Sixth Assessment cycle in 2015.
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). She was a member of the Sustainable Development Solutions Network Thematic Group on Sustainable Cities involved in mobilising support for the creation of a city focused SDG (SDG 11).
Dr Roberts was also a member of the Future Earth Engagement Committee until 2017 and is a fellow of the Watson International Scholars of the Environment Programme. In 2016 she was invited to deliver the Barbara Ward Lecture celebrating ‘Outstanding Women in Development’ at the International Institute for Environment and Development in London. She is an Honorary Professor at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in the School of Life Sciences, and is an advisor to the Global Commission on Adaptation. Dr Roberts has written widely in the fields of urban open space planning, environmental management and urban climate protection, and has received a number of awards for her work.