The Climate Change and Role of Cities Conference took place in Conference Room 8 at the UN headquarters in New York. It was one of the first meetings that took place at the UN after the Covid pandemic closures. There were speakers and audiences from all over the world because it was our first hybrid flagship conference.

Climate change represents an unprecedented threat to our future. Climate change includes global warming driven by human-induced emissions of greenhouse gases and the resulting large-scale shifts in weather patterns. Though there have been previous periods of climatic change since the mid-20th century, humans have had an unprecedented impact on Earth’s climate system and caused change on a global scale.

In spite of the challenges, cities, and governments led by innovative leaders in planning for climate change have brought hope to saving the planet. This conference has invited a cross-section of thinkers, stakeholders, and players from each continent for an exchange of case studies on planning for climate change and a discussion of the critical role of design in planning cities in the future. Each city faces unique challenges, but all must address the shift from fossil fuels to new green energy technologies to meet critical zero-emission goals. How are cities coping with extreme heat, storms, and flooding? What are their unique plans? How have they succeeded? What were the roadblocks?  What can we learn from each other? were some of the questions addressed at the conference.

Collaborating organizations

UN-Habitat, UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, AIA New York, AIANY Planning & Design, the NGO Committee on Sustainable Development-NY, Habitat Professionals Forum for Sustainable Cities, Perkins-Eastman, Creative Exchange Lab, Global Urban Development (GUD) and Columbia Center for Buildings, Infrastructure & Public Space.


May 18, 2022, 10:00am – 1:00pm
UN Headquarters, New York

Hybrid Meeting Co-Sponsored by the UN-Habitat Office in New York and the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA). Three sessions, each meriting one CEU credit hour, take place at the United Nations Headquarters Building on Wednesday, 18 May 2022. The focus of the first session is on Green Buildings; the second session is devoted to issues pertaining to Sustainable Mobility; the third and final session is centered on energy policy and initiatives. Below is a list of speakers and learning objectives for the three separate sessions.


H.E. Mr. Burhan Gafoor, Permanent Representative of Singapore to the United Nations

Ms.Danei Cesario, CSU Board Member

Mr. Shaun Donovan, former United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development
Mr. Rogier van den Berg, Acting Global Director WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities
Mr. Kai-Uwe Bergmann, Head of Business Development, Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG)

Learning Objectives for Session 1

  • Participants will be able to describe the relationship of buildings to climate change, greenhouse gas emissions and how green building technologies have a positive impact on meeting zero emission goals.
  • Participants will be able to illustrate how Federal policies in the US and municipal budgets, in particular North American urban centers, have addressed the challenges of incentivizing green buildings.
  • Participants will be able to discuss the objectives, achievements, and specific examples to be seen in some of the 100+ cities where the Ross Center for Sustainable Cities of the World Resources Institute has been working from Ahmedabad to São Paulo.
  • Participants will be able to illustrate how since 2005, the built projects of the Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), from Copenhagen to New York, have helped define and stretch the limits of what is possible in meeting climate challenges through design.


H.E. Mr. Michal Mlynár, Permanent Representative of Slovakia to the United Nations

Ms. Anna Rubbo, Ph.D., Center for Sustainable Urban Development, Columbia Climate School

Mr. Jan Gehl, Hon. FAIA, Founding Partner, Gehl Architects
Mr. Jeremy Yap, Deputy Chief Executive, LTA, Singapore
Mr. Arturo Adrila-Gomez, Global Lead Urban Mobility & Lead Transport Economist, World Bank
Ms. Porie Saikia, FAIA, FCIOB, RIBA, Director, Environmental Sustainability and Compliance (MTA NY)

Learning Objectives for Session 2

  • Participants will be able to describe the relationship of buildings to climate change, greenhouse gas emissions and how green building technologies have a positive impact on meeting zero emission goals. Will be able to discuss the action research methodologies of the Global Studio and how the lessons learned from work on urban connectivity in Istanbul, Vancouver, Johannesburg, and Bhopal have informed the current efforts of the Center for Sustainable Urban Development of the Columbia Climate School.
  • Participants will be able to illustrate the specific ways in which, since 2000, the work of Gehl Architects in cities around the world, including Copenhagen and New York, has helped improve the quality of urban life by reorienting city design towards the pedestrian and cyclist.
  • Participants will be able to identify the commitment of the New York City Metropolitan Transit Authority to sustainable public transportation through its construction of climate-resilient transportation systems, the increase in energy efficiency of its fleet and facilities, and its reduction of carbon footprint by taking people out of cars and putting them on mass transit.
  • Participants will be able to describe the way sustainable transport has a key part to play in fostering inclusive growth, expanding access to essential services, combating climate change, and, specifically, how the World Bank works with client countries to provide safe, clean, efficient, and inclusive mobility.


H.E. Ms. Rhonda King, Permanent Representative of St. Vincent and the Grenadines to the UN (tbc)

Ms. Serpil Guran, Ph.D., CSU Board Member

Mr. Ed Mazria, FAIA, Founder and CEO, Architecture 2030  
H.E. Mr. Tunç Soyer, Mayor of Izmir  
Mr. Claude Letourneau, CEO, Svante, Inc.

Learning Objectives for Session 3

  • Participants will be able to describe the relation of energy issues to climate change, greenhouse gas emissions and how green building technologies have a positive impact in meeting zero emission goals.
  • Participants will be able to describe why we must eliminate all CO2 emissions from the built environment by 2040 to meet 1.5-degree climate targets and how the latest insights from Architecture 2030 help align the architectural, planning, and building community and political leaders around the urgency to achieve a 50-65% reduction in CO2 emissions from the built environment by 2030 and zero CO2 emissions by 2040.
  • Participants will be able to discuss the way the City of Izmir (Turkey), with the support of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and the Green Cities program, has compiled a Green City Action Plan (GCAP), including a list of the environmental investments and policy actions most suited to addressing the municipality’s environmental challenges.
  • Participants will be able to illustrate how Svante, Inc., based in Vancouver, is creating world-changing solutions that address climate change and accelerate the global transition to carbon neutrality, reversing human impact on the environment.


Ms. Aliye P. Çelik

Ph.D., CSU Board Chair

Aliye Pekin Çelik, Ph.D., is the immediate past President of CSU. Prior to founding CSU, Ms. Çelik was instrumental in establishing innovative participatory mechanisms to build alliances addressing some of the world’s most pressing concerns in developing countries as the Chief of Economic, Social and Inter-organizational Cooperation Branch, UNDESA, and the Director of the New York office of UN-HABITAT. She served both in UN-HABITAT Nairobi and New York, working on building technologies, sustainable urbanization, energy, and gender issues, and represented UCLG at the UN.

Ms. Andrea Lamberti

FAIA, AIA NY President

Ms. Andrea Lamberti is the President of the American Institute of Architects (AIA), New York. She has led and overseen a wide range of projects through all phases of work, from master planning and brief development to scheme design, detail design, and construction administration. Her experience with clients in the education, research, and healthcare; cultural, performing arts and civic; and commercial and corporate sectors has taken her across the United States, working on projects in Arizona, Maryland, Michigan, and New York City, and around the world including the United Arab Emirates, China, and Singapore.

Ms. Anna Rubbo

Ph.D., Center for Sustainable Urban Development, Columbia Climate School

Ms. Anna Rubbo is a Senior Scholar at the Center for Sustainable Urban Development, The Earth Institute housed at Columbia University. Before joining Columbia University, Anna taught Architecture at the University of Sydney. A member of a UN Task Force to improve the lives of slum dwellers, in 2005, she went on to lead Global Studio, a project to assist urban professionals in working effectively with the urban poor. From 2013-15 she headed up People Building Better Cities, an exhibition shown in 10 countries. In 2018 she launched Accelerating the SDGs, a project that began with a City Maker Survey. Stage 2 invited local projects that considered the SDGs.

H.E. Mr. Burhan Gafoor

Permanent Representative of Singapore to the United Nations

Amb. Burhan Gafoor is the Permanent Representative of Singapore to the United Nations. He was elected the Chair of the UN Sixth Committee in 2017. Before his appointment as Permanent Representative, Mr. Gafoor served as High Commissioner to Australia. He was Singapore’s Chief Negotiator on United Nations climate change negotiations from 2010 to 2014.

Mr. Christopher Williams, Ph.D.

Director, UN-Habitat New York Office

Mr. Chris Williams is the Director of the New York Office of UN-Habitat, the United Nations agency responsible for affordable housing and sustainable urban development. He is a development practitioner with over twenty-five years of experience working in international organizations in Africa, Asia, and the Americas. Prior to UN-Habitat, Mr. Williams served as Executive Director of the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC) in Geneva, empowering over 20 million people to end the practice of open defecation and invest in sanitation. Earlier at UN-Habitat, he held senior positions in fund management, political affairs, program management, policy advocacy, and applied research.

Mr. Claude Letourneau

CEO, Svante

Claude Letourneau is an industrial projects veteran who is the CEO of Svante. Previously,Claude held senior management roles with Canam Group Inc., SNC-Lavalin Inc., and Kontron Embedded Computers AG. He also founded two technology companies, Vaperma, Inc.(membrane-based gas separation) and Avestor Inc. (thin-film lithium polymer battery)

H.E. Mr. Collen Vixen Kelapile

President of the Economic and Social Council

Ambassador Kelapile was elected the seventy-seventh President of the Economic and Social Council on 23 July 2021. He is currently the Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Botswana to the United Nations in New York. Ambassador Kelapile has an accumulated career of 26 years in multilateral diplomacy, both as a government representative and intergovernmental expert, and is also a former United Nations (UN) Secretariat staff member

Mr. Dan Hart

FAIA , AIA President

Dan Hart is the Executive Director of Architecture at Parkhill and the 2022 National President of The American Institute of Architects (AIA). Hart has held a number of AIA leadership positions. He was the moderator of the AIA Strategic Council in 2016 and served on the AIA National Board of Directors. While on the board, he chaired the AIA Board Knowledge Committee and AIA Public Outreach Committee, as well as co-chaired the AIA COVID-19 Business Task Force. He also served as president of the Texas Society of Architects in 2011.

Ms. Danei Cesario

AIA CSU Board Member

Danei Cesario is the 333rd Black woman in American history to earn her architectural license. She is currently an Associate at SOM, leading dynamic mixed-use development and healthcare wellness projects. She served as Chair of AIA New York’s Diversity & Inclusion Committee for over five years. She currently serves on the AIA New York State Board and as a contributor to>national and international organizations such as the Beverly Willis Architecture Foundation, Parlour, Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust and nycobaNOMA Executive Board.

Mr. Ed Mazria

FAIA, Founder and CEO, Architecture 2030

Edward Mazria is an internationally renowned architect, author, researcher, and educator. He is the founder and CEO of Architecture 2030. His innovative architecture, planning projects, and research, programs, and advocacy with Architecture 2030, has garnered him numerous awards, including Lifetime Achievement Award, The Purpose Prize, Mumford Award from Architects/Designers/Planners for Social Responsibility, National Wildlife Federation National Conservation Achievement Award, Game Changers Award from Metropolis Magazine, American Solar Energy Society Pioneer and Horace Greely Abbot Awards, World Green Building Council Chairman’s Award, AIA Kemper Award, Lifetime Achievement Awards from the National Council for Science and the Environment and Design Futures Council, Consortium for Sustainable Urbanization’s President Award, and the 2021 AIA Gold Medal, to name a few.

Mr. Jan Gehl

FAIA, Founding Partner, Gehl Architects

Jan Gehl is a Danish architect MAA & FRIBA, and urban design consultant based in Copenhagen. He is a founding partner of Gehl Architects, an urban research and design consultancy. Gehl is Professor Emeritus of Urban Design at the School of Architecture in Copenhagen. Gehl has been awarded the Sir Patrick Abercrombie prize for exemplary contributions to town planning by the International Union of Architects as well as an honorary doctorate from Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh.

Kai-Uwe Bergmann

Partner, Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG)

Kai-Uwe Bergmann is a Partner at Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG). Kai-Uwe heads up BIG’s business development which currently has an office working in over 20 different countries as well as overseeing BIG’s Communications. Kai-Uwe most recently contributed to the resiliency plan The Dryline to protect 10 miles of Manhattan’s coastline. He compliments his professional work through previous teaching assignments at the University of Florida, the New School of Architecture in San Diego, and his alma mater, the University of Virginia. Kai-Uwe also sits on the Board of the Van Alen Institute, participates on numerous international juries, and lectures globally on the works of BIG.

Mr. Lance Jay. Brown

FAIA, CSU President

Lance Jay Brown is the President and founding Board Member of CSU. He is a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects and former Chair and Director of the Spitzer School of Architecture, City University. He was the 2014 AIA New York Chapter President, holds the title of Distinguished Professor for Life Emeritus from the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA), and received the coveted AIA/ACSA Topaz Medallion for Excellence in Architectural Education. He presented at the UN World Habitat Forums 5, 7, 9, and 10, and consults, teaches, and lectures nationally and internationally.

Ms. Maimunah Sharif

UN Under-Secretary-General, Executive Director, UN-Habitat

Ms. Maimunah Mohd Sharif of Malaysia is the Executive Director of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN‐Habitat), appointed by the Secretary‐General following an election by the General Assembly on 22 December 2017. Prior to her appointment as Mayor of the City Council of Penang Island, Malaysia, she was the first woman to be appointed as President of the Municipal Council of Seberang Perai in 2011

Ms. Marion Barthelemy

Director, OISC, UNDESA

Ms. Marion Barthélemy is the Director of the Office of Intergovernmental Support and Coordination for Sustainable Development of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA). Before joining the Division, she was Director of the Division for Public Administration and Development Management, in DESA, from 2016 to 2018. From 2012 to2016, she served as Chief of the Intergovernmental Support Branch at the Division for Sustainable Development at the same Department. In this capacity, she was part of the team supporting the negotiations on the 2030 Agenda.

H.E. Mr. Michal Mlynár

Permanent Representative of Slovakia to the United Nations

Ambassador Dr. Michal Mlynár has been the Permanent Representative of Slovakia to the United Nations in New York since August 2017. He has been a Vice Chair of the UN Peacebuilding Commission (PBC) for 2021. During the 73rd session of the UNGA (2018-2019), together with the Permanent Representative of Jordan, he served as co-Chair of the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Revitalization of the work of the General Assembly

Ms. Mona Rady, Ph.D.

Chairperson of Habitat Professional Forum

Mona Rady is the Chairperson of the UN-HABITAT Professional Forum (HPF), and recently, she became a Member of the Advisory Committee on sustainable urbanization of the PGA President of the UN-general assembly 76th session. She set up the Art & Architecture house for Planning and Architecture, which has been working for the last 20 years on planning and designing new sustainable and affordable residential settlements and the design of contemporary Egyptian houses.

Ms. Nancy Vandycke, Ph.D.

Program Manager, Transport Global Practice, World Bank

Dr. Nancy Vandycke is an Economic Advisor in the Infrastructure Transport Global Knowledge group within the World Bank. Currently, Nancy leads a portfolio of innovative global programs, including the Sustainable Mobility for All (SuM4All) initiative. In recognition of her thought leadership on the transport-energy nexus, Nancy was invited to serve as a member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Council on Advanced Energy Technologies. She was named one of the top global influencers by the German-led Transforming Urban Mobility Initiative (TUMI), showcasing remarkable women in transport

Ms. Porie Saikia

FAIA, FCIOB, RIBA, Director, Environmental Sustainability and Compliance (MTANY)

Ms. Porie Saikia is the Director of Environmental Sustainability and Compliance at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority NY (MTANY). She is a fellow of the American Institute of Architects, Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Building/UK as well as its Ambassador for the Americas, Chartered Member of the Royal Institute of British Architects. She has been identified by the American Jewish Committee (AJC) as an Indian American Leader to promote global collaboration and appointed to the New York State Transportation Advisory Panel for the Climate Action Council of the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act in 2020.

Mr. Rogier van den Berg

Director Ross Center for Sustainable Cities, WRI

Rogier van den Berg is Acting Global Director for WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities. Van den Berg is an urban planning and urban development specialist, architect, former entrepreneur, and academic who most recently led UN-Habitat’s Urban Lab. Earlier, he was a founding partner of the architecture and planning firm Zandbelt & Vandenberg, where he led a broad portfolio of urban planning and strategy, and he also served as head of the Amsterdam Academy of Architecture’s Master of Urbanism program.

Ms. Serpil Guran, Ph.D.

Director of the Rutgers EcoComplex CSU Board Member

Dr. Serpil Guran is the Director of the Rutgers EcoComplex. Dr. Guran was formerly a Research Scientist at the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection for 13 years, most recently with the Office of Economic Growth and Green Energy. Prior to that, she was a Research Scientist at Princeton University in the Mechanical-Aerospace Engineering Dept. and at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, CO.

Mr. Shaun Donovan

Former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development

Shaun Donovan is the former U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. Donovan previously served as the director of the U.S. Office of Management and Budget under the Obama administration. Donovan also served in the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development during the Clinton administration and was New York City’s Housing Commissioner prior to becoming the secretary of housing and urban development.

H.E. Mr. Tunc Soyer

Mayor of Izmir

Mr. Tunç Soyer was elected as the Mayor of Izmir Metropolitan Municipality following the March 2019 municipal elections. In 2013, he was appointed Vice President of Cittaslow, an international network of cities for the good life. Since 2014, he has served as President of the Board of Directors of the Association of Social Democratic Municipalities (SODEM), and in 2019 he was a member of the Board of Directors of United Cities and Local Governments(UCLG).


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