Advisory Group


Stephen Ross 
Honorary Chair, Advisory Group, WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities
Chairman, Related Companies

Stephen M. Ross is the Chairman and Founder of Related Companies. Mr. Ross formed Related in 1972 and today the company includes over 2,500 professionals. Related is one of the largest owners of affordable housing, has developed over $22 billion in real estate, and owns real estate assets valued at over $20 billion made up of best-in-class mixed-use, residential, retail and office properties in premier high-barrier-to-entry markets. Mr. Ross is also the owner of the Miami Dolphins.

Mr. Ross is Chairman of the Board of Directors of Equinox Holdings, Inc., serves on the Executive Committee and is a trustee of Lincoln Center, and is a trustee of New York-Presbyterian Hospital and the Guggenheim Foundation.

He is a director on the board of the Culture Shed and the Jackie Robinson Foundation and is chairperson emeritus of the Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY), the city’s leading real estate trade association. Mr. Ross is also a director on the board of World Resources Institute (WRI) and recently established WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities, an innovative new initiative to integrate urban planning, sustainable transport, energy and climate change, water resources, and governance.

Over the years, Mr. Ross has received numerous honors for his business, civic, and philanthropic activities. Most recently, he was a New York Power Player by the New York Times, the Most Powerful Person in New York Real Estate by the New York Observer, Multi-Family Property Executive of the Year by Commercial Property News, and Housing Person of the Year by the National Housing Conference. He also received The National Building Museum Honor Award, REBNY’s Harry B. Helmsley Distinguished New Yorker Award and the Jack D. Weiler Award from UJA. Crain’s New York named Mr. Ross one of the 100 Most Influential Leaders in Business and he was recognized by NYC & Company with their Leadership in Tourism Award. In 2013, Mr. Ross pledged to give more than half of his estate to philanthropic causes and charitable organizations through the Giving Pledge, a long-term global initiative created by Warren Buffett and Bill and Melinda Gates that aims to inspire deeper engagement in philanthropy and increase charitable giving globally.

Mr. Ross graduated from the University of Michigan with a Bachelor of Business Administration degree, from Wayne State University Law School with a Juris Doctor degree and from New York University School of Law with a Master of Laws in Taxation. In 2004, the University of Michigan renamed its business school the Stephen M. Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan and in 2011 the University of Michigan awarded Mr. Ross an honorary degree, Doctor of Laws.


Rohit T. “Rit“ Aggarwala 
Head of Urban Systems, Sidewalk Labs

Rit Aggarwala works on cities, transportation, and the environment, from the perspectives of former public official, policy expert, and historian.

Aggarwala works at Sidewalk Labs. Aggarwala is Adjunct Professor at Columbia School of International and Public Affairs.

From 2006 to 2010, Aggarwala was the Director of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability for the City of New York.  In that role, he served as the chief environmental policy advisor to Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, and led the development and implementation of New York City’s sustainability plan, PlaNYC: A Greener, Greater New York.  Mayor Bloomberg called him “the brains behind PlaNYC.”

Aggarwala’s achievements at City Hall included the passage into law of a landmark set of mandates that will make all large buildings in New York City more energy efficient, by requiring benchmarking, periodic energy audits and operations tune-ups, widespread lighting retrofits, and submetering for commercial tenants.  He also led the effort to make New York City’s 13,000 yellow taxis convert to hybrids, clean up the heating oil used in New York City’s buildings, and develop a greener construction code for New York.  He was also one of the architects of Mayor Bloomberg’s effort to bring congestion pricing to Manhattan, and served as the mayor’s point person on Building America’s Future, a coalition the mayor created with Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger of California and Governor Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania.  He has testified before the New York City Council, the New York State Assembly, and the United States Congress.

Prior to joining the Bloomberg Administration, Aggarwala was a consultant at McKinsey & Company, where he mainly served clients in the transportation and logistics industry in the United States and Europe.  In addition to work at the New York State Assembly and the Virginia Railway Express, he began his career at the Federal Railroad Administration.

He serves on several boards, including that of the Regional Plan Association; the Urban Green Council; the advisory boards of the Eno Transportation Foundation and New World Capital (a private equity firm); and is a trustee of St. Stephen’s School in Rome, Italy.

Aggarwala holds a PhD in American History from Columbia University, where he studied under Professor Kenneth T. Jackson.  His dissertation, “Seat of Empire: New York, Philadelphia, and the Emergence of an American Metropolis, 1776-1837”, looked at the causes that led New York to surpass Philadelphia as the leading city in America.  He is currently revising that manuscript for publication as a book.

Robin Chase
Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Buzzcar
Co-Founder and Former CEO, Zipcar

Robin Chase is a transportation entrepreneur. She is co-founder and former CEO of Zipcar, the largest carsharing company in the world; Buzzcar, a peer to peer carsharing service in France (now merged with Drivy); and GoLoco, an online ridesharing community. She is also co-founder and Executive Chairman of Veniam, a vehicle communications company building the networking fabric for the Internet of Moving Things.

She is on the Boards of Veniam, World Resources Institute, and Tucows. She also served on the board of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, the National Advisory Council for Innovation & Entrepreneurship for the US Department of Commerce, the Intelligent Transportations Systems Program Advisory Committee for the US Department of Transportation, the OECD’s International Transport Forum Advisory Board, the Massachusetts Governor’s Transportation Transition Working Group, and Boston Mayor’s Wireless Task Force.

Robin lectures widely, has been frequently featured in the major media, and has received many awards in the areas of innovation, design, and environment, including Time 100 Most Influential People, Fast Company Fast 50 Innovators, and BusinessWeek Top 10 Designers. Robin graduated from Wellesley College and MIT's Sloan School of Management, was a Harvard University Loeb Fellow, and received an honorary Doctorate of Design from the Illinois Institute of Technology.

Jamshyd N. Godrej 
Chairman of the Board, Godrej & Boyce Manufacturing Company Limited

Mr. Godrej is the former Chairman of Ananta Aspen Centre (previously known as Aspen Institute India), Chairman & Trustee of Ananta Centre. He is the President of World Wide Fund for Nature – India. He is the Chairperson of the Board of Directors of Shakti Sustainable Energy Foundation, India Resources Trust and Council on Energy, Environment and Water. He is a Director of World Resources Institute, USA and Director of Global Footprint Network, USA. He is also a Trustee of the Asia Society, USA. He is a member of Toyota Motor’s Global Advisory Board and Asia Pacific Regional Advisory Committee. He is the Past President of Confederation of Indian Industry and also the Past President of the Indian Machine Tool Manufacturers’ Association.

Mr. Godrej is the Chairman of the CII Sohrabji Godrej Green Business Centre. The Centre is housed in a LEED Platinum demonstration building which is the first green building in India and the greenest building in the world at the time when it was rated. The Green Business Centre is a Centre of Excellence for green buildings, energy efficiency, energy conservation, non-conventional energy sources, water policy, water conservation, etc.

Godrej and Boyce Mfg. Co. Ltd. manufactures and markets refrigerators; washing machines; air conditioners; office furniture; home furniture; security equipment for banks (such as safes, strong room doors, bank lockers, etc.) and for commercial establishments and homes; locks and latches, forklift trucks and warehousing equipment; process equipment for chemical, petrochemical, refineries and allied industries; precision tools for sheet metal, zinc, aluminium; real estate development.

The Godrej group are leaders in home appliances, consumer durables, office equipment, industrial products, consumer products and services.

Mr. Godrej is an ardent yachting enthusiast and has done extensive cruising along the west coast of India, the Baltic & North Sea, the Atlantic Ocean and in the Mediterranean Sea. The President of India conferred on Mr. Godrej the “Padma Bhushan” on 3rd April 2003. He graduated in Mechanical Engineering from Illinois Institute of Technology, USA.

Ede Jorge Ijjasz Vasquez

Ede Jorge Ijjasz Vasquez 
Senior Director for the Social, Urban, Rural and Resilience Global Practice, Urban, Rural & Social Development, World Bank

Ede Jorge Ijjász Vásquez is the Senior Director for the new Social, Urban, Rural and Resilience Global Practice at the World Bank Group. This Global Practice groups 600 professionals across the world working in a broad range of development issues, from social development and inclusion to disaster risk management, in cities, human settlements, and territories. He assumed this position on July 1, 2014, under a stronger institutional structure focused on ending extreme poverty by 2030 and boosting shared prosperity for the bottom 40 percent at the World Bank Group.

Before this, he was Director for Sustainable Development of the Latin America and Caribbean Region since November 2011, covering infrastructure, climate change, environment, social and rural development.

From 2007 to 2011, he was based in Beijing, where he managed the Sustainable Development Unit for China and Mongolia. Earlier in his career, he led implementation of the Bank’s environment strategy team, as well as water and sanitation projects in Central Asia, the Caucuses and the Russian Federation.

Mr. Ijjasz has a Ph.D. and a M.Sc. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in civil and environmental engineering, with specialization in hydrology and water resources. He is a Colombian and Hungarian national.

Zou Ji
Deputy Director, National Center for Climate Strategy and International Cooperation of China (NCSC)

Professor Zou Ji is currently the Deputy Director General of the China National Center for Climate Strategy Study and International Cooperation (CCSC).

Zou Ji is Professor of Environmental Economics and Management at Renmin University in Beijing. For the past 26 years he has worked as a professor, researcher and policy analyst focused on energy and climate change in China. He also served as a negotiator for China at U.N. Climate Talks during 2000-2009. Professor Zou has a B.S in environmental engineering, an M.S. in engineering economics from Tsinghua University and a Ph.D. in environmental economics from Renmin University. He has held visiting scholar positions at Harvard University and the London School of Economics.


Morten Kabell
Mayor of Technical and Environmental Affairs, Copenhagen, Denmark

Morten Kabell (born 1970) has a background as a teacher in Copenhagen schools as well as being party secretary for the Red-Green Alliance office of Copenhagen. In 1996 he became member of the Red-Green Alliance, and in 1997 he ran for local office in Copenhagen and got elected. From 2006- 2013 he served as party secretary at the Red-Green Alliance office of Copenhagen. Morten Kabell was the Red-Green Alliance spokesman in Copenhagen on traffic, climate and urban planning. In 2012 he became a member of the National Congestion Commission. In 2014 he became Mayor of Technical and Environmental Affairs of Copenhagen, and, the next year, 2015 he became board member of CPH City & Port Development.

Morten Kabell’s political expertise resides in the realms of green mobility, urban spaces and climate adaptation. Morten Kabell has dedicated his career to change the traffic in in Copenhagen so more people will use bicycles and public transportation. Additionally, he fights for less space for cars, parking lots, and advocates for room for new small green parks, larger pavements with room for cafe tables, and better conditions for pedestrians. All benefit for the city livability. Finally, in terms of climate, he is passionate about decreasing CO2 emission and focusing on sharing knowledge, methods and involving citizens around Europe. While the nations talk, cities must act.


Marcio Lacerda
Former Mayor, Belo Horizonte, Brazil

Marcio Lacerda is a businessman, married, with three children. He spent his childhood and his adolescence in Inhapim, Minas Gerais state and, when he was 17 years old, he moved to Belo Horizonte, where he studied at the Federal Technical School. Marcio Lacerda got his first job in 1965 at the Telephone Company of Minas Gerais.

He was a political activist during the military dictatorship.In 1975, he began a successful career as an entrepreneur, creating two telecommunications companies, with operations in 16 Brazilian states, plus Chile and Bolivia. In 2003, he became an executive secretary of the Ministry of National Integration.

From there, Marcio Lacerda's politcal career took off. April of 2007 to May, 2008, he was a Secretary of State for Economic Development of Minas Gerais. In 2008 he was elected as a Mayor of Belo Horizonte, and in 2012, he was re-elected in the first round to be the Mayor of the city. He was considered the best mayor of Brazil by Ibope and Datafolha institutes and indicated by the Foundation City Mayor as one of the best mayors in the world.

In 2014, the survey ‘Best City’ Index pointed Belo Horizonte as the best capital, through survey that examined 77 indicators. In April, he was elected president of the National Front of Mayors for the biennium 2015/2016. In 2015 he was elected President of the National Front of Mayors.


Charlotte Matthews
Vice President, Sustainability, Related Companies

Charlotte is the Vice President of Sustainability for Related Companies, a real estate owner and developer with over $10B of residential, retail, office and affordable housing property. In 2008, the company committed to building green exclusively, and has since completed 20 LEED Silver, Gold and Platinum properties and has over 30 LEED projects underway, including several neighborhoods. Charlotte’s major project currently is the Hudson Yards microgrid.

Charlotte is also Vice-Chair of the Real Estate Roundtable – Sustainability Policy Advisory Committee, a board member of IMT, a member of the New York Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) Market Design Working Group, and a member of the Real Estate Board of New York – Sustainability Committee. Recent engagements include teaching at Columbia University, in the GSAPP Masters in Real Estate Development program (2010-2014), co-chairing the Residential track of the NYC Building Resiliency Task, co-chairing the Construction Practices committee of the NYC Green Codes Task Force, and sitting on the US Department of Energy, Energy Efficiency Buildings Hub – Industry Advisory Committee. Previously, Charlotte co-chaired the Boston AIA Committee on the Environment, contributed to the development of DOE/EPA Lab21 EPC and LEED for Labs, and helped with the consolidation of LEED from multiple specialized rating systems into one for New Construction.

Charlotte’s career in green building began in an architecture firm and then moved through consulting and construction management into real estate development. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science from Brown University.

Dirk Messner 
Director, German Development Institute / Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik (DIE)

Prof. Dr. Dirk Messner has been working on globalization and global governance as well as on the transformation of nation states and governance under conditions of global change since the late 1980s. He has addressed the impact of China’s and India’s rise on processes of international politics and development policy, furthermore he has focused on the effects of climate change on global governance dynamics and socioeconomic development processes in Latin America and Asia.

Since 2003, he has been Director of the German Development Institute (DIE) and he has taught at the Institute of Political Science at the University of Duisburg-Essen. Previously he was Academic Director of the Institute for Development and Peace (INEF) at the University of Duisburg. Dirk Messner completed numerous research stays in Asia and Latin America in the past 20 years (e.g. Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Beijing University, Research Centre for the Developing World (RIS) in New Delhi, Sogang University, Seoul; CEPAL in Santiago de Chile, Buenos Aires, Montevideo, Universidad Autónoma in Mexico City, Universidad del Pacífico in Lima, Fundação Getulio Vargas in Rio de Janeiro), directed many international research programmes and thus created a close international research network.

He is Co-Chair of the “European Think Tank Group on International Development” established in 2009, where five leading European research institutes from Germany, the Netherlands, France, Great Britain and Spain coordinate their research programmes and prepare joint research and consultancy initiatives.

Dirk Messner is Vice Chair of the German Advisory Council on Global Change (Wissenschaftlicher Beirat der Bundesregierung Globale Umweltveränderungen (WBGU)), member of the China Council for International Cooperation on Environment and Development, which gives advice to the Chinese government on questions of economic and environmental policy. Furthermore, he is member in academic advisory councils of various academic organizations (e.g. Potsdam Insitute for Climate Impact Research, German Foundation for Peace Research (Deutsche Stiftung Friedensforschung), International Council for Sciences /Global Sustainability Research).


Clay Nesler
Vice President Global Energy & Sustainability, Johnson Controls

Clay Nesler is the Vice President, Global Energy and Sustainability for the Building Efficiency business of Johnson Controls. In this role, he is responsible for building and energy system technology strategy as well as government and industry affairs. He also leads the company’s global environmental sustainability council and is responsible for environment and sustainability practices across the company’s global manufacturing operations. Since joining Johnson Controls in 1983, Clay has held a variety of leadership positions in research, product development, marketing and strategy in both the United States and Europe.

Nesler serves on the board of American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy and the advisory group for WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities. He has also helped establish the Johnson Controls Institute for Building Efficiency and the UN Sustainable Energy for All Building Efficiency Accelerator.

Nesler received BS and MS degrees in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and is a co-inventor on twelve patents. He is a winner of the 2005 Corenet Global Innovator’s Award, the 2012 VERGE 25 award and received a 2015 Distinguished Alumnus Award from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Department of Mechanical Science and Engineering.

Eduardo Paes 
Former Mayor, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Chair of the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group

Eduardo Paes is the former Mayor of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He has dedicated his entire career to public service, starting in 1993 when he was appointed deputy mayor of the Jacarépaguá and Barra districts in Rio at the age of 23. 

In 1996, he was elected Alderman and went on to be elected to the Federal Chamber of Deputies in 1998. In 2000, he was appointed Rio´s Municipal Environmental Secretary where he refined his knowledge of environmental issues.

During his second mandate as a representative in Congress, in 2007, Paes was named Secretary of State for Tourism, Sport and Leisure and helped in the organization of the Pan American Games that were held in Rio. A year later, Mayor Paes was elected Mayor of Rio de Janeiro and on, October 7th 2012, he was re-elected in the first round for a second term.

Born in Rio de Janeiro on November 14, 1969, Mayor Eduardo Paes is a Law School graduate from PUC-Rio University. 


Sam Parker 
Director, Shell Foundation

Graduating from Oxford University in 1983, Sam Parker started his career in business, working for 6 years in the agrochemical industry, with a focus on Latin America. After a two-year break, working as a volunteer with street children in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Sam returned to business with 11 years at a UK-based commodity trading company. Following posts in London, Caracas, New York and Singapore, Sam was appointed Managing Director of the company’s Asian business. In 2002, he returned to the development sector with a role at the International Save the Children Alliance, leading the organisational development of its 30 national members. 2006, Sam joined Water & Sanitation for the Urban Poor (WSUP), as its first CEO. WSUP is a not-for-profit company, which brings together private sector and NGO expertise to address the pressing global challenge of delivering water and sanitation services to the growing number of people who live in urban slums. In 2014, Sam won a Skoll Foundation Award for Social Entrepreneurship. In 2015, Sam was appointed Director of the Shell Foundation, which co-creates and fosters the growth of social enterprises in the renewable energy, mobility and SME finance sectors.


Patrick Phillips 
Global CEO, Urban Land Institute (ULI)

Patrick L. Phillips is the Chief Executive Officer of the Urban Land Institute (ULI). Established in 1936, ULI is a global non-profit research and education organization with nearly 30,000 members representing all aspects of land use and development disciplines. Its mission is to provide leadership in the responsible use of land and in creating and sustaining thriving communities worldwide.

Since taking the chief executive position in 2009, Phillips has overseen an expansion of ULI’s global reach, particularly throughout Asia, guiding the Institute’s focus on creating thriving communities in rapidly urbanizing countries. Under his leadership, ULI’s program of work has grown steadily to encompass a variety of economic, demographic, societal and environmental issues that are reshaping urban development worldwide in the 21st century. To reinforce ULI’s delivery of high-quality services for members around the globe, Phillips guided the restructuring of ULI’s district and national council system and he worked with ULI’s volunteer leadership to overhaul ULI’s governance.

Phillips has a career in the economic analysis of real estate and land use that spans more than 20 years. Prior to his service at ULI, he was President and Chief Executive Officer of ERA AECOM (formerly Economics Research Associates). In that regard, he coordinated all aspects of ERA’s organization, strategy, business development, and service delivery. His own consulting practice focused specifically on the intersection of private investment and public policy. Phillips is a frequent speaker on urban development issues, and is the author or co-author of eight books and numerous articles.


Shirley Rodrigues 
Deputy Mayor for Environment and Energy, Mayor of London

Shirley Rodrigues was appointed as Deputy Mayor for Environment and Energy in October 2016. Along with Transport for London (TfL), Rodrigues works towards achieving the Mayor’s plans for tackling air pollution. This effort includes creating Low Emission Bus Zones and new charges for old and polluting vehicles. Supervising activities to generate low-carbon electricity and increase recycling rates, she's working towards the target of London becoming a zero-carbon city by 2050.

Rodrigues was previsouly the lead for the climate-smart urbanization strategy of The Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF). She was responsible for sourcing and managing investments to transform the way cities are developed to avoid the lock in of carbon-intensive and resource-inefficient lifestyles.

Before joining CIFF, Shirley was the Director of Policy at the Sustainable Development Commission providing policy advice and research on economic, social and environmental issues to the UK Government and Devolved Administrations.

Previously, as Head of Environment and Climate Change and as interim Executive Director for Development and Environment at the Greater London Authority, she provided policy advice to develop and implement landmark strategies for Mayor Ken Livingstone and Mayor Boris Johnson. These included climate change mitigation and adaptation, waste management and air quality as well as the Climate Change Action Plan and the environmental chapters of the London Plan. Key projects she helped implement include the London Low Emission Zone, Congestion Charge and programs to retrofit London’s residential and commercial buildings.

Before that Shirley held a number of roles in London local government where she supported local authorities develop new policies and infrastructure for London and raise standards and promote innovation in transport, urban planning and consumer protection.

Shirley sits on the Board of The C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group and on the Energy Foundation China Committee.


Janette Sadik-Khan 
Principal, Transportation, Bloomberg Associates

Janette Sadik-Khan served as Commissioner of the New York City Department of Transportation (NYC DOT) from 2007-2013, where she implemented an ambitious program to improve safety, mobility and sustainability, and ensure a state of good repair on the city’s roads, bridges and ferries. At Bloomberg Associates, she works with mayors around the world to reimagine and redesign their cities with innovative projects that can be developed quickly and inexpensively.

At NYC DOT, Janette oversaw a $2.8 billion budget, delivering transformative projects including the pedestrianization of Times Square and redesigning 2.3 miles of Broadway from Columbus Circle to Union Square; the planning and launch of seven Select Bus Service routes; and the nation’s largest bike share program. She added nearly 400 miles of bicycle lanes and installed 60 plazas across the city. She also developed and published New York City’s first-ever Street Design Manual and Street Works Manual, defining new standards for creating more resilient and attractive streets.

Before joining the Bloomberg Administration, she was a Senior Vice President at Parsons Brinckerhoff, an international engineering firm. Prior to that, she served as Deputy Administrator of the Federal Transit Administration.

Sadik-Khan is the chair of the National Association of Transportation Officials (NACTO), an organization of transportation commissioners in over 40 US cities, and is a member of the board of directors of both the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP) and the Regional Plan Association (RPA). She also sits on the Board of Trustees of Occidental College, from which she holds a B.A. in Political Science, in addition to a J.D. from Columbia University School of Law.

Mpho Parks Tau 
President, United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG)

Mpho Parks Tau was elected in October 2016 to serves as the new President for United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG). He previously served as the Mayor of Johannesburg, South Africa from 2011-2016, and he is a member of Africa National Congress. Prior to being the second democratically elected Mayor of Johannesburg, Tau served as Johannesburg Member of Mayoral Committee (MMC) Developmental Planning, Transportation and Environment and as Johannesburg MMC of Finance and Economic Development.

Sara Topelson
President, Urban Land Institute Mexico

Sara Topelso is President of the Urban Land Institute (ULI) Mexico. She is an Honorary Member of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and Honorary Member of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA). She begun her career as an architect in the Grinberg & Topelson Architects firm. During her career at Grinberg & Topelson, she developed projects in the fields of housing, industry, education, culture and low-income housing.

Most recently, she was Undersecretary for Urban and Regional Development for the Federal Government in Mexico. Previously, she was General Director of Urban Development for the Miguel Hidalgo District in Mexico City from October 2006 to January 2007. 

In 2003 she founded DOCOMOMO Mexico, with a group of historians and researchers and is currently President of the chapter. She was General Director of Urban Development the municipality of Huixquiluca, State of Mexico from 2003 to 2004. From 2001 to 2003, she was Director of Architecture of the National Institute of Fine Arts of Mexico; promoting conservation of 20th Century architecture through register, publications and exhibitions at the National Museum of Architecture. 

Ms. Topelson received her architectural degree from the National University of Mexico (UNAM). She is a Honorary Fellow of the American Institute of Architects, the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada, the Japan Institute of Architects, the Royal Institute of Australian Architects and the Associations of Architects of Nicaragua and Venezuela, a honorary member of the Royal Institute of British Architects and of the Spanish Council of Architects. Sara is an Academic Fellow at the Academia Nacional de Arqutiectura, and at the Academia Mexicana de Arquitectura.


Gino Van Begin 
Secretary General, ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability

Gino has been working for ICLEI for more than 15 years. In his roles as Regional Director for Europe (since 2002), Deputy Secretary General (since 2007) and Secretary General (since 2013), he has consistently worked towards ensuring ICLEI’s quality as a not-for-profit, responsible and forward-looking local government organization serving its 1,000 members at worldwide. 

He says: "Our goal is to lead in urban sustainability thinking. We generate novel proposals, search for innovative solutions, prepare new approaches, and are the first to act as new issues emerge. We help our Members to confront the realities of increased urbanization, adapt to changes in economic and demographic trends, prepare for the impacts of climate change and other urban challenges, and create livable cities. We guide our Members towards strategic policy development, sustainable planning frameworks, and comprehensive, integrated solutions."

In addition, Gino ensures that ICLEI takes every opportunity to decisively influence global negotiation processes and increase cities’ presence on the global stage in order to promote the sustainability agenda at all levels.

Before joining ICLEI, Gino worked in Russia for seven years as an advisor and as Team Leader at the EU-funded Environmental Centres for Administration and Technology in Kaliningrad and St. Petersburg. Prior to that, he worked in Brussels for five years at the European Commission, DG Environment.

Trained as a lawyer at the University of Brussels, Gino speaks Dutch, French, English, German and Russian.


Mark Watts 
Executive Director, C40 Cities Cities Climate Leadership Group

Mark Watts serves as the Executive Director for C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group. Prior to joining C40, Mark was the Director of Arup’s energy consulting team based in London. Focused on cities and sustainability, he lead Arup’s partnership with the C40 group of cities committed to tackling climate change.

Prior to joining Arup as a Director in 2008, he was the climate change and sustainable transport adviser to the Mayor of London, in which role the London Evening Standard described him as “the intellectual force behind Ken Livingstone’s drive to make London a leading light of the battle against global warming.”

He led the development of London's ground-breaking Climate Change Action Plan and the associated programme of projects to reduce London’s carbon emissions by 60% by 2025.

Mark was recently named by the International Council for Science (ICSU) as one of the “20 people we want to hear more from in the climate change debate”, alongside the Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, economist Amartya Sen, and former Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

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