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As our planet grows ever warmer, cities are especially vulnerable to the growing threat of extreme heat. In urban centers across the globe, congestion, the built environment, and intensive energy use can drive temperatures to dangerous highs.
With cities housing over 50 percent of the world’s population and producing around 70 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, urban leaders have a major role to play in addressing this climate driven challenge. They have to keep cities cool while using energy sustainably, and change built environments that trap heat. Disadvantaged communities are at the most risk, with limited access to green spaces, basic services like electricity, and the resources they need to adapt.
In view of this urgent challenge, chief heat officers in cities around the world are working to keep people safe from extreme heat. As part of the 2023 Global Shifts Colloquium, “Living with Extreme Heat: Our Shared Future,” join Perry World House and a panel of chief heat officers from three continents to discuss how to make cities more resilient to heatwaves. Representing urban centers in Africa, the Americas, and Europe, they will share their insights on how cities are leading the world in climate adaptation; what action on extreme heat looks like; and what can be learned from city initiatives to save lives elsewhere.
Jane Gilbert is chief heat officer in Miami-Dade County. She has over 30 years’ experience in public private partnerships, climate mitigation and adaptation, and urban resilience. Before joining the County, Gilbert served as the City of Miami’s first chief resilience officer for four years, where she led the climate and urban resilience strategy development and implementation for the City of Miami. Prior to public service, Gilbert led three nonprofits and managed environmental, social, and governance work for large corporations. She holds a bachelor’s degree in environmental science from Barnard College and master’s degree from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.
Eugenia Kargbo is chief heat officer in Freetown, Sierra Leone and was designated as one of Time100 Next 2022’s rising stars. Her professional career started in the banking industry, before serving as the sanitation lead at Freetown City Council, where she provided technical assistance to the sanitation department to ensure the attainment of strategic targets and milestones. Kargbo also worked alongside the Mayor’s Environment, Climate and Disaster Management Unit to address the urgency of climate change and disasters, prioritizing the most vulnerable communities. She has also served as a data analyst for the Presidential Delivery Unit and a human resources officer at the Mayor’s Delivery Unit. Kargbo has also launched a youth employment networking platform called NetworkMe SL, providing opportunities for skilled and unskilled youth to meet employers and access training. She holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Sierra Leone and a master’s degree from Unimak, Milan.
Eleni "Lenio" Myrivili is chief heat officer of Athens, Greece and was recently announced as the global chief heat officer to UN Habitat and Arsht Rock Resilience Center, working to bring solutions to extreme heat to cities in 60 countries around the world. Myrivili is also senior advisor for urban heat and a senior fellow at the Arsht-Rock Center at the Atlantic Council. She is currently a member of the EU Mission Board for Adaptation at the European Commission and co-chairs the steering committee of the Resilient Cities Network. Previously a tenured professor with executive experience in local government, she is an expert on urban resilience and extreme heat, and climate adaptation, national borders and cultural theory. Elected to city government from 2017 to 2019, she served as Athens’ deputy mayor for urban nature and climate resilience, where her work on heat resilience established Athens’ leadership in international urban climate change responses.
Surella Segú is chief heat officer in Monterrey, Mexico. Segú is a member of the National Housing Council and is also strategic advisor to the Secretary of Territorial and Urban Agrarian Development. From March 2013 to September 2016, she held the position of urban development manager at Infonavit, where she was responsible for the generation and implementation of urban strategies and regeneration programs in housing complexes with deteriorated and abandoned homes throughout the country; the development of measurement tools for housing deterioration; and comparative research on international best practices. Segú is a Loeb Fellow at the Harvard Graduate School of Design and holds a master’s degree from Columbia University and from the Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education. She has been a professor at the Universidad Iberoamericana, the Universidad Anáhuac, and the Universidad Centro.
Cristina Huidobro Tornvall is chief heat officer in Santiago de Chile. She has fifteen years of experience in project coordination in public policy, urban planning, and local development, both at the municipal and regional levels. Huidobro Tornvall is the head of the Resilient Urban Projects Unit of the regional government and is responsible for the implementation of the Resilience Strategy for the Santiago Metropolitan Region. She served as the city’s chief resilience officer for three years before taking on the role of chief heat officer. Huidobro Tornvall is an architect with a bachelor’s degree from the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile and a master’s degree from the University of Maryland.
Rebecca Leber is a senior reporter covering climate change for Vox. She currently serves on the board of directors for the Society of Environmental Journalists. Before joining Vox, she was an environmental reporter at Mother Jones and she has worked as an editor and staff writer at Grist and the New Republic. She is an award-winning journalist and has completed fellowships at Vermont Law School and CUNY Journalism School.
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