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November 12-15, 2024
Pennsylvania Convention CenterPhiladelphia, PA

Greenbuild's 2023 Keynote Speakers

See the lineup of main stage speakers who will bring global perspectives, inspiration, and share new insights at Greenbuild.

2024 keynotes are coming soon!

Today's Leaders Who Educate and Inspire

Greenbuild has a history of incredible speakers; President Barack Obama, Amal Clooney, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Paul Hawken, Jane Fonda and many more. 

Our goal in selecting these important voices is to source the truth tellers, forward thinkers and great minds of our industry so that we can gain from their knowledge and expertise. This year is no different.

Greenbuild 2023 Keynotes

Kal Penn, Actor, Writer, Producer and former White House Official

Kal Penn, Actor, Writer, Producer & Former Associate Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement.

Penn brought a unique perspective to Greenbuild, having worked both in the federal government, in the Obama White House, as well as Hollywood. His most recent work on the Bloomberg Green climate change docuseries, Getting Warmer, shines a necessary light on this enduring issue that the Greenbuild audience works every day to combat.

Penn is known for his starring roles in Designated Survivor, House, Mira Nair’s The Namesake, the Harold & Kumar franchise, and the Christmas comedy The Santa Clauses for Disney+. Earlier this year, he wrapped production on the Viacom/Paramount + comedy Surina & Mel and the Bloomberg Green climate change docuseries, Getting Warmer. This 12-episode docuseries, hosted by Penn, explores solutions to the climate crisis with a dose of humor and optimism. Penn also served as a guest host for The Daily Show following the departure of Trevor Noah earlier this year.

From 2009 to 2011, Penn took a sabbatical from acting to serve in the Obama/Biden administration, serving as the President's Liaison to Young Americans, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, and the Arts community. In these roles, he worked on various issues, including the Affordable Care Act, Pell Grants, arts and culture programs, the DREAM Act, rapid response to the BP Oil Spill, the earthquake in Haiti, and repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell.

He was a national co-chair for the Obama/Biden re-election campaign in 2012 and served on the President's Committee for the Arts and Humanities, focusing on arts education and cultural diplomacy, including the first-ever U.S. Government arts delegation to Cuba. Penn is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

His first book You Can’t Be Serious was released on November 2, 2021 from Simon and Schuster/Gallery Books. He also narrates the audiobook.

View the press release here

Ali Zaidi, National Climate Advisor, Biden-Harris Administration

Ali Zaidi serves as Assistant to the President and National Climate Advisor. In this role, he leads the White House Climate Policy Office, which coordinates policy development and President Biden’s all-of-government approach to tackle the climate crisis, create good-paying, union jobs, and advance environmental justice.  Zaidi is a longtime advisor to President Biden, having provided counsel and leadership on climate policy development, legislation, and executive action from day one of the Administration and on the Biden presidential transition and campaign.  Before his current role, he served as Deputy National Climate Advisor. 

During his time in the Biden-Harris Administration, Zaidi has led on efforts to re-establish U.S. climate leadership, set a national target to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 50-52 percent by 2030; deliver robust executive actions, including regulatory, investment, and procurement-based initiatives; and secure the largest legislative wins on climate in U.S. history, through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and Inflation Reduction Act.  Together these efforts have advanced the largest annual deployment of solar, wind, and batteries; brought together the U.S. auto sector around an all-electric future; tackled super-pollutants like methane and HFCs; bolstered domestic adaptation and resilience; and centered U.S. climate action around workers and communities, prioritizing good-paying union jobs and the critical work of environmental justice.

Zaidi joined the Biden-Harris Administration after serving as the state of New York’s Deputy Secretary for Energy and Environment and Chairman of Climate Policy and Finance, where he led the state's efforts on climate change — driving investment into infrastructure and innovation, empowering workers and communities, and boosting economic and environmental resilience.  Zaidi also taught graduate courses on technology policy and studied the fiscal and financial impacts of climate change as an adjunct professor at Stanford University.  During that time, Zaidi also co-founded Lawyers for a Sustainable Economy, a Stanford-coordinated initiative that equips sustainability-focused startups with pro bono legal services.

Zaidi brings the cross-sector and multi-disciplinary experience needed to deliver a whole-of-government response to the climate crisis.  During the Obama-Biden Administration, Zaidi served as Associate Director for Natural Resources, Energy, and Science for the Office of Management and Budget and as Deputy Director of Energy Policy for the Domestic Policy Council — helping to design and implement a wide range of domestic and international policies.  Zaidi has advised non-profits, including as a Trustee of the Natural Resources Defense Council, and counseled the private sector, as an attorney who helped launch a sustainable investment practice.

Zaidi immigrated from Pakistan and grew up outside Erie, Pennsylvania. He received an A.B. from Harvard University and J.D. from Georgetown University.

Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson, Marine Biologist, Policy Expert, Writer, and Co-Founder of the non-profit think tank Urban Ocean Lab

Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson is a Marine Biologist, Policy Expert, Writer, and Brooklyn native. She is co-founder of Urban Ocean Lab, a think tank for the future of coastal cities. She co-edited the bestselling climate anthology All We Can Save, co-founded The All We Can Save Project, and co-created the Spotify/Gimlet climate solutions podcast How to Save a Planet.

Recently, Dr. Johnson co-authored the Blue New Deal, a roadmap for including the ocean in climate policy. Previously, as executive director of the Waitt Institute, she co-founded the Blue Halo Initiative and led the Caribbean’s first successful island-wide ocean zoning effort. She also developed U.S. federal ocean policy at the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Dr. Johnson earned a BA from Harvard University in environmental science and public policy, and a Ph.D. from Scripps Institution of Oceanography in marine biology, with a dissertation on the ecology, socio-economics, and policy of sustainably managing coral reefs. The fish trap she invented to reduce bycatch won the first Rare/National Geographic Solution Search.

Dr. Johnson serves on the board of directors for Patagonia and GreenWave, on the advisory boards of Environmental Voter Project and Scientific American, and on the steering committee for the Ocean Justice Forum. Recent recognitions include, the Schneider Award for climate communication, the Time 100 Next Listand appointment to the Secretary of State’s Foreign Affairs Policy Board.

Her writing has been published widely, including in The New York Times, Washington Post, and Scientific American. Dr. Johnson’s forthcoming book has the working title What If We Get It Right?: Visions of Climate Futurism.

Ezra Klein, Columnist on the NYT opinion page, host of the award-winning "Ezra Klein Show" podcast, and author of the bestselling book, "Why We're Polarized"

Using his trademark depth of policy knowledge and academic research, Ezra Klein gives audiences a  systematic look at why American politics is so polarized, and what that polarization has done to electoral institutions, policymaking, and the media.

Klein is a columnist on the New York Times opinion page, host of the award-winning “Ezra Klein Show” podcast, and author of the bestselling book, “Why We’re Polarized.” Before that, he was the founder, editor-in-chief, and then editor-at-large of Vox, the explanatory news platform, which has won a bevy of awards and now reaches more than 50 million people each month. He was also a creator and executive producer of its hit Netflix show, “Explained.

Prior to starting Vox, Klein founded and led The Washington Post’s Wonkblog. He is also a columnist for Bloomberg News and a regular contributor/policy analyst for MSNBC. The Economist named him one of the “Minds of the Moment.” In 2011, TIME named his blog one of the 25 best financial blogs and the Society of American Business Editors and Writers named Klein as their 2011 Opinion Columnist of the Year. In 2012, GQ named him to their 50 Most Powerful People in Washington list and Esquire named him to their 79 Things We Can All Agree On list saying, “Ezra Klein gives economics columnists a good name.”

Expert Series Speakers

Greenbuild's Expert Series is an advanced dive into the critical topics facing today's sustainability leaders. Included in the Learning Pass, attendees gained an in-depth understanding of incorporating business models and partnerships to achieve systems-level change.

Donnel Baird, Chief Executive Officer, BlocPower

Workforce Development in Green Building – Scaling the Gap
Session Presenter 

Kate Wright, Executive Director, Climate Mayors

Mayors Showcase: Scaling Solutions to the Climate Crisis
Session Moderator

Daniel Rickenmann, Mayor, City of Columbia, SC

Mayors Showcase: Scaling Solutions to the Climate Crisis
Session Presenter 

Emily Kuhn, Mayor, City of Middleton, WI

Mayors Showcase: Scaling Solutions to the Climate Crisis
Session Presenter 

Ben Evans, Federal Legislative Director, U.S. Green Building Council

Powering the Green Building Future: Unveiling Key Opportunities and Policies of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) – An Expert Federal Perspective
Session Moderator 

Nina Albert, Commissioner, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration

Powering the Green Building Future: Unveiling Key Opportunities and Policies of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) – An Expert Federal Perspective
Session Presenter

Seth Hanlon, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Tax and Climate Policy, Department of the Treasury

Powering the Green Building Future: Unveiling Key Opportunities and Policies of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) – An Expert Federal Perspective
Session Presenter

Kathleen Hogan, PhD, Principal Deputy Under Secretary for Infrastructure, Department of Energy

Powering the Green Building Future: Unveiling Key Opportunities and Policies of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) – An Expert Federal Perspective
Session Presenter

Theodore Toon, MA, Senior Advisor for Building Decarbonization and Finance, Environmental Protection Agency

Powering the Green Building Future: Unveiling Key Opportunities and Policies of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) – An Expert Federal Perspective
Session Presenter