Joan Fitzgerald

Professor of Public Policy and Urban Affairs, Northeastern University
Chapter Member: Boston SSN

About Joan

Fitzgerald focuses on urban climate action and strategies for linking it to equity, economic development, and innovation. Fitzgerald points to leading cities in North America and Europe and offers strategies for lagging cities to accelerate their action. Fitzgerald's ongoing Climate Just Cities Project examines strategies for post-Covid urban climate action to emphasize equity. She blogs on viral inequality and urban climate action on Planetizen.

Fitzgerald's academic and consulting work has been supported by the Funders Network for Smart Growth and Sustainable Communities, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur, Annie E. Casey, Rockefeller Brothers, Rockefeller, Surdna, Century, and Robert Wood Johnson Foundations and the Urban Sustainability Directors’ Network. She has also conducted research for the U.S. Department of Labor, the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, the Boston Housing Authority and other government agencies.

In the News

"Massachusetts Lags on Banning Plastics," Joan Fitzgerald, The Boston Globe, September 25, 2023.
"No More Climate Legislation Needed; It’s Time for Action," Joan Fitzgerald (with Michael J. Walsh and Ted Landsmark), Environment / Opinion, CommonWealth, April 3, 2023.
Guest to discuss Boston Foundation’s Inaugural Boston Climate Progress Report on Policy tonight/GBH News, Joan Fitzgerald, March 3, 2023.
"Massachusetts Needs a Coastal Adaptation Agency," Joan Fitzgerald (with Julie Wormser and Jonathan Lamontagne), The Boston Globe, February 28, 2023.
"What Could Chill Heat Pumps," Joan Fitzgerald, The American Prospect, January 31, 2023.
"Boston, State Must Act on Home Heating Changes," Joan Fitzgerald, Opinion, The Boston Globe, November 30, 2022.
Joan Fitzgerald quoted by Sabrina Shankman, "Boston’s 2030 Climate Goal Is Out of Reach, a New Report Finds" Boston Globe, November 3, 2022.
Joan Fitzgerald quoted by Carey L. Biron, "Can U.S. Cities Use Climate Plans To ‘Undo’ Racist Legacies?" Context, November 2, 2022.
"Funding Urban Climate Justice," Joan Fitzgerald, Planetizen, June 7, 2022.
Joan Fitzgerald's research on "Climate Change: The Technologies That Could Make All the Difference," The Wall Street Journal, April 22, 2022.
Interview on How Infrastructure Bill Can Address Historic Inequality Joan Fitzgerald, NBC News, November 22, 2021.
"Preemption of Green Cities in Red States," Joan Fitzgerald, Planetizen, September 7, 2021.
"Removing Urban Highways Can Improve Neighborhoods Blighted by Decades of Racist Policies," Joan Fitzgerald (with Julian Agyeman), The Conversation, September 7, 2021.
"The Case for Taking Back Solar," Joan Fitzgerald, The American Prospect, March 24, 2021.
"Will Developers Block Clean Energy Standards?," Joan Fitzgerald (with Greg Copolla), CommonWealth, February 11, 2021.
"From Eco-Districts to Green Justice Zones," Joan Fitzgerald, Planetizen, October 27, 2020.
"Transitioning from Climate Justice Planning to Climate Justice Action," Joan Fitzgerald, Planetizen, August 10, 2020.
"Priorities for Mayors for a Green Post-COVID Recovery: Global Perspectives," Joan Fitzgerald, Commentary and Opinion, C40 Knowledge, 07/2020.
"Getting Rid of Fossil Fuels in Buildings ," Joan Fitzgerald, Common Weath, August 2, 2020.
"Racial Equity and Urban Climate Action," Joan Fitzgerald, Planetizen, June 7, 2020.
"Viral Inequality and Climate Justice," Joan Fitzgerald, Planetizen, May 7, 2020.
"Cleaner Air Should Not Require Sheltering in Place," Joan Fitzgerald, American Prospect, April 2, 2020.
"Cities on the Front Lines," Joan Fitzgerald, The American Prospect, December 5, 2019.


"Transitioning From Urban Climate Action to Climate Equity" Journal of the American Planning Association (2022).

Examines the climate action planning process for five U.S. cities that have recently updated their climate action plans to focus on equity: Austin (TX), Baltimore (MD), Cleveland (OH), Portland (OR), and Providence (RI). Identifies how planners and policymakers are making the climate action planning process more inclusive of marginalized groups and incorporating equity into the plan’s goals.

"Greenovation: Urban Leadership on Climate Change " (Oxford University Press, 2020).

Argues that too many cities are only implementing random acts of greenness that will do little to address the climate crisis. Calls for “greenovation”—using the city as a test bed for adopting and perfecting green technologies for more energy-efficient buildings, transportation, and infrastructure more broadly. Contends that while many city mayors cite income inequality as a pressing problem, few cities are connecting climate action and social justice—another aspect of greenovation. 

"Emerald Cities Urban Sustainability and Economic Development" (Oxford University Press, 2010).

Looks at how American cities are leading the way toward greener, cleaner, and more sustainable forms of economic development. Examines how investing in green research and technology may help to revitalize older industrial cities and offers examples of cities that don't make the top-ten green lists.

"Governing Green Stormwater Infrastructure: The Philadelphia Experience" (with Joshua Laufer). The International Journal of Justice and Sustainability 22, no. 2 (2016): 256-268 .

Discussses how many cities throughout the world are adopting green infrastructure techniques to reduce stormwater and sewer overflows into waterways, which is particularly problematic for places experiencing more frequent and severe rain events. Examines how governance of green stormwater implementation is proving to be as important as the techniques themselves.

"Eco-Districts: Can They Accelerate Urban Climate Planning? " (with Jennifer Lenhart). Sage Journals 34, no. 2 (2015): 364-380.

Examines that despite signing the Mayors Climate Change Agreement, few US cities have made significant progress in either climate mitigation or adaptation.