Joan Fitzgerald


Joan Fitzgerald
Professor of Law and Public Policy
Expertise: Urban and State Economic Development, Urban Sustainability and Climate Change Policy and Planning, Workforce Development.
Courses Taught: Cities, Sustainability and Climate Change; Urban Economic Development; Climate Change Policy

Contact:, 617.373.3644, 337 Holmes Hall


  • Urban economic development
  • Urban sustainability planning
  • Workforce Development
  • Green economic development

Joan Fitzgerald is the Director of the Law and Public Policy Program at Northeastern University. Previously, Fitzgerald taught urban policy and public affairs at the New School University, the University of Illinois at Chicago, and Ohio State University.

Professor Fitzgerald is the author of Emerald Cities: Urban Sustainability and Economic Development (Oxford Univ. Press, 2010), which examines how U.S. and Western European cities are addressing the interrelated issues of global warming, energy dependence and opportunities for green economic development. This potential includes building new technology-based industry clusters, improving the efficiency of production in existing manufacturing processes, and creating well-paying green jobs in construction, manufacturing, and entirely new advanced technology sectors.

Emerald Cities builds on her co-authored 2002 economic development book, Economic Revitalization: Strategies and Cases for City and Suburb (see below), which examines how traditional economic development strategies can be used to promote more sustainable and equitable development. It also integrates questions raised in her second book, Moving Up in the New Economy (Cornell Univ. Press, 2006), which focuses on strategies for helping low-wage workers advance into better paying positions through skills upgrading.

She is currently working on two articles and an edited book series. The first article examines the relative influence of EU mandates and programs, national policy and local planning practices on the success of climate change planning in Stockholm and Malmö and discusses the relevance of the Swedish experience for US cities. The second article analyzes business involvement in urban climate change initiatives in US and European cities.

Fitzgerald and Ph.D. candidate M.J. Motta are editing a three-volume set, Cities and Sustainability, for the Routledge Critical Concepts in Urban Studies series.

She is organizing the Emerald Cities Network, an organization of universities supporting their cities in pursuing climate change initiatives and policies.


Emerald Cities

Professor Fitzgerald’s latest book, Emerald Cities,  focuses on how U.S. and Western European cities are addressing the interrelated issues of global warming, energy dependence and opportunities for green economic development.

An emerald city is one that is linking its efforts to be more sustainable or to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to an economic development agenda. There are a lot of top-ten lists of green cities out there, but what I’ve found is that the greenest cities aren’t always emerald cities and emerald cities aren’t always green.

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Moving Up in the New Economy

Fitzgerald’s book Moving up in the New Economy, examines the proliferation of low-wage jobs in strong economic times and the effectiveness of labor market intermediaries in securing career advancement for workers. The book will be published in the fall of 2005 by Cornell University Press. It is a Century Foundation book. Funding for the research was provided by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, and the Century Foundation.

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 Economic Revitalization

Professor Fitzgerald published Economic Revitalization: Cases and Strategies for City and Suburb (Sage) with Nancey Green Leigh in 2002. The book explores how social justice and environmental sustainability can be incorporated into urban and suburban economic development strategies.

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Selected Articles

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