David Wachsmuth

Canada Research Chair in Urban Governance

Tier 2 - 2017-11-01
McGill University
Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council


Research involves

Analyzing how urban planners and politicians address governance problems that exceed city boundaries.

Research relevance

This research will lead to a better understanding of the possibilities and limits of local politics to address global environmental and economic challenges.

Can cities save the planet?

We live, so the expression goes, in an urban age. We also live in an age of environmental crisis. These two facts are now inseparable. In the face of climate change, natural disasters, and seemingly unstoppable urban expansion and suburban sprawl, the growing conviction of policy-makers and researchers across the globe is that the city is where the battle for the environment will be won or lost.

Cities are now key sites of global environmental politics because they will bear the brunt of environmental crises and they are where human societies can be shifted to more sustainable trajectories. But the success and failure of urban environmental policies do not respect city boundaries.

Dr. David Wachsmuth, Canada Research Chair in Urban Governance, will investigate the tension between city-centric local sustainability initiatives and the global and regional networks within which these initiatives are situated. What local political coalitions are assembled to advance or oppose urban sustainability agendas? What leads urban policy-makers to incorporate regional and global environmental concerns into local sustainability agendas, and what happens when they do?

Wachsmuth’s research focuses on the recent development of worldwide networks of urban sustainability policy. He will apply the same methodology of connecting local politics to global policy networks to investigate other pressing urban governance problems that exceed the boundaries of the city, such as an affordable housing policy and local economic development. 

His research will help policy-makers understand the possibilities and limits of local politics to address global environmental and economic challenges.