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The ESPON 2013 Operational Programme
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Typology of regional green economic performance, 2010


data source and more Map: Territorial Potentials for a Greener Economy (GREECO), S&W
Data sources: GREECO Database 2013

  • There are large differences in green economic performance between South and East European regions and Northern and Western European regions.
  • Based on their natural assets, Nordic and Alpine regions are among the best performing regions.
  • Regions with the least green economic performance often have the highest risk of negative impact due to climate change.

Observations for policy

The green economic performance of a region is based on core dimensions of green economy such as territorial, economic, social and environmental assets and the economic sectors relevant to the green economy. This makes the degree of green economic performance inter alia related to the economic development of a region, with lagging regions performing lower in green economic aspects and prosperous regions displaying a higher degree of performance. It seems that it requires a certain degree of economic output to be able to put an emphasis on green issues. Likewise, it seems that investments in greening the regional economy might help improving in overall economic performance of lagging regions.

Policy-makers could reflect upon the differences and potential of territories across Europe and across territorial levels in the implementation of policies contributing to a green economy. A single region cannot achieve the needed changes on its own, but Europe as a whole, with its experience, track-record and economic power has a realistic chance to lead this transition towards a greener, more resource-efficient economy. Clear orientation and guidance through policy is needed for the transformation of the economy to a green economy. The EU and its Member States and regions could lead the way and set a positive example

Policy context

A greener economy is one of the pillars of the Europe 2020 strategy, expressed with its ÔÇťsustainable growthÔÇť priority and targets such as the 20/20/20 energy efficiency and renewable energy. The environmental concern is a horizontal issue across all EU policies, and the EU is a well-known lead actor when it comes to global environmental politics.

At the same time, territorial cohesion suggests the need to pay attention to territorial impacts, territorial differences and performances when designing and implementing sector policies. In line with this, the European Commission has the ambition to mainstream green economy objectives into all policy areas including Cohesion Policy as well as Common Agricultural Policy, energy infrastructure and Trans-European Networks and climate change adaptation policies.

Also the 6th Cohesion Report underlines the importance of the green economy. In the 2014 ÔÇô 2020 time period, two of the 11 thematic objectives of the EU Cohesion Policy specifically deal with a low-carbon economy and resource efficiency, therefore allocating money to save the environment will be easier. This is especially necessary in Southern Europe, which according to the 6th Cohesion Report is the most vulnerable area against climate change and have relatively lower green economic performance.

Map interpretation

The map shows the green economic performance of European regions. Not all regions perform equally regarding green economy. The green economic performance is highest in North and West Europe and lower to the South and East. This is measured based on five spheres covering the green economy (territorial, economic, environmental, social and the econosphere).

The combination of these spheres shows that regions in the Nordic Countries, Southern Germany, Austria and Switzerland perform best on green economic performance. Also regions in Ireland, Finland, the Netherlands, the UK, France and Spain, including Paris and Madrid are performing well. On the other hand, most Eastern European regions often have a low green economic performance because the performance in several of the five different spheres is below average. Going into further detail, urban regions tend to be stronger in the green economic performance than rural regions, although the differences are relatively small.

A different picture becomes apparent when going in depth on the regional performance per sphere of green economy. Nordic and Alpine regions have a high performance in the environmental sphere, as an outcome of high environmental and natural assets combined with low emission levels. Their picture is similar on the territorial sphere, as a result of high level of production of renewable energy and high land productivity, and on the econosphere, as they have a high economic output per energy unit used. On the other hand, Southern European regions suffer from high exposure to air pollution and Eastern European regions from low life expectancy. This explains the low performance of these regions in the social sphere and in overall green economic performance.

Concepts and methods

The map displays a typology of regional green economic performance at NUTS 2 level. The typology is an aggregation of indicators measuring five spheres describing the green economy. The distribution of the spheres in the aggregation is equal, i.e. each core feature contributes 20% to the overall performance of a region. Core dimensions of green economy are;

  • the territorial sphere, looking at combined result of renewable energies and land productivity, taking into account that territorial balance and cohesion for socio-economic development;
  • economic sphere, looking at the provision of green products and services by SMEs and the number of green patents pre billion GDP;
  • econosphere, looking at high economic output per energy unit used per CO2 unit emitted, taking into account the decoupling of economic growth and energy consumption;
  • environmental sphere, looking at high levels of environmental and natural assets combined with low emission levels;
  • social sphere, looking at low exposure to air pollution and relatively high life expectancy.

The aggregation into one single typology is done via techniques of multicriteria analysis. The indicators are first transformed from their raw values into standardised green performance values which range from 0 to 100. Subsequently the indicators are aggregated to indices for the five core spheres and for the overall regional green economic performance typology.

The typology of regional green economic performance is finally displayed as quantiles in the map.

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