Can the Baltic Region become a Green Growth Hub?
The Baltic region has potential to become a leader of green growth if the region increases cross border co-operation. But the political will has to be present if this goal is to be reached.
The world stands before a major transformation from a fossil fuel economy to a green economy which builds on renewable sources of energy. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has stated that global greenhouse gas emissions should be reduced by 80-95 in the developed part of world if we are to have a chance of staying below a 2 degree rise in global temperature. This is needed in order to prevent some of the most devastating effects of climate change (sea rises, extreme weather phenomena, droughts etc).
Unfortunately the international climate negotiations at the yearly Conference of the Parties (COP) meetings have so far not delivered the results necessary to stay below this 2 degree threshold. The roadmap which is currently on the table foresees action to be taken only in 2020, five years after it is too late according to the IPCC.
Thus if we are to prevent climate change we have to rely on a more bottom up oriented approach. Enterprises, cities, countries and regions have to go ahead and show that it is possible to make the green transformation in a way that will not be an economic burden but rather an advantage because of the lower expenses to oil, carbon and gas and because of the green jobs that will be created in the process.
The green potential of the Baltic region
The Baltic region has the potential to become a green leader. This would require a larger degree of co-operation between the different countries of the region. But it would pay off environmentally and economically.
The Baltic region countries: Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Estonia, Lithuania, Germany and Poland, are all members of the European union and are therefore obliged to live up to the EU’s so called 20-20-20 targets. These targets entail that the EU in 2020 will reduce the greenhouse gasses by 20 % compared to 1990, make sure that renewables constitute at least 20 % of the energy consumption and increase the energy efficiency by 20 %.
Even though each EU- member state has specific target (some are more ambitious than others) in order for the EU to live up to the overall 20-20-20 targets, the policy will naturally push the all Baltic region countries to move on the green agenda.
Dr Christian Ketels from Harvard Business School points in his 2012 “state of the region report” to a number of strengths the Baltic region should activate in order to realise its green growth potential.
Firstly, the countries in the region should learn from each other. Some of the countries in the Baltic region are already frontrunners when it comes to renewable energy and energy efficiency. Denmark, Sweden and Germany all get a relatively large share of their energy from renewables, while other countries such as Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland still have a relatively low share of renewables in their energy mix. It is imperative that the countries in the region exchange knowledge on renewables, energy efficiency and grid systems with each other.
Secondly, the Baltic region has a large amount of natural resources that can be used for renewable energy. These resources are unevenly distributed (forest in Sweden and Finland, water in Sweden, wind in Denmark, and biomass from manure from agriculture especially in Denmark, Poland and Lithuania etc), but can and should be brought into play in order to boost the green growth.
Thirdly, the territorial coherence of the region allows for co-operation on smart grids. Denmark, Sweden and Norway already co-operate on grids in order to exploit each others’ renewable energy sources as much as possible. This co-operation could be expanded to other parts of the region.
Challenges for green growth
The Baltic region has great potential and if co-operation is strengthened it is possible for the region to establish itself as a green growth hub. However, the political will has to be there. And lately a country like Poland (which is a very central country in the region) has made it a challenge for the EU to speak with one voice when it comes to the enabling of the green transformation on a global scale, blocking EU consensus in the COP-negotiations and also struggling against the EU’s efforts to raise the bar for its own climate policy. This of course poses some challenges for the Baltic region if it is to kick-start green growth.
Of course we have to take into account national constraints and the fact that some countries are further ahead of others when it comes to green technology and the use of renewable energy. But at the same time it is paramount that the region works together on the green agenda instead of working against it. In the end this will mean more green jobs and growth for all the countries in the region.
We should work for a Baltic region that stands together in order to make the green transformation. The potential is there. Let’s hope the same goes for the political will.