Where does the green economy grow? The Geography Of Nordic Sustainability Transitions (GONST)

The new strategic narrative of green growth is increasingly adopted by governments across the world in their ambition and plans to green their economies. It allows environmental sustainability to be cast as a question of opportunity, rather than costly restraint. Still, the deliverance of green growth involves a transition where the economic and societal changes required are deep, structural and systemic, rather than marginal.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to greening and/or decarbonizing the growth path of an economy. This project puts centre-stage the place-based, context-dependent nature of the shift to green growth in the Nordic countries by asking the simple question: where does the green economy grow?

In addressing this question we foreground the importance of innovation, new industry formation and industrial renewal, and radical transformation of societal institutions. Conceptually we approach this shift to green, low-carbon growth paths as a socio-technical sustainability transition.

This process unfolds in a distinctively uneven way, where some countries and regions forge ahead, while others lag behind, depending on pre-existing strengths and specializations, conditioned by geographical, institutional and network contexts and influenced by entrepreneurial and policy agency. To contribute, empirically and theoretically, to the burgeoning work on the geography of sustainability transitions this project investigates why some regions instead of others successfully develop and implement low-carbon eco-technologies and industries.

This provides crucial insights for green growth policy-making. Cities and regions are acting like living laboratories of learning and innovation, localized spaces of eco-innovation in effect. Where these localized and collective learning experiments are successful, they can be scaled up and diffused nationally and internationally.

To explain the uneven development of new green growth paths across regions necessitates an understanding of how environmental (low-carbon) innovations are de-pendent on the skill sets of firms (WP2), processes of technological specialisation and diversification (WP3), actors' strategies and capacities for institutional change (WP4) and processes and practices in policy learning (WP5). Taken together, this will allow us to identify central inducing and blocking mechanisms and context conditions for new path development for green growth in Nordic regions (WP6).


Kyösti Lempa

Kyösti Lempa

Special Adviser