Nordic Green News: Clear-sighted insight, without green-tinted glasses

An internationals’ guide into what’s happening (and not happening) in the Nordic climate transition.

The Nordics are self-proclaimed leaders in climate and sustainability. In 2019, the Nordic Prime Ministers presented a common Nordic vision to make the Nordic region the most sustainable and integrated region in the world by 2030. Later, the Nordic Energy Ministers agreed that the Nordic countries should work together on initiatives where common Nordic action adds value, towards an innovative, competitive, job generating economy. Amongst other things, the focus should be to integrate more renewable energy, support the development and implementation of common Nordic electricity market, increase efforts in energy related research and innovation and seek greater policy influence on issues related to the European Green Deal. And once again, this April, the Nordic Environment Ministers pronounced that “When the time comes to kickstart the global economy again in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, it will be crucial to incorporate thinking about the green transition as an engine of recovery.”

Clearly, there is a strong political desire for ambitious announcements. But, how does that link to popular support for change, and what sort of policies do political leaders propose to drive such a fundamental change in their societies. Here the facts are more nuanced. According to a Nordic Council survey, while 80% say that they are worried about climate change, the amount of personal change that they contemplate is relatively small. For example, 90% of respondents had sorted their recycling, and 65% said that they have bought fewer items of clothing or bought more second-hand items. Just over half said that they have eaten more vegan/vegetarian food and used environmentally friendly transport. When asked what sacrifices they saw themselves doing in the future, most gave actions similar to today. This sentiment does not support the sort of societal transformation that leaders aspire to when promising the end of fossil fuels in just two decades. Hence, legislation that would force change is lagging. One example of this is the advice from Sweden’s Climate Policy Council recent audit of government policies: “None of the goals in the climate policy framework beyond 2020 will be achieved with current conditions and decided policies.

This is the conundrum in which green progress must live with in the Nordics. Policy-makers understand the issues and the scale of the challenge. But they also understand that voters are not particularly activated. Or asJean-Claude Juncker famously said of the Financial Crisis, “We all know what to do, we just don’t know how to get re-elected after we’ve done it.

Does this mean paralysis? Not necessarily, because just looking at the politics ignores businesses. And Nordic businesses are very active and engaged. Possibly this is due to a gentler brand of capitalism than in Anglo-Saxon markets. It could also be a thirst for innovation or just simply seeking new market opportunities. Probably it is a combination of all these factors.

This is the sweet spot that Nordic Green News aims to shine the light on. Some companies are world leaders, having created their own sector, such as Denmark’s Vestas in wind and Oatly, the Swedish company which has created a global market for ‘milk’ made from oats. Others were already large corporates, that pivoted their models to target the growing clean opportunity, such as Neste Oyj, Finland’s producer of biofuels or Norway’s Equinor, an oil producer, now aspiring to be world leading in wind energy in the North Sea. But far more are Nordic corporates that are building clean, green or sustainable into their regular practices. Take IKEA, which most people know as a seller of flat-pack furniture. Fewer think of it as a sustainable powerhouse retailing solar cells and vegan meatballs. Such corporates are taking their existing competencies and customer insights, and innovating to bring the right products to market at the right time. Once perfected in their home market, concepts are ready to take international, as Oatly has done.

This is our focus in Nordic Green News. Highlighting successful business models, interesting new products and possible technologies of the future so that the world can learn from what is being achieved at the frontier of sustainability in the Nordics. Follow us to receive our daily news via email, or check our website to search for your interests. From time to time we will add our opinion on issues via our editorial/blog.

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