The EU has set out to become the world's first climate-neutral continent, but how are its regions progressing towards this goal? A new report commissioned by the European Parliament assesses this question. It discusses how progress towards net-zero can be measured on regional level and identifies common barriers facing regional governments. The study is based on six case studies from EU regions that have successfully begun the journey towards net neutrality. For the report, Ecologic Institute provided conceptual input on how to define climate neutrality and on how to gauge regions' progress towards it. In addition, the team carried out the case study on industry decarbonisation in Plovdiv, Bulgaria.
In cooperation with ÖIR GmbH and Vienna University, Ecologic Institute has examined six best practices of successful transformation towards a climate-neutral future at regional level. The cases include:
- the Climate Action Roadmap of Päijät-Häme, Finland,
- the Climate Plan of Copenhagen, Denmark, with its aim to make the Danish capital climate neutral by 2025,
- the coal phase-out and economy transformation of Wielkopolska Wschodnia, Poland,
- the soft mobility initiative of the tourist region Werfenweng, Austria,
- the first-of-its-kind climate-neutral economic zone in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, and
- the promotion of climate neutrality in Graciosa, Portugal.
Based on the case studies, expert interviews and stakeholder input, the team distils key drivers, conditions and mechanisms for a successful transformation of regional economies – leading to concrete policy recommendations for the EU level on how to support in this effort.
The report finds that the main barriers for the transformation are the lack of involvement of citizens and the general attachment to the status quo. Internal issues such as the absence of targets and monitoring systems, and a lack of experts, know-how and resources also play a role. Internal capabilities, such as an openness to innovation and experimentation, experience in the development of strategies for climate neutrality and expertise within the region were found to be adequate solutions. Smooth and efficient use of available financing sources, inclusion of external experts and a gradual detachment from external funding were also found to be beneficial.
The European Green Deal (EGD) provides the blueprint for a transformational change toward a new economic model, with the aim to make Europe the first climate neutral continent in the world by 2050. To achieve this, ambitious policies, strategies and a targeted use of funds are needed. More importantly, this transition must be just and inclusive for all EU citizens and regions. And while regional, and local implementation play an important part in the funding period 2021-2027, most of the programmes and strategies under the EGD are implemented on a Member State level and so developments on regional and local level are difficult to assess. Defining regional “success” in the transformation towards climate neutrality is complex and involves socioeconomic issues such as GDP growth, employment rates, up- and reskilling of workers, innovation and poverty.