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Between hand-outs and stand-outs: Opportunities for policy support for just green transitions 

This policy brief addresses the challenges and opportunities of the green transition in Nordic rural areas, emphasizing the need for more fair approaches. It underscores the significance of involving local communities in renewable energy projects. The urgency of climate change, economic shifts, and recent energy crises has highlighted the need for the green transition, with a particular focus on Nordic rural areas playing a key role in developing renewable energy. However, there’s concern that this transition might increase existing differences between urban and rural areas. Evidence suggests that people in rural regions feel they might be neglected, which could put fair green transitions and the achievement of climate goals at risk. The policy brief from the Just Green Transition in Rural Areas project emphasises the need to involve local communities in green projects to encourage a sense of ownership and fairness. It calls for early community involvement, clear communication, inclusive compensation strategies, recognition of non-monetary benefits, and using the flexibility of rural municipalities to their advantage. As Nordic rural areas face multiple changes, collaboration across different sectors is vital to ensure fairness and effectiveness in green initiatives, potentially making rural areas pioneers rather than followers in the transition. The policy brief is based on the case study report “Can local value creation induce a sense of justice during green transitions? A study of six rural areas in Denmark, Finland, and Norway.”

Rooting for the Rural: Changing narratives and creating opportunities for Nordic rural youth

This policy brief delves into the importance of understanding and supporting the priorities of young people in Nordic rural regions to ensure these communities thrive. It highlights the importance of addressing challenges that keep youth from staying in rural areas and engaging with those unsure about their future there. Serving as a comprehensive guide for policymakers, the policy brief contextualises the report from the Nordic rural youth panel “From Fields to Futures: 40 action points for rural revitalisation”. The brief examines academic discussions, prevalent narratives, and youth engagement efforts, emphasising the Nordic Rural Youth Panel’s 40 proposed actions to revitalise rural areas. The paper investigates what young people need and want, their aspirations and ideas, and the solutions they present to policymakers that could attract them back to rural areas. It also explores ways to create and enhance opportunities for rural youth to realise their potential and contribute significantly to their communities, thereby changing the existing narratives about young people in rural areas. Lastly, the policy brief stresses the importance of considering diverse youth perspectives in policymaking to promote inclusive and sustainable rural development in alignment with the Nordic Vision.

Can local value creation induce a sense of justice during green transitions? A study of six rural areas in Denmark, Finland, and Norway

Nordic rural areas risk alienation due to top-down green transition measures that often overlook their unique needs and challenges. This report suggests early local engagement, transparent communication, and regional ownership of energy projects can foster trust, ensure equitable benefits, and better integrate projects with local aspirations. The accelerating impacts of climate change, the need to adapt to changing economic and political realities, and the recent energy crisis have made the green transition something that most Nordic citizens acknowledge. However, especially rural areas and their communities are at risk of being reduced to passive instruments of national green transition measures featuring heavy land-use. These conditions make it very difficult to create a sense of justness in green transitions, leading to growing sense of alienation and resentment and putting the national climate goals in danger. From this starting point, the case studies of the research project “Just Green Transition on Rural Areas: Local Benefits from Value Creation” set out to examine what kind of benefits would generate value from green transition measures in the direct impact zone of new energy projects. The case studies took place in three Nordic countries and six locations: in Northern Ostrobothnia and Northern Central Finland of Finland, involving wind power and land use planning; in Nord-Fron and Nord-Odal in Norway, involving both wind power and strategic sustainability work; and in Skive and Bornholm of Denmark, involving a hybrid mix of renewable energy sources in the context of industrial park development.  The results highlight the importance of local involvement and trust in green energy transitions in Nordic rural areas. Neglecting local needs can cause resistance to renewable projects. Early engagement, transparent communication, and ensuring local benefits are vital. While monetary benefits attract attention, relying solely on them can create community divisions. A blend of community engagement, environmental benefits,…

Facilitating cross-border transport infrastructure planning in the Nordic Region

This publication analyses the formal and informal barriers to developing cross-border transport infrastructure and how these barriers could be reduced. Transport infrastructure, historically, has been a cornerstone for industrialisation, economic growth, regional development and labour market mobility in the Nordic Region. Despite the ambitious Nordic vision of becoming the most integrated and sustainable region in the world and the increasing need for cross-border transport infrastructure, several studies point to difficulties and challenges regarding the Nordic cross-border transport infrastructure planning.  The study features interviews with planners on their practical experiences and suggestions for developing well-functioning transport infrastructure. The study includes cases of the fixed HH link between Helsingborg and Helsingør; the Stockholm-Oslo rail link; and the link from Mo i Rana, via Hemavan and Umeå, across the Kvarken Strait to Vaasa. 20 June: How can cross-border planning of the transport infrastructure be strengthened in the Nordic region? The Nordic cross-border transport infrastructure planning topic will be discussed in the webinar organised by Trafikverket on 20 June. Anna Lundgren, Senior Research Fellow at Nordregio, and the project manager, will present the study, cross-border challenges and opportunities. The study and planning practices will be discussed by Stefan Engdahl, Planning Director, Maria Öberg, Strategic planner at Trafikverket, and Maria Stockhaus, Member of the Swedish Parliament, member of the Transport Committee and the Nordic Council’s Swedish delegation. The event will be held in Swedish. Registration is open by 20 June. About the project This report is the second and final report in the project titled NORDINFRA – “Nordic transport infrastructure planning – institutional barriers and opportunities for coordination” (Nordisk transport infrastrukturplanering. Institutionella hinder och möjligheter till samordning) (2021-2023). NORDINFRA is a research project led by Nordregio and conducted by researchers from Nordregio and Umeå University, financed by the Swedish Transport Administration (Trafikverket). The aim of…

Overview of Electricity and Energy Capacity for the Establishment of Electric Aviation Routes in the Nordic Region

This report explores which routes in the Nordic Region will be suitable for establishing electric aviation according to two factors: energy demands of airports and regional power adequacy. The report is part of the Nordregio project Electric aviation and the effects on the Nordic Regions and substantially builds on the project’s Accessibility study. The Accessibility study identified 203 airports in the Nordic Region as feasible for accommodating electric aviation, on the basis of savings in transport time, connecting rural areas with urban or other rural areas, and overcoming cross-water distances or other geographical obstacles. It is impossible to clarify the energy capacity and infrastructure adequacy of all 203 airports within the scope of this report. Consequently, a regional perspective on the power adequacy is applied for the report assessments. This will assist in the selection of reasonable case studies, which will be explored in the next stages of this project, for the first generation of electric aviation in the Nordic Region. It is important to emphasise that power conditions and connections of local distribution grids differ within regions, as does the energy demand of airports. Standard conditions of battery electric airplanes, power demands, and charging infrastructure are described in the following chapters, with an aim to understand requirements for power capacities and infrastructure to adequately support electric aviation.

Essential Service Provision and Access to Services in Nordic Rural Areas

This policy brief explores the challenges facing service provision in Nordic rural areas due to societal and demographic changes, climate change, and globalization, and highlights the need for adapted approaches to service provisions. The policy brief analyses essential service needs and solutions to rural service provision challenges in the Nordic region through case studies and workshops. The publication finds that these changes have a broad impact on rural service provision beyond traditional welfare services, with some gaps still existing. Financial constraints and labour shortages remain major issues in rural service provision. The policy recommendations include providing better guidance and resources for prioritizing delegated tasks at the national level, supporting remote working opportunities, establishing a service fund for local investments, assisting regions in adapting services to climate change, and recruiting people from abroad to combat financial restraints and labour shortages at the local level. Additionally, the recommendations suggest utilizing local and regional strategic planning tools, encouraging dialogue between different levels of government and local businesses, and enhancing collaborations between regions and municipalities. Finally, the policy recommendations emphasize delegating tasks to local levels for optimal efficiency.

Innovation Dynamics in Wood Construction in Sweden and Finland

The rapid developments in wood-construction and the huge expectation built around the potential of ‘greening’ the construction sector by replacing concrete and steel with wood provide our empirical ground to study the drivers of innovation. This publication provides the results of a case study on the construction sector transformation process triggered by the emergence of wood-based construction in Sweden and Finland, particularly of multi-storey buildings. We especially aim at reconstructing the micro-processes leading to innovations and breakthroughs in the market. Interviews with a variety of stakeholders have contributed to a reconstruction of a historical overview of some of the main events and drivers decisive for the industry’s development, from far past industrial and policy-driven steppingstones to more recent developments. In our analysis, we zoom into the more granular microprocesses that become evident when examining the interactions between actors within and beyond their formal roles. The publication is one of the outcomes of the project titled “Systems perspectives on Green Innovation (GRINGO)” that explores the bottlenecks to innovation and the green transition from a systemic perspective. The project focuses on uncovering the links between agency and innovation, particularly regarding the role of different ‘change agents’ in driving transition processes. The previous step of the project consisted on exploring key concepts, their application, and their theoretical foundations within innovation and policy traditions. It concluded in the Discussion Paper: A conceptual review on the systems perspectives on green innovation, published in September 2022. The paper touches upon the academic discussion that has developed around the drivers of innovation. The debate breaks away from the simplistic structure-agency divide, which attributes causality either to structures (rules-of-the-game) or agency (actors), to consider the complex interplay between actors, formal and informal institutions, and contextual conditions determining innovation. These theoretical perspectives then guided the second step of the…

Accessibility study for electric aviation

Which routes in the Nordics would benefit most from using electric aviation? The accessibility study compared travel times of various routes by the electric aircraft and the fastest transport mode currently in use. This was done to understand where the implementation of electric aviation could offer the largest accessibility gains. Explore the results in the storymap. The Nordic region shares many similar accessibility challenges for remote and rural regions. Citizens in some of these regions have limited access to public services, work opportunities and the larger national and international transport system. In addition, companies and public administrations have difficulty attracting skills to the regions. The geographical characteristics of some of these areas, such as large bodies of water, vast forest areas, long coastal lines, mountain ranges and fjords, limit mobility to and from these areas. Poor road quality or limited public transport also worsen the situation. Some of these places are therefore more accessible by airplane than by other modes of transport and would experience a significant reduction in travel time using airplane as compared to other modes of transport, such as train, bus or car. However, the expansion of the aviation system varies among the Nordic countries. This accessibility study is a part of the project  Electric Aviation and the Effect on Nordic Regions , which aims to investigate how regions and local areas in the Nordic area will be affected by the implementation of electric aviation. One of these aims is to understand where the implementation of electric aviation could offer the largest accessibility gains. This accessibility study will therefore investigate which routes benefit most in terms of time saved travelling from one point to another using electric aircrafts in comparison to the current fastest transport mode. 

Service provision and access to services in Nordic rural areas

Service provision is one of the key factors that make rural areas attractive and viable. Recent and ongoing developments, such as migration flows, digitalisation and the effects of climate change influence service accessibility and perceptions of which services are essential for everyday rural lives. It is therefore relevant to investigate service provision and access to services from different perspectives. This report presents results based on in-depth field work in eight case studies of rural areas identified as having high access to services or as good examples in their national and regional context: Lolland, Suðuroy, Kinnula, Avannaata, Múlaþing, Herøy, Vimmerby and Geta. The aim of the field work has been to investigate service provision and validate the results of a research and policy review focusing on Nordic rural areas. The investigations presented in this report focus on the following questions: Which services are considered essential, and how does that vary in rural areas across the Nordics? How are services provided, what roles and responsibilities are involved in their provision? Which challenges are encountered, and what solutions are being developed to solve challenges associated with access to essential services in Nordic rural areas? In answering these questions based on the eight case studies, the report aims to create knowledge and inspire actors in and around the Nordic rural areas. The answers can be read as a source of inspiration in their own right. The case study descriptions also enable a cross-Nordic comparison, aimed at identifying common patterns and unique Nordic innovations regarding rural service provisions, from which others can learn. It is therefore possible to gain an overview of the report solely from the cross-Nordic comparison.

Ålands strukturfondsprogram 2014-2020: Utvärderarnas slutrapport 2022

The Åland structural fund programme “Entrepreneurship and skills” for the period 2014-2020 was approved in December 2014 by the European Commission. The programme focuses on two priority intervention areas, “Entrepreneurship and Innovation” (ERDF), and “Inclusion and skills” (ESF). The programme’s objective is to develop knowledge and improve skills in working life, increase employment, enhance productivity and innovation capacity, renew and diversify Åland’s business community, and contribute to a well-educated, equal and active inclusive society. The evaluators assess that the programme has played a significant role in supporting regional development on Åland, especially during the pandemic where financial support was provided to people and businesses to help kickstart the recovery of society. According to the provincial government, the programme has reached about 10% of Åland’s population through activities and liquidity support. However, the general experience, both among the interviewees and the evaluators, is that the effects of the programme are mainly long-term and results will be visible in a few years. Consequently, it is difficult to measure the short and medium term impacts of the programme. According to the evaluators’ assessment, the programme has also contributed to achieving the goals of the Europe 2020 strategy – for smart, sustainable, and inclusive growth. By granting projects, the programme has contributed to the development of smart solutions and the development of skills on Åland in a way that also promotes inclusion. The evaluators recommend the following measures for the upcoming programme period regarding the Åland structural fund programme’s implementation and follow-up: Learn from the experience of implementing the Åland Structural Fund programme during a crisis period. Managing authorities need to ensure that indicators and objectives are clear and are not set too high or low. Provide information, advice, and training to project owners on collecting and reporting data on programme indicators. Invest in…

Discussion paper: Nordic overview of national support initiatives in urban planning

The Nordic countries share many cross-sectoral targets at the national level to meet ambitious environmental, social, sustainable, and innovative development goals and standards. These require actions to be taken in city-regions and urban areas. Nevertheless, central governments in the Nordic countries oftentimes have limited power to influence local-level priorities when it comes to spatial planning – regulating land-use and adopting a range of policy areas that have an impact on sustainable urban development. This discussion paper considers the ways in which the Nordic planning systems have evolved to incorporate measures for green and sustainable urban development over time. It provides an overview of relevant national planning support initiatives that have been selected based on information from members of the Nordic Thematic Group for Green and Inclusive Urban Development (2021-2024) and further research. The publication also reflects on the research questions: how are the issues, objectives and goals related to sustainable urban development emphasised in national support initiatives in the Nordic countries? how are the national support initiatives complementing and colliding with municipal and regional spatial planning? what are the key comparative aspects across the national support initiatives from which all the Nordic countries can learn and draw inspiration? Read and download the discussion paper here.