Going green isn't easy for every region

Shifting to a greener and efficient economy means changing our use of resources so that we no longer emit greenhouse gasses, avoid biodiversity loss and do not pollute the environment. This can lead to changes in labour market and require new skills for clean technologies such as renewable energy or batteries, or for transforming existing technologies towards sustainability. Some regions struggle with this transition because they have difficulty attracting investment, outdated infrastructure, a lack of entrepreneurial innovation or not enough people with the right skills. These challenges can make it more difficult for these regions to become environmentally friendly and at the same time more competitive. This could harm their economies by making them less attractive to businesses and leading to job losses. In the worst case, some regions could even experience a decline in their industries and workers moving away.
This interactive data story compares EU regions' share of employment in economic sectors that are systematically more competitive and sustainable based on the Regional Competitive Environmental Sustainability indicator.

The shift to green and competitive employment is on, but regional speeds differ

The transition to green and competitive jobs threatens to exacerbate regional inequalities, as green jobs accounted for 25% of employment in the more developed regions, but only 7% in the less developed regions in 2020.
How are green jobs measured?
The Regional Competitive Environmental Sustainability (RCES) indicator shows the share of employment in 56 NACE economic sectors that are systematically more competitive and sustainable than the EU median. Sectoral competitiveness is measured in terms of wages per employee, expressed in purchasing power standard, to allow comparison between regions. Sustainability is measured by greenhouse gas emissions per employee. Further details can be found in the information sources.
Regional variation by NUTS2 region
In 2019, a year before the pandemic and therefore not yet affected by the economic downturn, 17% of jobs on average in the EU were in sectors that were both more competitive and more sustainable than the EU average. The proportion was highest in southern Germany, northern Austria, southern Ireland and southern Scandinavia, as well as in the capital regions. The share is much lower in regions of eastern Europe.
Use the map to explore the share of green jobs in your or other regions
TIPS: Zoom and click on the map on the right to select a region and see the exact share of green jobs (%). The maps of the Outermost Regions can be seen under the globe icon.
Trend between 2008 and 2020
Developed regions are better prepared for the transition. This is reflected on the share of innovative, green jobs. Between 2008 and 2020, the share of green jobs increased significantly more in the more developed regions than in the less developed regions or the transition regions, widening the differences between them. In the more developed regions, where per capita gross domestic product (GDP) is higher than the EU average, green jobs accounted for 19.6% of employment. This proportion rose to 26.3% in 2019, but fell to 25.3% in 2020, which is linked to job losses due to the pandemic. In less developed regions, where GDP per capita is below 75% of the EU average. However, green employment remained more or less stable at 6.5% between 2008 and 2020. In the transition regions, a slow increase in green employment from 9.8% in 2008 to 13.8% in 2019 can be observed.
TIPS: Use the graph on your left to observe the trends in green employment by level of development. Download or access the open data set using the menu - top right. Use this chart to explore the RCES values per NUTS region. 

What is the impact of cohesion policy on regional green employment?

The transition to more competitive regional economies is positively linked to investments co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the Cohesion Fund (CF) and the European Social Fund (ESF). These investments have supported restructuring towards more competitive, higher value-added sectors, which is particularly evident in the less developed regions that receive the most funding.
Improvements in sustainability are far less evident, suggesting that this is more difficult to achieve and that the transition to a low-carbon economy will require more time and additional efforts. Factors such as research and innovation, the quality of government and the skills of the workforce are important in this regard. Appropriate policy decisions, reforms and investments are essential to make the transition to a low-carbon economy and to adapt to the new realities in a way that simultaneously promotes employment, competitiveness and economic growth.

Cohesion policy support 2021-2027 to climate action / low carbon economy 
For the 2021-27 period, cohesion policy funding is delivering more that EUR 118 billion investment in climate action, including in renewables. This represents a significant contribution to EU climate goals in line with the European Green Deal, to secure a sustainable path towards a climate neutral Europe.

Explore the planned investment actions 2021-2027 by Member State in this climate action data story. The equivalent 2014-2020 Climate Tracking data story is on this link.  

Enterprises are directly supported under 2021-2027 Green Europe policy objective
The 2021-2027 programmes target nearly 90 000 enterprises for support under the Greener Europe policy objective and the Just Transition Fund. This interactive chart shows the distribution of these targets by EU Fund, country and programme.

In addition, 724 000 enterprise are supported to innovate and improve their competitiveness under the Smarter Europe policy objective in line with smart specialisation strategies.  Many of these strategies focus on low carbon economy themes. However, the green sectoral share of the Smarter Europe enterprise target is not provided by the programmes.

More information and data sources

This data story is extracted from the 9th Cohesion Report on Economic, Social and Territorial Cohesion in the European Union, (2024). Find out more about the Cohesion Report on this webpage.
The following sources were used:  
For more information on EU Cohesion policy go to Inforegio and to Kohesio for information on projects supported.
Author: Joachim MAES
Date of publication: May 2024