A Baltic Sea Region in the circular economy or a green-tech giant?

In today’s interconnected and constantly changing world, things happening in one place have an impact on other places, influencing developments and territories. Therefore, the choices of today matter for territories and the people of tomorrow. Looking at different future pathways can be enlightening for policy design and implementation.

Territorial foresight and territorial scenarios are a useful tool to explore such future pathways, inspiring out-of-the-box thinking and bringing an added value when it comes to dialogue on policies affecting the territorial development. Territorial scenarios do not predict the future; they provide a plausible description of future developments based on coherent assumptions. They raise awareness of future developments, helping relevant key players to understand them and recognise how their decisions relate to them.

The ESPON project ΒΤ2050 developed two territorial scenarios for the Baltic Sea Region in 2050. They show two different future pathways for the region, demonstrating how varied the future of the Baltic Sea Region can be and how its territories can develop by 2050. The two scenarios are the ‘Well-being in a Circular Economy  – a RE-mind for a good life’ and ‘Growing into tech giants – the ecological footprint clear-up’, and they developed to stimulate discussions and inspire policymaking in the area.

Territorial scenarios for the Baltic Sea Region 2050 and their territorial implications

The scenario entitled ‘Well-being in a circular economy – a RE-mind for a good life’ presents the Baltic Sea Region as a sharing and circular economy area. Better quality of life has been achieved due to the conscious transition from the previous linear economic model decided by the citizens themselves.

The decentralised (polycentric) patterns are observed in this scenario, where second and third-tier cities and towns gain importance. (see Map 1). Networks of small and medium-sized cities gain importance, and regional networks and economies emerge. Large metropolitan areas and capital cities lose their global importance, as they are no longer the key GDP growth poles. At the same time, given the increased local productions and reduced consumerism, logistics decline, with key transport hubs, either by air, rail or sea serves only for regionalised connections.

The scenario ‘Growing into green-tech giants – the ecological footprint clear-up’ is perceived as green technology and innovation giant, who reduced ecological footprint, increased eco-production and as a result promoted the “guilt-free” consumerism model. Within a highly urbanised Baltic Sea Region, the scenario presents Helsinki-Tallinn and Copenhagen-Malmo as two cross-border global networks in the role of the main green technology giants. Furthermore, an increasing concentration of economic activity around the present metropolitan areas and growth centres, which in most cases are the capital cities is seen, leaving rural areas and smaller urban constellations a less important role. Logistics in this scenario are of utmost importance, as due to the green technology and the more environmental-friendly ways of production, the latter reaches a peak. Hence, as shown in Map 2, accessibility and transport by air, sea and rail remain important, and transport hubs increase their global character.

Territorial scenarios as eye-openers for policy choices

These two territorial scenarios serve as examples of how two different possible futures for the Baltic Sea Region in 2050 may look like and how differently territories may be influenced, ranging from a decentralised region, with small and medium-sized cities in the urban hierarchy backbone and limited importance of transport and logistics, to urban green-tech giants as the key growth poles and global connectivity in increase. These developments can be used as eye-openers and may ultimately lead to different results depending on political choices and priorities. Hence, it is up to decision-makers to take them into account in preparing sound political choices to create the desired future.

You can find a short summary of the findings and a presentation with a collection of maps in our Press Release and the full final report and annexes on the page of the programme