6.1 Dimensions by regions

Green Growth Index rankings are provided for countries within five geographic regions — Africa, the Americas, Asia, Europe, and Oceania — several of which include subregions. Table 8 presents the country groups by region and subregion which were used in this report. The United Nations’ “geoscheme” (UN Secretariat Statistics Division, n.d.) serves as the basis for the grouping. Across all regions, scores for green growth dimensions are generally the highest for natural capital protection and social inclusion, and the lowest for green economic opportunities (Figure 19).

Europe performs significantly better than the rest of the region s, with an overall score of 80. This implies that many countries in this region have almost reached sustainability targets for social inclusion. The largest discrepancies in scores are evident for social inclusion, with Africa scoring the lowest, with below 40. The regional scores for natural capital protection are relatively close, at around 60, with only Asia scoring below 60. Oceania slightly performs better than Europe in efficient and sustainable resource use. It is worth noting, however, that only six countries in Oceania have scores for this dimension (Table A1.5).

The scores for African and American regions are at par at 40, which are significantly lower than for Oceania and Europe. The lowest performing region for this dimension is Asia. Only Europe performs relatively well in green economic opportunities, albeit the score is still low, at 40. The Americas, Asia, and Oceania also score low for this dimension, at about 20. The score of about 17 percent for green economic opportunities in Africa is the lowest across not only regions but also dimensions.

To better understand the estimated Green Growth Index results for each of the five regions, the sections below provide a more in depth discussion on the scores related to resource efficiency, natural capital protection, green economic opportunities, and social inclusion at the subregional level.

6.1.1 Africa

The Green Growth Index includes results for five subregions in Africa — Eastern, Middle, Northern, Southern, and Western Africa (Figure 20) — and includes 21 countries for which data are sufficient across all dimensions (Table A1.5 in Appendix 1). Africa’s countries score from very low to moderate, with Eastern African countries representing half of the ranked countries. Except for Southern Africa, the average Green Growth Index scores for the African subregions are below 40. Both natural capital protection and social inclusion contribute to the relatively better green growth performance in Southern Africa. Its score for social inclusion is highest in Africa, at over 60, which is mainly attributed to high performance in gender balance (Table A1.9). The high score for social inclusion in Southern Africa is not able to offset the low scores in other subregions, particularly Eastern and Middle Africa (Figure 20), resulting in Africa having the lowest score for social inclusion globally (Figure 19). Similar to most other African subregions, Southern Africa has a very low score for green economic opportunities.

For Eastern Africa, natural capital protection is the main contributing dimension to its subregional Green Growth Index performance. It has the highest score for this dimension in the African region, of over 70 (Figure 20). Similar to many parts of Africa, the Eastern subregion has a rich natural resource base. For instance, Zambia in Eastern Africa scores 78 in natural capital protection, the fourth highest score in the region (Table A1.7). Zambia ranks as one of the global leaders in biodiversity and habitat protection. It has 635 protected areas covering nearly 38 percent of its territory (Wendling & Levy, 2018). A large part of these protected areas covers key biodiversity areas.

In contrast, Northern Africa lags behind the other subregions with the lowest score for natural capital protection (Figure 20). The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa reported that the Northern subregion has limited natural resources compared to other African subregions (UNECA, 2015), and most countries in the subregion remain natural resource dependent (AfDB, 2018). Northern Africa has also the lowest performance in efficient and sustainable resource use, with an average score of less than 20. This is mainly attributed to the very low scores for this dimension in Northern African countries, such as Algeria and Egypt (Table A1.1). Not only in the Northern subregion, but generally Africa as a continent has a high resource use intensity. To produce USD1 of GDP, for example, most African countries need seven kilograms of domestic resources, about five times the global average (Giljum & Polzin, 2009). There is significant room to improve resource efficiencies across the continent, such as with respect to low-efficiency technologies being used in resource-intensive activities, such as agriculture and mining.

In almost all African subregions, performance in green economic opportunities is the lowest among the four green growth dimensions (Figure 20). In North Africa, the slightly higher score for green economic opportunities is mainly due to high green investment in Egypt and Morocco (Table A1.8). In many Northern African countries, however, not only the scarcity of natural resources but also the “limited funding capacity, lack of expertise, poor access to technology, ineffective innovation systems, and the diminutive scope of the domestic market” constrain the scale up of green economic opportunities in the subregion (UNECA, 2015: p.ix). Northern Africa has low levels of local skills as well as limited physical infrastructure to support green economic initiatives. To accelerate green economic opportunities, and increased its Green Growth Index score, the subregion will require enhancement of local skills and improvement to infrastructure.

6.1.2 The Americas

The Americas have four subregions – the Caribbean, Central America, Northern America, and South America. With an average index score of above 50, Northern America has the highest green growth performance in the Americas (Figure 21). This can be attributed to the United States and Canada leading the region in the social inclusion dimension with scores of over 80 (Table A1.2 in Appendix 1). Both Canada and the United States mainstream social inclusion in their policy priorities. In the region, the United States ranks first in GDP share spent on social programs as well as in promoting financial inclusion and empowerment by gender (Americas Quarterly, 2016). But Northern America’s performance in natural capital protection lags behind the other subregions, due mainly to low scores in GHG emission reductions (Table A1.7). Meanwhile, its overall performance in efficient and sustainable resource use is comparable to other subregions, except for the Caribbean, which has a low score for this dimension.

Central America is the region’s frontrunner in the natural capital protection with a score of over 70 and, together with South America, has the highest score in efficient and sustainable resource use (Figure 21). Considered one of the world’s biological hotspots, it is no surprise that Central America leads the region in natural capital protection. One of the forerunners in the subregion is Costa Rica, which pioneered the implementation of the payment for ecosystem services (PES) scheme to conserve its forest and water resources (Barton, 2013). The current set of indicators for green economic opportunities does not cover PES due to a lack of data. The score for this dimension is thus currently low for Costa Rica at about 23 (Table A1.2). In the last four years, however, it is important to note that Costa Rica also generates at least 95 percent of its electricity from renewable energy resources (Rodriguez, 2019). Costa Rica’s score for efficient and sustainable energy is 81 (Table A1.6).

The Caribbean has the lowest score for efficient and sustainable resource use which, together with a low score in green economic opportunities, makes it the least performing subregion in the Americas. The low score for efficient and sustainable resource use in the Caribbean is mainly due to the very low score of Trinidad and Tobago, with only 19 (Table A1.2). The Dominican Republic, meanwhile, has a score of 55, which is higher than that of the United States and Canada. In recent years, the Dominican Republic introduced aggressive policies and initiatives for higher energy efficiency. For example, in 2018, UNEP reported that the Dominican Republic had set out a plan to be the first all LED lighting island nation, an initiative that may result in approximately USD 120 million annual savings in electricity costs (UNEP, 2018a).

Excluding the scores for efficient and sustainable resource use, South America’s scores are comparable to the Caribbean. The score for this dimension for South America is higher than that for the Caribbean and almost the same level as those for Central America and Northern America (Figure 21). Uruguay is one of the forerunners in efficient and sustainable resource use in South America and ranks the highest in efficient and sustainable energy, where the country scores very high, at 93 (Table A1.6). About 80 percent of the country’s power system is based on renewables and, similar to Costa Rica, almost all its electricity is generated through renewable energy (IRENA, 2018). In 2018, Uruguay invested 3 percent of its GDP in the renewable energy sector, creating over 11,000 jobs (Proaño, 2018). Uruguay’s score for green investment is 70, while for green employment is only 8 (Table A1.8). The Green Growth Index currently lacks an indicator for employment in renewable energy due to lack of data, hence the very low score for green employment for Uruguay.

6.1.3 Asia

Asia consists of five subregions — Central Asia, Eastern Asia, Southeastern Asia, Southern Asia, and Western Asia. East Asian countries dominate the Asian region in the social inclusion dimension (Figure 22), with Japan scoring 83, the highest in the region after Singapore (Table A1.3 in Appendix 1). Despite this, the overall green growth performance in Eastern Asia is comparable to Southeastern Asia due to the higher scores for efficient and sustainable resource use and natural capital protection in the latter subregion. On the one hand, East Asian countries, including China and Japan, have very low scores for sustainable land use, mainly due to a very low share of organic agriculture to total agricultural land area (Table A1.6 and Table A1.10). On the other hand, Southeastern Asian countries have the highest score for the natural capital dimension, mainly due to the subregion’s rich biological diversity.

The ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity has reported that Southeastern Asia has the highest mean proportion of country endemic bird and mammal species, at 9 and 11 percent, respectively, compared to other world regions (Sodhi, et al. 2010). This high species diversity and endemicity partly brought about the high natural capital protection score for Southeast Asia. Almost half of the 10 best performers in natural capital protection are countries from the Southeastern subregion which can be attributed to comparatively higher GHG emission reductions and biodiversity and ecosystem protection, with scores of at least 75 and 70, respectively (Table A1.7). Scores for these natural capital protection indicators in East Asia are lower: below 75 for GHG emission reductions and below 60 for biodiversity and ecosystem protection in countries such as China, the Republic of Korea, and Mongolia.

After Eastern Asia, Central Asia has the second highest score for social inclusion in Asia (Figure 22). Central and Eastern Asia’s high social inclusion ratings are commensurate to the public policies and initiatives implemented in countries such as the Republic of Korea, Japan, and Kazakhstan. The three countries provide 100 percent access to basic services, such as electricity. The population of the Republic of Korea also has 100 percent access to fiber Internet subscriptions, demonstrating full accessibility of information, communication, and technology services (Schwab, 2018). While Central Asia shows promising scores for the social inclusion dimension, it is performing worse in green economic opportunities compared to other subregions. The same pattern is apparent in Western Asia, with only a low score for green economic opportunities. The lack of patents supporting green investment and trade in countries such as Qatar, Iraq, and Jordan contributed to the low green economic opportunities score for Western Asia (Schwab, 2018). Except for Georgia and Oman, the scores for green economic opportunities in the subregion are lower than 30 (Table A1.8), which is mainly due to a very low share of export of environmental goods (Table A1.12).

The Southern subregion has the lowest score for social inclusion. This is attributed to a very low performance in gender balance and social protection in many South Asian countries (Table A1.9). Except for Nepal, the scores for the proportion of seats held by women in national parliaments are less than 50 (Table A1.13). Moreover, Afghanistan, India, and Pakistan have the lowest scores of only 1 for gender-equal employment payment. The “patriarchal values and social norms keep gender inequalities alive” in the Southern Asia subregion, where “discriminatory practices begin even before birth” (UNICEF, n.d.). Except for Sri Lanka scoring 60 in access to health care, many other countries in South Asia have scores below 30 for this indicator (Table A1.13). Sri Lanka’s government provides universal health coverage (Perera, 2015).

6.1.4 Europe

As a region, Europe has the strongest overall performance, with scores that are mostly high (Table A1.4 in Appendix 1). The four subregions — Eastern, Northern, Southern, and Western Europe — have scores for natural capital protection and social inclusion dimensions ranging from high to very high (Figure 23). Scores for social inclusion are very high in Northern and Western Europe. Most countries in both subregions are welfare state economies, where governments ensure the socio-economic well-being of the population. Countries implement programs and initiatives supporting social and economic inclusiveness, including the provision of free health care services for all. Although reforms are still underway, social inclusion is at the heart of national priorities. Countries such as Sweden and Germany have been expanding social policies related to work-life balance, wages, and education, contributing to the high social inclusion score for Europe (Bonoli & Natali, 2012).

Intensive resource use has propelled economic development in Europe. Although members of the European Union support resource efficiency through the Europe 2020 strategy (European Commission, 2011), the overall score for efficient and sustainable resource use is only high in Northern Europe. Scores for this dimension remain at a moderate level in other subregions, inlcuding Western Europe (Figure 23). Except for Austria, which scores 72 for efficient and sustainable resource use, the rest of the subregion have scores below 60 for this dimension due to low performance in sustainable land use (Table A1.6). Although the share of organic farming in the food market has increased in Western Europe and stimulated organic agriculture exports to the subregion (Skrodzka, 2017), agricultural production in Western European countries remains predominantly intensive. The main reason for poor performance in sustainable land use is low soil organic carbon content resulting from intensive agriculture. Environmental issues related to air and water have been addressed through environmental regulations, but those “associated with soil degradation have been given marginal consideration” (Virto et al., 2015: p.334). The scores for sustainable land use are only 30 for the Netherlands and Austria; 25 for Germany and Belgium; and 21 for France (Table A1.10).

All the subregions, except for Southern Europe, have moderate ratings for green economic opportunities  (Figure 23). The low performance for this dimension in Southern Europe is due to the scores of below 10 for Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Malta (Table A1.8). The lack of green innovation and little opportunities for green employment are the main reasons for these very low scores. Unlike other European Union countries from the South, Malta performs very low on both indicators, with scores of 1, and thus has the lowest index rank in Europe. Although Malta’s Eco Innovation Index has improved, it continues to face challenges that affect its green innovation, including the lack of space and local resources, energy dependency, water scarcity, and waste management (European Commission, 2019a).

Eastern Europe’s performance as a whole is only slightly better than Southern Europe’s. Its score on green economic opportunities is more comparable to those for Western Europe (Figure 23). On social inclusion, its score is slightly lower than Southern Europe’s. This is caused by only moderate scores for gender balance in Ukraine, Russian Federation, and Moldova (Table A1.9). Ukraine has the lowest score for gender balance in Europe. Although Ukraine is committed to adhering to international frameworks on gender equality and women empowerment, it continues to face challenges in implementing them. These include not only patriarchal attitudes and stereotypes but also governance issues, such as weak rule of law and low institutional capacity to support gender equality (United Nations, n.d.).

6.1.5 Oceania

Oceania comprises four subregions — Australia and New Zealand, Melanesia, Micronesia, and Polynesia. While subregional analyses are possible for the other world regions, data limitations in Oceania confines the subregional assessment to Australia, Fiji, and New Zealand. As a result, the presentation of the scores for the Green Growth Index and the four dimensions are at the country levels. Although the trend for Australia and New Zealand is consistent with the other world regions in terms of social inclusion, that for Fiji shows the opposite (Figure 24). One reason for this apparent difference is the economic performance of the countries. Similar to most of the countries in the other Oceania subregions, Fiji is a developing country, while Australia and New Zealand are developed nations that follow the welfare state model, which supports social inclusion. This explains the lower score for social inclusion in Fiji.