This chapter explores the Nordic countries’ attempts to reconcile their environmental front-runner ambitions with their high productivity as advanced welfare states. On the one hand, the Nordics have taken leading positions in promoting environmental issues on the international stage. On the other hand, however, their high productivity, which is needed to support their welfare aspirations, has made them reluctant to promote and implement ecological measures that would limit economic growth.

The chapter shows how this Nordic dualism may also be ecologically justified. In terms of biological capacity, three of the large Nordic countries – Finland, Norway and Sweden – are capable of absorbing their ecological footprints, given their vast territories and small populations. In terms of climate emissions per capita, however, the Nordics– apart from Sweden – are mediocre performers.

When it comes to the implementation of climate policy, there is considerable Nordic diversity. Most of the Nordic countries have embarked on a path towards lowering their carbon emissions. However, their trajectories have varied greatly, reflecting differences in industrial structure and resource bases. Nevertheless, a belief in urban greening is widely shared, and the Nordic capitals top European green city rankings. Based on a green growth agenda, urban greening may provide an attractive opportunity for bridging ecological preservation and economic development, and allow the Nordics to transcend their ecology-versus-growth dilemma.