Attention towards topics such as environmental pollution, climate change, or biodiversity has strongly increased in the last years. The struggles to balance market powers and ecological sustainability somehow evoke memories of the early days of European welfare states, when social protection emerged as a means to prevent industrial capitalism from disruptive social tensions due to excessive social inequalities. In fact, social and environmental crises are inseparably intertwined, as ecological destruction is likely to be followed by social deprivation, and a lack of social security can be a crucial barrier for ecologically sustainable action. Our paper seeks to provide a step towards such an integrated perspective by studying problem pressure and public interventions in the area of green welfare, that is, in social and environmental protection. By using available data from Eurostat and Environmental Performance Index (EPI) databases, we contrast environmental and social performances to detect links between the social and the ecological dimension in these areas and unearth different configurations of green welfare among European countries. Our findings suggest that there are different “worlds of eco-welfare states” which only partially overlap with the more conventional “world of welfare states” but show how the Nordic countries are in the relatively-better performing cluster.
Sustainability, vol.12, issue 5, 2020