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Periodic Report Summary 2 - COMPLEX (Knowledge Based Climate Mitigation Systems for a Low Carbon Economy)

Project Context and Objectives:
In the early years of the 21st century, borrowing levels were clearly too high and the unregulated trade in financial services was unsustainable. Unfortunately, conventional economic models had stabilising assumptions built in to them that prevented them exploring the possibility of institutional collapse. Most economic advisors were predicting more or less stable trends. After the crash there were demands for scientific modelling tools that could provide an early warning of catastrophic system-crashes. The COMPLEX consortium is developing models of rapid systemic change.
These models are not just early warning systems; they also have the potential to support policy intervention. The transition to a low carbon economy by 2050 will surely involve irreversible step-changes in the cultural, economic and natural domains, with qualitatively different socioeconomic configurations before and after. COMPLEX is developing new modelling tools for managing step-change dynamics by working across a wide range of spatio-temporal scales, and integrating the knowledge of many stakeholder communities, for example in respect of land-use change driven by carbon-related technologies. By the time the low carbon economy has emerged, many vested interests and culture-clashes will have been resolved and socio-natural systems will have changed irreversibly. It is imperative that these transformations be managed in a way that maintains social cohesion, prosperity and good governance. Our task as scientists is to help policy makers facilitate qualitative change without compromising cultural and natural life-support systems.
The COMPLEX international team comprises 17 partners across 11 European countries to explore new energy technologies, new ways of using landscapes and new policy instruments contributing to the management of system flips and step-changes. Our role is support the transition towards a low carbon economy at many levels in the subsidiarity hierarchy. Our scientists are working together, developing models to help policy makers facilitate rapid change without compromising cultural and natural life-support systems. This work involves a range of research activities and disciplines, all exploring the relationship between culture, models, human behaviour, space-time scales and the economics of carbon emission in a complex world.
We are also mounting small research initiatives on complexity in human activity systems and cognitive neurophysiology to see whether these can contribute to new ways of thinking about and modelling rapid systemic change. All the project findings are to be available in the public domain through a website and publication.
In addition to working across scientific disciplines, COMPLEX is developing an extended family of new modelling tools for managing step-change dynamics by working across a wide range of spatio-temporal scales, and integrating the knowledge of many stakeholder communities. A substantial number of seminars, workshops and external stakeholder consultation exercises have been undertaken in the project’s lifetime so that COMPLEX can integrate the knowledge of many stakeholder communities, for example in respect of land-use change driven by carbon-related technologies. Other problem areas include energy, agriculture, forestry and infrastructure. Based on models of climate change and carbon emission, scientists have initiated case studies in Norway, Sweden, Netherlands, Spain and Italy, develop a suite of modelling tools and decision-support systems and support communities across Europe working to reduce carbon production.

Project Results:
COMPLEX has developed a substantial library of economic, demographic, climatic and land-use models that will serve as an open-access resource for future work on Integrated Assessment. Among these are new modelling tools for managing step-change dynamics by working across a wide range of spatio-temporal scales, and integrating the knowledge of many stakeholder communities, for example in respect of land-use change driven by carbon-related technologies. Our repository of modules can model regional dynamics and developed a new system for modelling climate / economy interactions at global and regional scales. We have models with a wide range of spatial scales and Agent-Based Models (ABMs) that can be used to explore policy options. This modelling infrastructure will play a key role in shaping and facilitating new research agendas in the field of climate change and resource management.
Our work on ‘Climate Related Energies’ (CREs) has demonstrated a subtle, but important feature of the low carbon economy. Many of the technologies to reduce carbon emissions are themselves dependent on weather. Wind, water, solar power and biomass, for example are ultimately driven by energy reaching the planet from the sun. The atmospheric systems that sustain us can intervene in ways that re-shape not only the energy yields from CRE sources, but also their temporal and spatial profiles - the patterns of energy availability in space and time. These in turn re-shape the problems of intermittency in ways that make it impossible to speak of a single, optimum strategy for managing CREs. We have demonstrated that CREs and climate can be expected to co-evolve over the coming decades. We have also developed optimisation strategies that can be shaped and re-shaped to accommodate local conditions and time-trends and substantiated them with a mix of practical case-studies (Italy and Southern Scandinavia) that represent very different climate situations, and basic research on the physics and hydrology of CRE production.
In addition to our model development, COMPLEX has established links with real-world communities and developed integrative approaches to knowledge creation and policy development. COMPLEX has been particularly active in the field of renewable energy deployment in the landscape and integrated simulation modelling. In the Netherlands, for example, we have undertaken substantial research with stakeholder communities in Dalfsen, while our Spanish study has been working in Navarre. In Sweden, the COMPLEX team has been very active in the development of policy in the Uppsala municipality, using a mix of engagement and modelling activities. It has also organised a series of stakeholder engagement exercises in the wider Stockholm-Mälar region and supplemented these with economic modelling exercises intended to relate land-use constraints to carbon emissions.
COMPLEX has developed a set of participatory modelling approaches (including new modelling tools and elicitation methods) that can be used to engage with local and regional stakeholder communities by drawing them into the policy process. For example, the open-source modelling tool APoLUS (Actor, Policy and Land Use Simulator) simulates future land use configurations under different renewable energy policy scenarios.
In some of our case-study regions, the desire for transformative change is widely shared. In others, local initiatives are frustrated by an informal institutional veto that blocks or frustrates low carbon initiatives. Many of these conflicts of interest and culture-clashes will have to be resolved before the low carbon economy can be established and socio-natural systems will have to change irreversibly. It is imperative that these transformations be managed in a way that maintains social cohesion, prosperity and good governance. Our task as scientists is to use these modelling tools to help policy makers facilitate change without compromising cultural and natural life-support systems.

Potential Impact:
COMPLEX has completed most of its RTD tasks in the first 36 months and will easily complete those outstanding in Period 3. Our teams in Spain, the Netherlands and Sweden have all made substantial progress in engaging with regional and local communities and are beginning to develop, or participate in the development of policy briefs and roadmaps that will be delivered in the course of the project’s fourth and final year.
The bulk of our RTD effort has been directed towards the development of modelling infrastructure. This infrastructure allows us to downscale climate, integrate global, national and regional scales and construct policy models using a wide range of techniques from general equilibrium modelling to agent-based models of institutional receptivity and policy development. The first substantive case-studies are beginning to come on-line and policy briefs have either been published (for example on carbon taxes) or are in press (for example, on Keynesian stimulus and the possibility of creating Green jobs in Europe). We intend and expect our final year to capitalise on this modelling infrastructure. Our work on integration and dissemination is also going well. We have already uploaded 26 reports and publications and undertaken 49 dissemination and/or stakeholder engagement exercises.
In period 3 we will also capitalise on these resources by creating a set of high-impact publications, developing tailor-made policy briefs and bringing these briefs to the attention of policy makers. We have found in Periods 1 and 2 that key institutional actors are often reluctant to countenance the policy shifts needed to put us onto a low carbon pathway. Large generators, for example, seem to be deeply reluctant to countenance reforms that will give households and small buildings the ability to create and consume their own energy resources. Politicians struggling with the economic downturn seem to be equally reluctant to take actions that limit the consumption of fossil fuels because these are widely seen as constraints that will hamper the recovery. Even security issues seem to conspire against groups and individuals who wish to live independently of multi-nationals and banks, with M. Hollande demanding greater scrutiny of cash transactions. There are deep problems of subsidiarity at work here and our project’s policy impact will be determined, in some measure, by our ability to understand and soften those vetoes.
It is as though the carbon-economy is being driven with one foot on the accelerator and the other on the brake - both pedals pushed flat onto the floor. If the brakes fail, we could spin out of control; if the engine fails, we will go nowhere. We need to devote even more resources to the study of institutional vetoes and receptivity in the hope of helping policy makers and citizens turn these challenges into opportunities for innovation. Globalised capitalism has turned the old-fashioned virtues of small-scale exchange patterns, local consumption, local production and self-sufficiency into threatening and potentially subversive vices. In one of our deliverables (in press) team members present evidence that a ‘Green Marshall Plan’ would stimulate growth in green jobs and small-scale innovation by resolving some of the conflicts of interest between northern lenders and southern borrowers.
It occasionally happens that a set of economic models strongly supports a particular line of policy action. However in many cases the range of policy options on the table is too narrow and the problems of cross-policy compliance are wickedly complex. We will disseminate our results widely and work to develop business plans for task-groups and stakeholder communities within COMPLEX, but the impact of our research will be determined by patterns of institutional receptivity and power-politics in Europe and by geopolitical threats and the risk of war just beyond our borders.

List of Websites:


Nicola Dolman, (Grants and Contracts Manager)
Tel.: +44 191 222 8984
Numero di registrazione: 182184 / Ultimo aggiornamento: 2016-05-24
Fonte d'informazione: SESAM