Periodic Reporting for period 1 - MAXWELL (Maximising wellbeing and minimising emissions: backcasting social visions for a low-carbon Europe.)
Reporting period: 2015-09-14 to 2017-09-13
The perception of mitigation policy is of one cost and loss, but there is potential to deliver mitigation while improving peoples´ lives, to maximise wellbeing and minimise emissions. This study backcasts scenarios of social wellbeing in a low-carbon Europe of 2050, and of how to achieve transition. It begins with the contested links between wellbeing and consumption. The study is a first, adopting interdisciplinary alternative perspectives rather than a unifying theory. These perspectives are then used to develop an original contribution, different visions of wellbeing in the EU of 2050. The energy and emissions implications of social scenarios that entail lower material consumption are unknown, this study is original in quantifying their contribution through modelling. The proposed study is novel and highly innovative addressing priority gaps in knowledge. It dovetails important contributions to sustainability transformation research, with the needs of European society and policy.
In all there were eight conference presentations and seminars against the three planned. With four peer-reviewed journal articles envisaged, two have been submitted and three are in process. Work will be disseminated through standard green-access channels such as research gate, through social media and through an article envisaged in the UK Guardian newspaper. Work is also ongoing to see that the legacy plan for MAXWELL is effective. The new model is currently the subject of further research proposals at the Finland Future Research Centre.
It became clear that 21st sustainability modelling requires an integrated systems approach to be captured in a model scenario quantification, similar to the conclusions of the IPCC. Existing global mitigation does not address consumption scenarios or links to energy. Rather than seeking to fit the research question to the modelling, the modelling was to the research question. The core problematique of emissions globally are the rates of 'material consumption' particularly amongst the affluent. Material consumption directly drives emissions through the act of consuming natural resources and also drives the consumption of energy. It therefore became evident that while the original intention to model the energy implications of different material consumption futures in the EU is an important question that needs appropriate study, the direct emissions implications of different material consumption futures is a more fundamental question. MAXWELL has developed a new modelling approach that combines Environmentally-Extended Input Output (EEIO) modelling with wellbeing/consumption scenarios (addressing both questions). Globally, it appears to be the only one its kind globally in existence. It permits scenario modelling of material and energy consumption for the EU, and while fitting neatly with the research objectives it also goes beyond. The model allows not just 'territorial based' accounts of emissions within EU borders, but 'consumption-based' accounts of the full emissions footprint of the activities within the EU (including emissions embodied in trade). This set of innovations in MAXWELL has great potential to advance the study of EU sustainability transitions, to enhance the evidence base for policy, and crucially to assist in the identification of future win-win pathways for EU strategy development.