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EU Calculator: trade-offs and pathways towards sustainable and low-carbon European Societies

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - EUCalc (EU Calculator: trade-offs and pathways towards sustainable and low-carbon European Societies)

Reporting period: 2018-05-01 to 2020-02-29

The EUCalc project has delivered an urgently needed comprehensive framework for research, business, and public sector decision makers which identifies and enables an appraisal of synergies and trade-offs of feasible European decarbonisation pathways. EUCalc explores the impact of the choices that can be made in a broad variety of sectors, including power and heat generation, transport, industry, buildings, agriculture, and food and of the underlying lifestyle choices of Europe’s citizens in terms of the climatological, societal, and economic consequences. For politicians and policy makers at the European and member state levels, stakeholders and innovators, EUCalc provided a Transitions Pathways Explorer (TPE), which can be used as a concrete planning tool for reconciling the urgent need for technological and societal change, against the associated inertia and lock-in effects. The modeling approach and the associated Transition Pathways Explorer are trans-disciplinarily designed for accuracy, transparency, speed and accessibility. Since the time dynamics for sectoral approaches are represented as stylized future scenarios in the model, users can immediately grasp the consequences of their changes made in policy ambitions and which they may have in terms of GHG emissions, climate impacts, employment, or resource use. This approach uncloses the full option space of viable decarbonisation pathways instead of only showing the futures that are imaginable within the present economic realities. It may, thus, help to re-establish the supremacy of politics over economic constraints. Despite the inherent challenges of developing a new model that is, at the same time, scientifically sound and easy to use by non-experts, the completed project work to date has contributed to fulfill the project objectives, namely:
Fix new conceptual challenges like coupling a formal economic model featuring inter-sectoral input-output and international trade linkages with sectoral-level modules covering individual EU member states + Switzerland.

Incorporate a mechanism via the climate module to account for the fact that climate impacts in Europe depend also on decisions taken elsewhere in the Rest of the World.

Provide a much richer spatial detail of inputs in which all of the 28 member states + Switzerland are individually accounted.

Develop a highly granular agricultural/land module in order to not disregard the many interactions land has with sectors like lifestyles, energy, water and biodiversity.
The main ingredient of the EUCalc project is to develop levers as alternative to actual modeling approaches. Levers are stylized future sector scenarios based on modeling, expert guess, literature reviews, and case based reasoning. For each sector four different ambition levels have been defined in order to offer users a suitable variety of options for policy making. During the first and second reporting period many of the planned sector modules (e.g. Lifestyles, Buildings, Transport, Water & Biodiversity; Electricity, Raw materials, etc.) have been finalized and coupled in the whole modeling framework. After the first reporting period the project received valuable comments from the review team which were taken into account for the further development. Similar is valid for the comments received from scientists, sector experts and the scientific advisory board during the calls for evidence (cf. below). The major achievements the EUCalc project has made during its duration can be summarized as follows:

The model and databases and the tools for pathway analyses had been completed. Several modules were improved in terms of its spatial/time resolution;

The accounting for the differential contribution of emissions from the EUCalc model and those from the rest of the world in driving global warming in a unified modeling framework was specified;

The interfacing in the overall modeling framework between the individual sector modules calculating;

A centralized technology database including key performance indicators relevant for the different sector modules have been implemented and finalized;

Definition of a file hosting system which supports further software development (EUCalc Bitbucket Respository);

Linking of EUCalc outputs to a general equilibrium model (GTAP) for the purposes of transboundary analysis of GHG emissions and trade has been finished. In addition, an integration of employment effects at EU member state level by the means of the employment module has been finished;

A documentation of the lever positions in each module that best represents the demand, supply and technological assumptions reported for a total of four low-carbon scenarios in the literature (EU Ref 2006, LTS-COMBO, LTS-1.5-TECH and LTS-1.5-LIFE) has been prepared. This allows a comparison of EUCalc
pathways, yet even at sectoral level and comprises a documentation in case of mismatches;

Development and design of a user-friendly and user-informed web-interface, the Transitions Pathway Explorer that allows for the interaction with the EUCalc model and the visualization of outputs;

A series of dissemination and communication products were developed project phase like the policy briefs, videos, MOOC and the My2050 tool.
The major progress beyond the state of the art of the European Calculator project is that it assembles more than 50 sectors in a comprehensive, but transparent model approach. To make use of this approach, front end tools have been developed which opens a complex modeling environment for politicians, researchers from neighboring disciplines and even for lay people. This is visible by online tools, namely the comprehensive Transition Pathways Explorer (direct link: http://tool.european-calculator.eu/intro) which use is explained in a video (https://youtu.be/oGQMc2-ruFg). This may accelerate transformation policy making and helps to educate other people interested in climate protection and societal transformations. The benefit of the approach is that trade-offs and co-benefits of measures taken in different sectors could be easily analyzed. Consequently, the approach is a direct approach for future policy design and therefore supports directly the Green Deal policy of the EU. These outcomes are complemented by additional tools and material, e.g. videos explaining the philosophy of the project (e.g.) and a comprehensive MOOC (https://www.edx.org/course/eucalc-pathway-finder-to-a-low-carbon-eu-society). The massive open online course which is maintained comprises three elements, which are explained by partners from the project. A simplified version of the pathways explorer the my2050 learning tool can be found under this link (www.my2050.eu). Additional explanatory videos have been provided by the European Calculator Website. Regardless of these outputs the underlying model remains free, open source (via a repository) and accessible through an online web tool/interface, and therefore open for discussions in the scientific community for definitely needed improvements. Overall the approach will put energy system modeling on a new level of transparency. Based on the achieved results the project will prepare a series of scientific publications which will increase the visibility in the scientific arena, explain results, and argue on its political implications.
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