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The VOLANTE policy alternatives and pathways towards the visions

VOLANTE did not rely on explorative scenario modelling alone. A guiding question was “How can we reach a desirable land use future”? To answer this question, backcasting methods could be employed. Backcasting was developed in the 1970s and 1980s by foresight experts to identify alternative pathways to reach a desired policy outcome. The starting point of this normative foresight method is a particular desirable future end-point, from which the analysis goes backwards to the present in order to determine the feasibility of that future and to search for decisions (e.g. policy measures) and conditions that would be required to reach the desired end point (Figure 8). This method was originally applied in the context of energy policy, but later it has been applied also to analyse alternative sustainable development pathways. Backcasting may create awareness for possible solutions among various actors. It may also be used to highlight consequences of strategic choices in society that could open or close out future options. Whereas many foresight studies explore pathways and roadmaps to one desirable future end-point, it is unlikely that the complex decision making on land management could be solved with one pathway: there are conflicting land use policies that cannot be addressed simultaneously, and likewise, stakeholders have different views on the desired future land use. VOLANTE has explored possible pathways to each of the identified stakeholder visions, and for those cases where we found pathways, trade-offs are discussed that may be attached to them, as there is no solution that fits all needs. The VOLANTE Pathway analysis can be understood as a backcasting variant, although our land use models cannot be applied in a reverse modelling mode.

Figure 8 Framework final

Figure 8 Policy alternatives and pathways towards the visions

To link the normative visions of desired futures that were qualitatively defined by stakeholders (see ‎2.2) to explorative projections of future land use derived from quantitative simulation models, we developed an integrated assessment framework. We used seven land-use simulation models (Figure 9) to project future land use for the four possible global developments (marker scenarios) and eleven policy alternatives (A1, A2, A5, A6, A7, A8, A9, A10, A11, A12, A13, A14, A15, D7.3, D11.1). The policy alternatives were defined each for a limited combination of sectorial measures that included assumed changes in land-use related policies at the European level. The marker scenarios (see ‎Using scenarios to define a range of possible futures) and policy alternatives were used to project land use and management changes until 2040.

Figure 9. Model Linkages new

Figure 9 Suite of models applied in VOLANTE

The linkage between the quantitative modelling results and the qualitative vision statements was achieved by identifying attributes that were addressed both in the visions and in the projections of the policy alternatives (Figure 10).

To identify pathways to the desired future land use, we matched the projected changes with desired changes of land use and estimated the degree of agreement. We considered a model projection of a policy alternative to become a pathway, if the projected land-use agreed with at least 60% of the desired land-use change for a two-third majority of the EU land area and population.

Table 2 Policy Alternatives (starting from one of the VOLANTE marker scenarios V-A2,V-B1 or V-B2)
matching the desired changes of land use
Best Land in Europe Regional Connected Local Multifunctional

V-B2 Greening Europe

V-B2 Storing more Carbon

V-A2 Greening Europe

V-B1 Marker Scenario

V-B2 Greening Europe

V-B2 Storing more Carbon

V-B2 Supporting amenity values


 figure 10

 Figure 10 The Volante pathway analysis approach.Vision characteristics are translated into building blocks, which are also simulated with explorative modelling. Pathways are policy alternatives which agree at least with 60% of the desired land use change for a two-third majority of the EU land area and population.

We could identify two pathways to the vision Best Land in Europe and five pathways to the vision Regional Connected. Unfortunately none of the explorative modelling projections was found to be sufficiently matching the vision Local multifunctional (Table 2). As a matter of fact, none of the pathways are completely in agreement with any of the consolidated visions; total agreement would also not be likely in this approach of backcasting. It should be noted that project timing did not allow selecting and simulating new policy alternatives after the identification of visions. Additional policy alternatives or combinations of alternatives could be studied, which possibly could perform better than the present selection, potentially also creating a pathway towards the vision Local Multifunctional.


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