Working with perspectives

Natuurbeelden_figuur_03_Website-witThe core of the Nature Outlook consists of four different perspectives on the future of nature and landscape in the EU. They each contain the underlying value that people award to nature (Why?), the state of nature (What?) and pathways to get there (How?).

Innovative approach: normative scenario’s

The perspectives in the Nature Outlook are in fact normative scenarios; they are based on the values that people award to nature and the desired future for nature as they see it. This is different from other scenario approaches, which are often based on autonomous trends in socio-economic factors, with different futures of nature as an outcome.

Normative scenarios are especially useful to explore policy themes with high cognitive uncertainty and high value dissent, such as biodiversity. The elaboration of a normative scenario typically requires a mixed-method approach, combining analytical knowledge and insights from various actors (e.g. stakeholders and policymakers). To our knowledge, this is the first time the future of nature in the EU is being explored using these types of scenarios.

#1 Why?

What is your motivation for nature conservation? Your viewpoint may be very different from that of other people in your street, city, country or elsewhere in Europe. For example, some people may strongly feel that nature has an intrinsic value, whereas others value its goods and services to society or the economic benefits it delivers.

We assume that the way in which people value nature influences the future for nature that they would prefer, the problems they see and the strategies they would prefer to solve these problems. These motives are, however, not always obvious. In this project, we will bring them to light, using a citizens’ survey and a series of stakeholder dialogues, complemented with literature review. The results will form the basis for the four different perspectives on the future of nature and landscape in the EU in 2050.

#2 What?

The Nature Outlook describes the possible state of nature in 2050 in terms of its appearance, the environmental and spatial conditions, and the relationships with economic sectors. Together with stakeholders, for each perspective a qualitative description is made in terms of storylines (also called narratives), visualisations and illustrative cases.

These storylines are then specified, both quantitatively and spatially explicit. This exercise covers the EU28’s terrestrial and freshwater systems. The marine environment is excluded. For each perspective, maps are developed to show changes in land use, land-use intensity, air, soil and water quality. Nature conservation and management can also vary between perspectives. The current Natura 2000 areas remain in all perspectives. Based on the maps of pressures, the state of biodiversity and ecosystems in 2050 is calculated using models.

Reference scenario

In addition to the four perspectives, a business-as-usual reference scenario is also developed. The socio-economic and physical trends from this reference scenario form the background for each of the perspectives. This means that assumptions on demography, economic developments, climate change and trade are the same for all four perspectives as well as the reference scenario. The reference scenario is based on existing studies, such as the EU (FP7) research project Volante, and projects by IPCC, OECD, CBD and EEA.

#3 How?

Pathways to reach the various desired future states are derived by comparing the perspectives against the current situation and that of the reference scenario. The possible pathways to 2050 are described in terms of:

  • coalitions of stakeholders needed to reach that state
  • governance modes and arrangements
  • policy instruments and actions

The study explores where synergies can be found between perspectives and where ambitions seem to exclude each other and choices will need to be made. It analyses what the particular pathways would mean for policy-making and institutional change, compared to the current policy. What are the main challenges? Options may relate to nature policy, but also to agriculture (greening of the Common Agricultural Policy), water (Water Framework Directive, Floods Directive) and other sectoral policies.

Nature Outlook for the Netherlands

In 2012, PBL published a national Nature Outlook, which inspired Dutch public dialogue about the state of nature and possible policy actions. Following the national Nature Outlook, PBL was asked by the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs to start with similar research on a European scale.