LOCOMOTION: Interactive use of data for people and planet

Transitioning to a climate-neutral society requires everyone in society to be well-informed about the wider impacts of their decisions. LOCOMOTION is designing a model to provide guidance to policymakers and civil society in decision-making by taking into account a wide range of interactions, from social costs to planetary boundaries.

What tools are available to inform and guide decision-making based on scientific methods?

Scientists and economists have created a set of tools known as “integrated assessment models” (IAMs). Models can address questions ranging from how to stay below 1.5°C of global warming at the lowest cost to the impact of Europe’s COVID-19 recovery plan. They draw on a variety of fields of study to investigate the ways in which human progress and societal decisions affect and interact with the natural world. This includes physical laws driving natural systems as well as changing habits and preferences that drive our societies. 

Existing models are not enough

Current IAMs often lack the ability to incorporate socioeconomic, energy, and environmental models into a unified modelling framework. This results in considerable uncertainties and limitations. However, as IAMs continue to provide valuable insights into how the world’s socioeconomic, energy, and environmental systems would need to change in order to respond to climate challenges, it is in our best interest to develop a new set of IAMs. The “Low-carbon society: an enhanced modelling tool for the transition to sustainability” (LOCOMOTION) project, in which the European Environmental Bureau (EEB) is involved, aims to fill the gaps many IAMs currently have.

Comprehensive sectoral coverage of WILIAM

The LOCOMOTION project, funded by the EU’s Horizon 2020 program, aims to create a new free to use set of IAMs called WILIAM. This new far-reaching instrument will allow users to assess the feasibility, effectiveness, costs, and ramifications of alternative sustainability policy options. It will also assist them in identifying the most effective transition pathways to a low-carbon society.  

LOCOMOTION is creating “new, multiregional IAMs to provide policymakers and stakeholders with a practical modelling system to assess different sustainability options,” said Luis Javier Miguel González, LOCOMOTION’s Lead Researcher from the University of Valladolid, the lead partner in the project.

The project is developing a number of useful and versatile tools targeted at policymakers, civil society and educators and experts. “Based on WILIAM, different easy-to-use tools will be built, adapted to different profiles of potential users, such as policymakers and civil society,” explained Iñigo Capellán Pérez, a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Valladolid.

Public decision-makers will benefit from the easy-to-use Model Analyzer tool for their own analysis. Educators will be able to use a simulation game called the Global Sustainability Crossroads II to increase awareness of climate change. Moreover, civil society will be able to use the user-friendly web-based Model Explorer to actively participate in an evidence-based public debate on pathways towards a carbon-neutral society.

Simple to use, the Model Analyzer lets anyone, regardless of background in programming, take advantage of LOCOMOTION’s model. The software is primarily aimed at policymakers and policy advisors as a decision-support tool for developing decarbonization policies. It enables them to assess the environmental, social, and economic implications of various decarbonization strategies. 

Decarbonisation policies with Model Analyzer 

The preliminary version of the Model Analyzer

Preparing a briefing document of an EU strategy requires a significant amount of time and effort devoted to research and analysis. For example, a European Commission official working on the EU Circular Economy Action Plan and, specifically, on industrial emissions may want to find out how the EU strategy for industrial emissions could contribute to the achievement of the European Green Deal, and the strategy’s impact on the emission-heavy industries in Europe.

The Model Analyzer can provide answers. Its high degree of freedom in parameterizing models and obtaining customized results will assist the policymaker in developing a comprehensive policy brief on industrial emissions in Europe. “LOCOMOTION’s models and tools can help policymakers identify the best pathway towards sustainability and social justice,” Elizabeth Böck, LOCOMOTION’s Task-Lead Policy Reviewers explained.

Future scenarios for impactful education 

Today, sustainability and climate change are ever-present topics not only in policymaking but also in the education and training sector. Educational organizations are in need of engaging tools that help young learners gain a better understanding of the complexity of human-environment interactions.

With the Global Sustainability Crossroads II, a participatory simulation game, users can learn about the relationship between economic growth and sustainability, the role of technology, how human desires are limited by our planet’s biophysical constraints, and the fact that human actions will trigger climate and environmental tipping points. The role-play design allows users to slip into the role of an ecologist, economist, engineer or sociologist and test alternative climate mitigation strategies or simulate the future development of a number of human-caused emissions drivers in an entertaining way. 

The preliminary version of the Global Sustainability Crossroads II

Our daily choices’ footprint

Many of us sometimes wish to learn about the impact of our lifestyle and behavioral changes and of political choices on the climate and society. But where to start? 

The Model Explorer is an easy-to-use web-based application that allows users to explore different scenarios without having to be a modelling expert. With the goal of enabling society to actively participate in an evidence-based public debate, the application enables users to configure their own scenarios or to investigate the intricate relationships between energy production and consumption, climate change, land use and water, the economy, and other social dimensions such as demography and well-being. During election times, for example, each of us can use it to evaluate the impact of policy promises on people and our planet.

With access to such evidence-based tools, civil society can become a vocal participant in debates about the transition to a carbon-neutral society and human and planetary wellbeing. “LOCOMOTION can empower civil society to get involved in the public debate,” Katy Wiese, Policy Officer for Economic transition at the European Environmental Bureau, one of the LOCOMOTION project partners. 

The preliminary version of the Model Explorer

Public data for collective action 

Transitioning to a climate-neutral society necessitates informed participation from all segments of society. The LOCOMOTION project was designed with this in mind. Civil society and policymakers, as well as young people, can actively evaluate the implications and consequences of various options using all of the LOCOMOTION’s tools to make informed decisions.

When reliable data is packaged as tools that are simple to use and well designed, targeted, and understood by all stakeholders, it has the potential to empower people to take wider action and drive collective and systemic change.