LOCOMOTION: modelling for just and net-zero Europe

A next-generation integrated assessment model is being developed to help reimagine our pathways towards a just and carbon-neutral Europe by 2050. Designed to bring together new narratives, Margueritte Culot and Andreas Budiman sat down for a META podcast full of insight about the new model.  

Despite the promises by states, cities, and companies on fighting the climate crisis, we are heading for a barely liveable climate. The need to come up with truly effective decisions is non-negotiable given the urgency and complexity of the issue. 

Within the LOCOMOTION project, involving the EEB and other partner organisations, a next-generation integrated assessment model (IAM) called WILIAM is being developed. The tool, bringing together new social narratives, innovative features, and convenient user experiences, is set to become a tool of choice for policymakers, educators, and civil society. 

Many tools have been developed to shape more informed climate policies, and Integrated Assessment Models are among the best ones available today. IAMs help policymakers understand how their decisions can influence the future, and therefore adjust their plans based on this knowledge.  

IAMs 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. 

There are multiple cases of how the models have informed policies in the EU. For example, the European Commission has relied on IAMs in developing new climate and energy policies such as the European Green Deal and the EU Climate Target Plan. Still, models are often seen as uncertain, intricate, and focused on just a fraction of the relevant factors. This is about to change as WILIAM enters the stage.  

The key outcome of the LOCOTOMOTION project, WILIAM, is being created by an international team of leading IAM experts. LOCOMOTION takes integrated modelling one step further by introducing new important factors, exploring just transition and post-growth narratives, and making modelling an accessible experience for all. 

Linking science, policy, and action 

The usefulness of modelling rely on the profound link between science, policy and social change. When elaborating policies, multilateral discussions and contributions from many disciplines are taken into consideration by decision makers. This phase of discussion and evaluation of the situation are based on a solid knowledge base and insights from many disciplines, including economy, climate science, and others. Models come into action in this phase as they can help guide policy makers in making the best decision available. Locomotion models allow to take into consideration the science on climate change, making more credible and aware decisions. 

Natural science reveals the physical impacts of climate disruption, but the Locomotion model also integrates social issues linked like climate migration, energy poverty, and inequality – less stable and hotter climate can aggravate violence and conflicts, and widen the gap between rich and poor. The models available today often simplify those connections or even fully neglect them. WILIAM goes beyond this rudimentary approach and embeds diverse factors and interactions that are truly significant and impactful. 

This deep and inclusive perspective gives policymakers a unique toolkit to account for factors they might not have considered otherwise and mitigate undesirable outcomes. 

Modelling for the real world 

Developing an ambitious policy is one thing. But developing a policy that considers many sectors and areas of social life gives us a much deeper perspective. WILIAM is created to be both comprehensive and accessible. It will produce useful information that can be applied to the economy, energy, technology, agriculture and other policy areas. 

WILIAM will help us understand how EU policies impact other regions, as the EU is moving swiftly away from fossil fuels. The model incorporates nine global regions and 27 countries of the European Union, plus the UK. It collects data from China, Southeast Asia, Oceania, India, Latin America, the United States, and Canada, allowing users to examine the impacts globally, regionally, and nationally.  

The model also incorporates inputs from diverse groups, which allows for guiding the development of more just and inclusive climate policies. Policymakers will be able to look at the effects of climate policies on things like inequality, access to vital resources, and migration. Such consideration of social factors opens a new page for integrated modelling. 

WILIAM highlights that there is not one optimal path towards a low-carbon future. Technology and greening the GDP can achieve a lot, but a liveable climate and a thriving society require us to think beyond conventional narratives. WILIAM gives post-growth ideas the attention they deserve, it shows the prospects of prosperity beyond growth

There are many other unique features of the model. It is dynamic, reflecting how systems change over time. It accounts for the impacts of human behaviour and even integrates multiple ecological constraints. Meanwhile, with all the internal complexity, the model will be accessible and simple to use. 

The right tool for every user  

While policymakers are often the key intended users of model results, the LOCOMOTION team believes modelling should be a practice everyone who is concerned about climate change could benefit from. 

Marguerite Culot from the European Environmental Bureau (EEB) comments on the idea behind WILIAM: “We are working on tools people can use, with or without modelling expertise. There will be different tools for decision-makers, educators, and civil society, so that everyone can benefit from our work in a convenient format.” 

A desk software is currently being developed to help officials assess the environmental, social and economic implications of various strategies. For educators, the project team creates an awareness-raising game that they can use with students. And for civil society, there will be a web-based application to make complex information on various issues very accessible. 

The LOCOMOTION website provides a wealth of resources on integrated modelling and project outcomes. You can learn more about the revolutionary potential of WILIAM from the new episode on the META podcast of the EEB. 

For more information on how you and your team can benefit from WILIAM, please contact: Marguerite Culot at marguerite.culot@eeb.org