Deconstructing a complex future for the forest-based sector

Informed decision-making requires information from both past experiences and knowledge about the future. This also applies to forest-based sector – especially when considering challenges like climate change mitigation or biodiversity conservation. While the future can be difficult to predict, one way to analyse it is to use scenario-planning methods. However, the use of scenario is also a process of priority-setting, more specifically, scenarios are a reflection of sectoral, public and other development priorities. Having this in mind, the paper Deconstructing a complex future: Scenario development and implications for the forest-based sector which is published in Forest Policy and Economics reviews how the use of scenarios may affect EU forest-related policy.

The argument for using scenarios are that they can deconstruct complex environments into more manageable building blocks to prepare for the changes and challenges that will inevitably come. Scenarios consequently play an important role for the forestry sector community, not only in science and applied research, but also in supporting policy making.

This also means that the majority of the scenarios reflect the perspectives and needs of underlying policy frameworks, which also echoes the lack of a legal basis for forests at EU level. To put the concern here more bluntly, EU policymakers may be construing a future where forests are not taken into account adequately, with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) scenarios being but one example of this. By having different climate projections, the IPCC scenarios have played a central role in EU climate target setting and policy making, such as the 2020 climate and energy package and the 2030 framework for climate and energy policies. IPCC scenarios have thus provided inputs into policy formulation and the development of policy measures (e.g. climate change adaptation) as well as strategic developments (e.g. vision documents) that influence forest management. The implications from this is that a single-sector’s interests can dominate the creation of a vision that will significantly affect another sector, in this case the forest-based sector.

The apparent danger in having a single-sector approach rather than one involving integrated multi-sector input into scenario development is that models born from individual sectors (such as the agricultural sector) are applied without considering interactions between sectors. This emphasises the danger of operationalising sectoral oriented visions through policy (e.g. conflicting target setting) that do not consider forests in a holistic manner and thus support the notion that sectoral boundaries (or barriers) need to be broken down. Forest-related scenarios will essentially have to become more integrative if they wish to explore sustainable opportunities for policy action in the future.

The paper Deconstructing a complex future: Scenario development and implications for the forest-based sector is published in Forest Policy and Economics, 2018, 94, page 21-26. Forest Policy and Economics is a leading scientific journal that publishes peer-reviewed policy and economics research relating to forests, forested landscapes, forest-related industries, and other forest-relevant land uses. One of the senior scientist of EFI’s Resilience Programme, Filip Aggestam, was the lead author, together with his co-author, Bernhard Wolfslehner from EFI’s Network Office in Vienna.

Read the full article here.

Acknowledgements
This study was conducted within the framework of the ARANGE (Advanced multifunctional forest management in European mountain ranges) project, funded under the 7th Framework Programme of the European Commission grant agreement no. 289437.

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