Project description (summary in english)

Save our Surface. Land use changes in Austria caused by increasing bioenergy production and global resource depletion – policy options and conflict management.

Synopsis: Dynamic scenarios of the supply of Austria with food as well as materially and energetically used biomass until 2050 with different degrees of self-reliance optimized the spatial distribution of land use types and possible consumption levels aiming at a minimization of land use conflicts. Policy recommendations for sustainable land use strategies were developed.

Abstract: Far reaching changes of the energetic and material resource basis are required for climate policies as well as in view of depletion and increasing prices of fossil resources. The use of non renewables has to be reduced, replacing them by renewable resources, including biomass, which has a central role to play. Due to increased demands on agricultural production, land use competition arises. This dynamics might be exacerbated by productivity losses in agriculture because of climate change and cost increases or supply shortages of fossil fuels, which are, among other uses, necessary as inputs for agriculture (fuels, pesticides, fertiliser).

A socio-economic adaptation is essential to minimize land use competition caused by the production of biogenic fuels. The drastic reduction in energy consumption and economic output required can only be realized in the frame of a socio-economic structural change towards degrowth solidarity, supported by sectoral measures. Interventions to minimize direct and indirect land use competition in view of peak oil, climate change and increased biomass demand have to take place on three interdependent levels: (1) democratic emergency plans for the immediate mitigation of negative effects of peak oil, (2) sectoral adaptations, (3) a structural change of the economy towards a commons-based solidarity economy which enables degrowth.

The use of non-renewable resources must be reduced or replaced by renewables, with biomass playing
a crucial role. As a result, competition between material and energetic uses of biomass as well as
between the production of biomass and food occurs. Land use-competition can be aggravated if productivity
is reduced due to climate change as well as rising prices and shortages of fossil materials.
The main goal of the project is the development of political options for a sustainable land use in Austria
in view of (1) climate change, (2) rising prices and shortages of fossil materials and chemical
fertilizers and (3) a growing demand for biomass. „SOS” thus proposes concrete governance procedures
and strategies based on simulations in order to minimize land use-competition.
Decision making that effectively reduces land-use competition requires information on long-term
yield prospects of the Austrian agriculture and forestry that provides food and biomass. Different
land use-scenarios are designed in order to demonstrate the consequences of specific development
paths of the energetic and material system towards renewables. In the light of the pressing demand
for political action to secure the natural basis of human survival, „normative” scenarios (see p. 6)
are relevant to decision making. For the designing of such land use-scenarios until 2050 we will
carry out the following steps:
(1) Modelling of potential types of land use. The potential distribution of forest, field crops, agroforestry
cultures and grasland types are modelled with GIS in high spatial resolution. A regionalized
climate scenario enables to model potential land use-types and yields until 2050.
(2) Development of scenarios of energetic and material demand and production. The effects of
several scenarios of a regional switch to renewables with differing degrees of phasing out
fossil resources on the distribution of land use-types in Austria are modelled in a spatially explicit
manner until 2050. The difference between domestic production of biomass and food
and the level of consumption must be covered by imports. The project thus assesses the
status and trends of biomass imports of Austria.
(3) Evaluation of scenarios. All scenarios are evaluated with regard to consumption levels, required
efficiency gains and biomass imports, changes in lifestyle and consumer behaviour
and economic consequences. In a second step, each scenario is evaluated with respect to the
preconditions and possible effects on regions exporting biomass.
In order to stimulate proactive governance and to develop regulation strategies, a participative, nationwide
process with stakeholders is organized, comprising 3 phases:
(1) Compilation of a manual. Resource assessments, development of demand and production as
well as the evaluation of scenarios are summarized in a manual.
(2) Sensitivity analysis. The project team produces a model of the system „land use in Austria“
including the crucial system parameters and their relations. With this model a sensitivity
analysis in the sense of Frederic Vester is made together with stakeholders in workshops.
(3) Development of policy scenarios. Sensitivity analysis results in different policy scenarios that
are simulated and subsequently interpreted by stakeholders.
Based on a comparison of policies and policy options for adapting to resource shortages in Europe
and North America, options and requirements for a sustainable land use in Austria are developed
with special focus on non-state actors and civil society regulation capacities.The use of non-renewable resources must be reduced or replaced by renewables, with biomass playing a crucial role. As a result, competition between material and energetic uses of biomass as well as between the production of biomass and food occurs. Land use-competition can be aggravated if productivity is reduced due to climate change as well as rising prices and shortages of fossil materials. The main goal of the project is the development of political options for a sustainable land use in Austria in view of (1) climate change, (2) rising prices and shortages of fossil materials and chemical fertilizers and (3) a growing demand for biomass. „SOS” thus proposes concrete governance procedures and strategies based on simulations in order to minimize land use-competition. Decision making that effectively reduces land-use competition requires information on long-term yield prospects of the Austrian agriculture and forestry that provides food and biomass. Different land use-scenarios are designed in order to demonstrate the consequences of specific development paths of the energetic and material system towards renewables. In the light of the pressing demand for political action to secure the natural basis of human survival, „normative” scenarios (see p. 6) are relevant to decision making. For the designing of such land use-scenarios until 2050 we will carry out the following steps: (1) Modelling of potential types of land use. The potential distribution of forest, field crops, agroforestry cultures and grasland types are modelled with GIS in high spatial resolution. A regionalized climate scenario enables to model potential land use-types and yields until 2050. (2) Development of scenarios of energetic and material demand and production. The effects of several scenarios of a regional switch to renewables with differing degrees of phasing out fossil resources on the distribution of land use-types in Austria are modelled in a spatially explicit manner until 2050. The difference between domestic production of biomass and food and the level of consumption must be covered by imports. The project thus assesses the status and trends of biomass imports of Austria. (3) Evaluation of scenarios. All scenarios are evaluated with regard to consumption levels, required efficiency gains and biomass imports, changes in lifestyle and consumer behaviour and economic consequences. In a second step, each scenario is evaluated with respect to the preconditions and possible effects on regions exporting biomass. In order to stimulate proactive governance and to develop regulation strategies, a participative, nationwide process with stakeholders is organized, comprising 3 phases: (1) Compilation of a manual. Resource assessments, development of demand and production as well as the evaluation of scenarios are summarized in a manual. (2) Sensitivity analysis. The project team produces a model of the system „land use in Austria“ including the crucial system parameters and their relations. With this model a sensitivity analysis in the sense of Frederic Vester is made together with stakeholders in workshops. (3) Development of policy scenarios. Sensitivity analysis results in different policy scenarios that are simulated and subsequently interpreted by stakeholders. Based on a comparison of policies and policy options for adapting to resource shortages in Europe and North America, options and requirements for a sustainable land use in Austria are developed with special focus on non-state actors and civil society regulation capacities.