By Alasdair Keith, Richard O’brien and Michael Prest, Outsights On, 2009

The four scenarios are structured around the interplay of technology and the model for the allocation of resources, as described in the matrix.Each axis represents a spectrum of possible outcomes and the two axes together create four main future economic environments. The vertical axis - technology - captures the speed and extent of innovation driven by technology:  will technology still be a major force for change, through fast innovation, connecting the world, creating new possibilities, or will it be stifled?  The horizontal axis - allocation of resources - examines the future of the economic model of distribution. Will resources - natural, human, financial and knowledge - be allocated through market forces as in recent years, or will an alternative process of control over distribution and allocation develop?

Planned progress

Sustainability. Electorates' response to climate change and resource availability is the initial trigger for central control over the allocation of resources. Resource availability is mainly addressed on the supply-side by governments investing in major programmes to improve energy efficiency and to introduce new technologies - "Manhattan Projects" for energy – and mandating the use of carbon sequestration technologies.

People. There is central government control over the labour market. Government Departments for Manpower Planning enforce very strict visa policies linked to skills - people flows are allowed to promote innovation and make up for skills shortages. There are fierce "wars" for talent. Education is geared to targeted training rather than general education. Technology leads to increased productivity, helping to mitigate the challenges of strained dependency ratios in countries with ageing societies.

Technology. R&D is controlled by the state and the military with massive investment in solutions-based technologies and the picking and backing of winners. Investment in science is aimed at finding practical solutions rather than blue sky research and there is tight control over the development of what is regarded as "consumer trivia". Intellectual property is restricted, for example by technology transfer rules. Borders still matter in the physical world and inhibit markets from further integrating through ICT.

Political models and stability. A new social contract emerges to meet the 21st Century challenges of energy, food, water and climate change, with people ceding power to central governments - akin to emergency powers under wartime. Intense fuel efficiency is mandatory - hybrid, electric, hydrogen and other technologies replace petrol and diesel. This model resembles China today: the Chinese government would find it much easier to mandate the use of energy efficient light bulbs overnight than would any democracy. A Board of Nations, with greater powers than the UN, agrees on carbon caps which emerging economies do not perceive as growth inhibiting. Liberties are restricted for the public good.

Riding the tiger

Sustainability. The market delivers solutions. As spending on energy and food rises there is an incentive to develop new clean technologies. Innovation comes from "garages", leaving incumbents in the energy industry blindsided. The price of wind energy, solar power and marine energy fall and renewals become a competitive alternative.  Desalination programmes increase the amount of drinking water available. Resource availability is addressed and there is a fall in commodity prices. People look back and wonder why all the fuss about rising energy and food prices.

People. Borders are further eroded - improvements in ICT make virtual working a reality. People can work "overseas" from their office at home. The world flattens rather than being "spiky" and characterised by hubs.  Both skilled and unskilled labour flow freely. There is a huge movement of "bare branches" away from China to a booming India. IVF and better ways of balancing work and family push up fertility rates and redress demographic imbalances in the West. "Personalised medicine" is a reality but with inequalities in health outcomes.

Technology. The free market fosters an entrepreneurial and innovative culture with step changes in technology offering solutions to the challenges of the day. There is a second "Green Revolution" based on GM to overcome food shortages. Developments in virtual worlds and the blurring of the distinction between the virtual world and the real world lead to further integration of markets. Consumers can purchase goods direct from the manufacturing country - people often pop down to the shops - which are a "virtual mall".

Political models and stability. There is limited but effective government. Suitable multilateral fora exist to govern global spaces - in the physical world addressing climate and resources, and in the virtual world governing the Internet. Whilst challenges are addressed with mixed success, relative stability is achieved because nations and people feel that their voices are being heard.

On hold

Sustainability. There is a slow, blunt policy response from governments in addressing resource availability issues.  Until 2015 there is no marked increase in average global temperatures, leading electorates to discount climate change as a pressing matter that needs addressing.

People. Unskilled and skilled labour move freely around the globe. Hubs remain important - a "spiky" world. The global working age population is stable and large migration flows redress imbalances in ageing societies. European governments develop short-term migration systems - gastarbeiter for the 21st Century. Climate migrants leave the new drought zones - southern US, Australia and Mediterranean countries – for Canada, Russia and Scandinavian countries.

Technology. Slow technological growth entrenches conventional thinking e.g. the rise of conservative religion. Even if the technological solutions exist, they are not adopted because societies are risk averse. As economic growth stutters there is less money for R&D, which makes the unpropitious climate for innovation worse.

Political models and stability. Governments are weak and frustrated. Lacking the necessary multilateral architecture to address the linked challenges of resources and climate change, this is a world in which the "tragedy of the global commons" really plays out. Failure to address these issues makes the world inherently unstable and there is a very significant risk of aggression between nation states. Disagreements and conflicts develop over access to resources.

Life in the slow lane

Sustainability. The response to climate change and resource availability issues is strongly nationalistic. This leads to rationing to overcome resource constraints. State-controlled "multinationals" dominate resource extraction and distribution in resource-rich countries. Others are either beholden to the world's state energy companies or "colonise" resource-rich areas as in the "new scramble for Africa". China has plans to buy farm land in Africa. Gulf state investors are buying land in Pakistan.

People. Human resources are rationed through tough population controls similar to China's one child policy. Populations tolerate this as controlling the number of children is perceived to be the only way to ensure an equitable distribution of finite resources.  Pessimism about climate change lowers fertility rates. Population control causes tension in countries facing demographic challenges, as technology does not lead to the required productivity improvements and closed borders mean that migrants do not fill the labour shortfall. Agriculture moves towards subsistence farming and people adopt much simpler diets.

Technology. Government regulation limits technologies to existing, simple ones. This gives today's incumbents a huge advantage. Concerns about cybersecurity lead to far greater control over the Internet and consequently it is no longer an innovative space.

Political models and stability. Nations respond to the challenges by turning inward and becoming more nationalistic, creating a nationalism of climate change. After the crisis of free markets there is strong anti-globalisation sentiment and governments introduce ad hoc controls over flows of goods, services, people and capital. These measures are accompanied by a wave of rhetoric claiming that they will protect citizens. Many industries are nationalised and the state keeps a close watch on mutuals, which have re-emerged - in the wake of increased distrust of private companies.

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By Deutsche Post DHL, 2012

There are five different scenarios presented for the world in 2050, each positing a future driven by a particular series of developments over the ensuing four decades.

Scenario 1: Untamed economy – impending collapse, looks at a world characterized by unchecked materialism and consumption, fed by the paradigm of quantitative growth and the rejection of sustainable development. Global trade has flourished through elimination of trade barriers. Global economic power has shifted to Asia and the formerly “emerging” countries have surpassed the West. A global transportation supergrid ensures rapid exchange of goods between centers of consumption.This untamed economy, propelled by unsustainable lifestyles and uncontrolled exploitation of natural resources, carries the seeds of its own demise: as massive climate change inches closer, natural disasters occur more often and disrupt supply chains frequently. This untamed economy, propelled by unsustainable lifestyles and uncontrolled exploitation of  natural resources, carries the seeds of its own demise: as massive climate change inches closer, natural disasters occur more often and disrupt supply chains frequently.The implications for the logistics industry include a massive increase in the demand for logistics and transport services. Companies even outsource production processes to logistics companies. While climate change opened up shorter and more efficient trade corridors through the Arctic ice, an increase in extreme weather events interrupts trade routes on a frequent basis and raises capital costs for logistics companies.

Scenario 2: Mega-efficiency in Megacities, describes a world in which megacities are both the main drivers and beneficiaries of a paradigm shift towards green growth. To overcome the challenges of expanding urban structures, such as congestion and emissions, megacities have become collaboration champions, fostering open trade and global governance models in partnership with supranational institutions. Rural regions have been left behind and the nation-state has become a second-tier actor.Robotics has revolutionized the world of production and services. Consumers have switched from product ownership to rent-and use consumption. Highly efficient traffic concepts, including underground cargo transport and new solutions for public transport, have relieved congestion. Zero-emission automated plants have helped to cut carbon emissions. A global supergrid with mega transporters, including trucks, ships and aircraft, as well as space transporters, has opened important trade connections between the megacities of the world.The logistics industry is entrusted to run city logistics, utilities, as well as system services for airports, hospitals, shopping malls and construction sites, along with part of the public transport infrastructure. It also manages the complex logistics planning and operations for advanced manufacturing tasks. In response to “dematerialization” of consumption, logistics companies offer an array of renting and sharing services, as well as secure data transfer. Thus, advanced logistics services not only encompass the fast and reliable delivery of goods, but also the safe transfer of information and knowledge.

Scenario 3: Customized lifestyles, describes a world where individualization and personalized consumption are pervasive. Consumers are empowered to create, design and innovate their own products. This leads to a rise in regional trade streams, with only raw materials and data still flowing globally. Customization and regional production are complemented by decentralized energy systems and infrastructure.The new production technologies like 3D printers accelerate the customization trend and allow developing countries to leapfrog classical industrial production patterns. However, the extensive production of personalized products has increased energy and raw materials consumption overall, resulting in a global climate on course to a 3.5°C temperature increase by the end of the century.The implications for logistics include a vastly reduced need for long-distance transportation of final and semi-final goods due to the localization of value chains. At the same time, logistics providers organize the entire physical value chains. They also handle the encrypted data streams required for the transmission of construction and design blueprints for 3D printers, and have expanded into the online fabbing market. The decentralized organization of production turns strong regional logistics capabilities and a high quality last-mile network into important success factors.

Scenario 4: paralysing protectionism, describes a world where, triggered by economic hardship, excessive nationalism and protectionist barriers, globalization has been reversed. Resources are scarce, technological development is lagging and economies are in decline. High energy prices and dramatic scarcities lead to international conflicts over resource deposits. Under these circumstances, scant effort is made to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the world climate is on the path to a 3.5° C temperature increase by the end of the century. Implications for the logistics industry include challenges posed by the decline in world trade and the resulting regionalization of supply chains. Governments view logistics as a strategic industry. As relations between some blocs and countries are extremely strained, logistics providers in bloc-free countries act as intermediaries in international trade brokerage. The growing complexity and length of the customs clearing process increases demand for specialized customs brokerage and consulting services.

Scenario 5: global resilience – local adaptation, describes a world initially characterized by a high level of consumption thanks to cheap, automated production. However, due to accelerated climate change, frequent catastrophes disrupt supply chains and lean production structures, resulting in repeated supply failures for all kinds of goods. The new economic paradigm is distinguished by a shift away from efficiency maximization to vulnerability mitigation and resilience. This radical move towards redundant systems of production and a change from global to regionalized supply chains allows the global economy to better weather troubling times.The resilient world in 2050, with regionalized trade, relies on a logistics sector that ensures supply security as a top priority, with backup infrastructure to guarantee reliable transport in unstable and hazardous times. However, such extensive backup systems are asset-heavy and conflict with the aim of carbon reduction. To counter this effect and balance energy efficiency and supply chain resilience, sophisticated logistics planning is used to achieve high capacity utilization. In addition, instead of complex just-in-time delivery processes, huge warehouse structures located close to the manufacturer are seen as indispensable buffers.

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World Business Council for Sustainable Development, 2004

This study is the final report of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development's project on Sustainable Mobility, providing a vision of global road transportation for the mobility of people, goods and services. The main report looks at road transport, and it defines 'sustainable mobility' as a goal (the foreword notes that 'promoting mobility' is a goal of the companies involved in the project: eight auto manufacturers, two oil companies, a tyre manufacturer and an electricity and aluminium manufacturer). The study's reference scenario makes projections of current trends to 2050.

The report focuses attention on the results of changes in transport technology and fuel.

The Price is Right Scenario

A free-market world, with growing rich/poor disparity and a lack of attention to long-term issues. The scenario foresees that widespread use of carbon sequestration reduces attention to climate change issues; instead, access to safe drinking water becomes a primary question. Markets and market-oriented interventions become dominant. Within this scenario, a path 'towards sustainability' involves corporate attention to sustainability issues and technology innovation.

The Global Citizen Scenario 

Energy supply shocks and other events prompt strong policy interventions worldwide. There is a strong role for NGOs and for public/private partnerships. In this scenario, a path 'away from sustainability' could result from a lack of corporation participation and slow technology development.

We'll do it our way Scenario

A fracturing of the global community has increased nationalism and also a great number of local solutions to environmental and mobility problems. The scenario involves development on a regional basis, increased global security fears and slower technology progress.

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Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), 2012

This publication explores the long-term opportunities and challenges facing major gateway and transport hub infrastructures – ports, airports and major rail corridors – in the coming decades. It uses projections and scenarios to assess the broader economic outlook and future infrastructure requirements, and examines the options for financing these, not least against the backdrop of the economic recession and financial crisis which have significantly modified the risks and potential rewards associated with major infrastructure projects. Building on numerous in-depth case studies from Europe, North America and Asia, this book offers insights into the economic prospects for these key facilities and identifies policy options for improved gateway and corridor infrastructure in the future. 

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Forum for the Future, 2010

Megacities on the move argues that cities need to radically reengineer their infrastructures to cope with much larger populations. By 2040 two in three people will live in cities; the world’s urban population will grow from 3.5 billion to 5.6 billion. The report sets out six solutions for sustainable mobility that they can follow now to help city-dwellers access the people, goods, services and information they need, and it gives examples of where these are already happening. It also provides four vivid scenarios for the world of 2040 which organisations can use to make long-term planning more effective by exploring what the future may hold for them.

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Download this file (megacities_on_move_scenarios.pdf)Megacities on the Move [ ]

European Monitoring Center on Change (EMCC)
European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions, 2008

This report sets out four different scenarios for the European transport and logistics sector. Scenarios depict plausible hypotheses about the future; thus, they are useful tools for forecasting, analysing and formulating policy, as well as for strategic planning in private companies and among the social partners. In a rapidly changing and complex world – where demand and supply change equally fast – planning for the future cannot rely on simple projections of past trends. Alternative views of the future can help to broaden the understanding of issues that need to be addressed today. Scenario methodology provides such alternative views by embracing the uncertainty inherent in the future. This outline of four scenarios represents realistic, internally consistent, and plausible pictures of alternative futures for the transport and logistics sector.

Scenario 1: Take the A-train
Scenario 2: I’m in love with my car
Scenario 3: Riding the rainbow
Scenario 4: Moonlight ride in a diesel

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Project funded by the European Commission - DGTREN, 2008-2009

This report presents the final results of the TRANSvisions study. The aim of the study has been to assist the DG TREN in carrying out mid- and long-term analysis of different policy means to enhance the debate on transport policies. The study has analysed existing transport in order to identify drivers and changes in the transport structure, and translated the results into a modelling tool which has assisted in analysing the end-effects of different policy instruments. The study ended up with recommendations concerning transport policy issues to address in the coming years in order to meet aims concerning economic, environmental and social sustainability.

Supply Chain Management Institute, 2009

Transportation & Logistics 2030 represents a series of Delphi studies on the future of the industry. The first issue is a multi-faceted analysis of the ramifications of energy scarcity and its impact on the design of future supply chains. We examine how the cost of energy and emissions, changes in consumer behaviour and the evolution of transport modes are set to reshape supply chains.

J.Knockaert, S.Proost, D.Van Regemorter, Katholike Unversiteit Leuven, 2004

The partial equilibrium model PRIMES-transport has been used for the evaluation of different transport policy measures which are on the table at EU or national level. The model covers the transport activity by transport mode and their associated energy consumption and air pollution in the EU, country by country. A full range of alternative technologies for each mode are considered and the choice of technologies is based on the generalised cost concept, inclusive the time cost and other not direct cost element. In a first part, the design of the model and the reference scenario specification are described. Then in a second part the different transport policy measures are evaluated. The policy measures are the introduction of more fuel efficient road vehicles (furthering the ACEA agreement), the promotion of biofuels (EU proposal), the introduction of low-sulphur heavy fuel in navigation and finally the German LKW-Maut road-toll. Their impact are evaluated in terms of transport activity (overall and per mode), energy consumption, emissions and associated damage and technological choice.

A.Curry, T.Hodgson, R.Kelnar, A.Wilson
UK Office Science & Technology (September 2004 - January 2006)

The Foresight Project on Intelligent Infrastructure Systems (IIS) set out to examine the challenges and opportunities for the UK in bringing ‘intelligence’ to its infrastructure – the physical networks that deliver such services as transport, telecommunications, water and energy. In particular, the project explored how, over the next 50 years, we can apply science and technology to the design and implementation of intelligent infrastructure for robust, sustainable and safe transport, and its alternatives. The technological opportunities and social factors are such that IIS can develop in many different ways. The direction will depend on the direction that society takes. The Foresight project investigated many alternative futures and identified 60 different ‘drivers for change’ (see Appendix). It is difficult to say how these drivers will change the future. However, to illustrate the possibilities, and guide its thinking and analysis, the project created four scenarios of how the future might look.

Edited by Apollonia Miola, 2008

Several approaches for strategy analysis and future analysis methods exist: scenario technique, forecasting, backcasting, Delphi studies. In this context, forecasting methods are dominant, but the complementary development of backcasting planning methodology is particularly useful when problems at hand are complex and when present time is part of the problem such as sustainability issues. This report summarises the results of an exploratory research on “Backcasting approach for sustainability planning in the transport sector”. Aim of this research is the identification of main elements of a methodology to develop backcasting scenarios for policy of sustainable mobility. The report consists of two sections. The first part analyses the most common future methods. It examines the applications of backcasting approach in a sustainability context and identifies main steps of a backcasting exercise to achieve a sustainable transport system. In the second section, a backcasting exercise to define an EU sustainable transport system is developed to give a practical example of this method and to define some policy packages to achieve an EU sustainable mobility.

EC DG TREN, 2005

This is ANNEX V of the final report for ‘Assessment of the contribution of the TEN and other transport policy measures to the mid-term implementation of the White Paper on the European Transport Policy for 2010’.

Econotec - Vito

This is the reason why the Federal Ministry for the Environment has asked VITO and ECONOTEC to undertake a study aimed at establishing a set of key assumptions specific for Belgium. These key assumptions would be the basis for the calculation of emission projections and assessment of emission reductions for the mid- and long-term (2020 and 2050) to be performed in the framework of a subsequent study. They should reflect the international framework and the specificity of the country, its regions and its specific sectors.