Environmental policy by its very nature transcends sectoral and disciplinary boundaries. Global developments force policymakers to factor in increasingly higher levels of uncertainty. In response, the Environmental Reporting Unit (MIRA) of the Flemish Environmental Agency (VMM) started to widen the scope of its contribution: a reactive assessment of environmental quality was complemented with a proactive identification of relevant trends and their possible impact on the environment in Flanders. Also, MIRA wanted to widen the debate on possible policy interventions by documenting potential transition paths to a more sustainable future. Clearly, this expanded scope had significant implications for the units operations and methodological toolbox.
shiftN has played a pivotal role in the repositioning of agency's Environmental Reporting Unit by contributing its know-how in the areas of futures and systems approaches.
In 2012 we contributed to the agency's initial foray into systemic approaches to long-term transition to sustainability. The result was a system's analysis of the agro-food system in Flanders.
In 2015 we acted as lead contractors in MIRA's first horizon scanning effort. The result was a framework consisting of six Megatrends that served as a backdrop to environmental policy making.
In 2017-8 shiftN was invited to contribute to the Environmental Outlook 2018 report. This report expanded the system-oriented approach adopted by VMM and considered the integrated solutions for large societal systems in transition. shiftN (in partnership with our colleagues at Kenter) updated the 2015 Megatrends study and contributed to systems-oriented work packages on the energy system, spatial development and large scale systems behaviour (in collaboration with EnergyVille (VITO), BUUR and Ghent University).
This work typically requires a mix of desktop research, concept development and stakeholder and expert consultation.
With a more future-oriented, systemic and solution-oriented approach, MIRA-VMM wants to contribute to the fundamental changes needed in Flanders and beyond to meet its demand for necessities such as food, energy, transport and housing. With its innovative methodological approach it belongs to the frontrunners in environmental assessment.
Picture left: Timothy Paule II via Pexels