EconTrans takes an innovative integrated approach to address challenges that are deeply interlinked: reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and coping with fundamental transformations triggered by disruptive technologies. The spatial focus of EconTrans is on Austria, while its emissions perspective and policy embedding is globally consistent.

© Ariane Weifner | RISK

© Ariane Weifner | RISK

Against the backdrop of a changing geopolitical landscape climate policy faces fundamental challenges. EconTrans addresses three of them:

  • the need for reducing GHG emissions rapidly to be on track of a 2° (or lower) target compared to pre-industrial levels;
  • the task to acknowledge and connect to the SDGs;
  • and the need for understanding fundamental economic transformations triggered by disruptive technologies.

The main goal of EconTrans is to propose an integrated perspective to address these challenges and to demonstrate that they are interlinked. Among other things, this requires enlarging the scope of mainstream economics by rethinking the indicators of well-being, extending the scope of resources used for economic activities, and deepening our understanding of the complex relationships that ultimately relate well-being to climate change and planetary boundaries.

EconTrans will provide three building blocks for replacing and extending conventional concepts. First, welfare relevant functionalities – such as shelter and access to people, goods and locations - will replace commonly used measures for well-being such as GDP or consumption. Second, in view of the indicators needed for evaluating climate policy as well as SDGs, an extended list of resources that economic activities draw upon will not only include human and reproducible capital but also natural resources (distinguishing materials, energy, but also air, land and water used as a sink for emissions and source for amenities). Third, these blocks will be tied together in a comprehensive modelling framework that builds on familiar input-output and general equilibrium methods to allow longer-term analyses.

IIASA’s RISK program, addresses the link between human well-being and GHG emissions. This relationship is highly complex. For instance, people in the Global South suffer from severe energy poverty, while a growing consumer class in the Global North is responsible for a large fraction of GHG emissions. To operational concepts of human well-being, EconTrans will focus on an eudaimonic understanding of well-being. This means that human flourishing is achieved when an individual reaches his/her highest potential within society.

IIASA’s ASA Program is responsible for embedding targeted transformations in a globally consistent emissions context. This requires a deepened understanding of economic structures to facilitate analyzing the impact of behavioral and technological changes which result in a use of resources. Here the focus is on the extensive use of the atmosphere as a sink for anthropogenic GHG emissions. A range of transformation paths can be designed in accordance with aspired aspects of human well-being and the emergence of disruptive technologies. These transformation paths come with emissions budgets, which can be evaluated in terms of their adequacy in a global setting.

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Last edited: 23 November 2020


Matthias Jonas

Senior Research Scholar Exploratory Modeling of Human-natural Systems Research Group - Advancing Systems Analysis Program

Thomas Schinko

Research Group Leader and Research Scholar Equity and Justice Research Group - Population and Just Societies Program

Piotr Zebrowski

Research Scholar Exploratory Modeling of Human-natural Systems Research Group - Advancing Systems Analysis Program


May 2018 - May 2021

International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
Schlossplatz 1, A-2361 Laxenburg, Austria
Phone: (+43 2236) 807 0 Fax:(+43 2236) 71 313