Posted on Tue 03 October 2023 in Projects

Future ORiEnted ScenarIo modellinG of Holistic land use sTrategies


The FORESIGHT project is funded by the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications under services contract to provide agriculture and land use modelling Services to Ireland’s Climate Action Modelling Group . The project is led by the FUSION research group in the University of Galway, in partnership with University of Limerick and FERS Ltd, and comprises internationally recognised experts in integrated agriculture, forestry and other land use (AFOLU) emissions modelling.

The main objectives of FORESIGHT are to:

  1. Provide timely and professional evidence on emissions trajectories from the AFOLU sector, transparently applying existing models.
  2. Advance the state-of-the-art in integrated AFOLU modelling through continued development of models like GOBLIN and CBM CFS3.
  3. Build world-class research capacity in AFOLU modelling, training a new generation of modelers and land use experts to guide future decisions on land use and climate action.

The principle of foresight was integral to the initial development of the GOBLIN model and is endorsed by the OECD Observatory of Public Sector Innovation for effective governance in times of change (OPSI, 2021):

Times of rapid change, unpredictable uncertainty, novelty, and ambiguity highlight the limitations of traditional forecast-based planning. Foresight helps policy makers to challenge and overcome current assumptions about the future and prepare for a broader set of possibilities…Strategic Foresight makes it possible to make wise decisions in spite of uncertainty by generating and exploring different plausible futures that could arise, and the opportunities and challenges they could entail (OPSI, 2021)

Modelling Approach


Achieving territorial climate neutrality involves the following fixed constraints: (i) national GHG emissions and removals (or net warming effect) must be balanced to zero; (ii) a fixed land base (circa 69,000 km² for Ireland) on which land use and management changes can occur. Preliminary results from GOBLIN indicate that achieving climate neutrality in Ireland will involve truly transformative change across the AFOLU sector. Furthermore, long-term climate neutrality (2100+) is only likely to be sustained with either ongoing forestry expansion over a very large land share (Duffy et al., 2022), or cascading uses of wood (Forster et al., 2021). Agriculture and land use planning will also need to ensure resilience to projected climate change impacts whilst delivering co-benefits for air and water quality, and appropriate habitats for biodiversity, alongside prospects for a fair and just transition in terms of economic value added and employment. Designing effective and holistic policy for agriculture and land use is therefore a multi-faceting challenge that requires integrated modelling.

Global Integrated Assessment Models (IAMs) are essential tools that underpin global climate science and policy. IAMs integrate important assumptions in relation to resources, technologies, population dynamics and mitigation policy, but inevitably national context and landscape detail is lost in such global modelling. Scenario development tools that can assess relatively large (national) scale scenarios, whilst preserving important agricultural practices and landscape detail, are needed to inform effective national climate policy. The development of detailed national climate neutrality plans appropriate to the Paris Agreement will require high-resolution integrated modelling of national emissions sources and sinks.

FORESIGHT will further develop GOBLIN into a state-of-the-art integrated AFOLU model for Ireland that enables policy makers, researchers and industry stakeholders to explore this multifaceted challenge, and to steer land use policy in a consistent, sustainable & resilient direction. FERS expertise will align GOBLIN with the national inventory forestry model. All model development will be undertaken in a transparent and open-access manner, consulting with Irish and International experts to validate key assumptions, and publishing all code and associated descriptions, as per development of GOBLIN v1.0 (Duffy et al., 2022).

Project Outputs Summary

Title Output Type Brief Summary/Abstract Date Published/Delivered
Considerations around "bringing forward" new forest carbon credits in the LULUCF sector Paper Paper prepared for LULUCF working group meeting in DAFM Backweston 24.02.2023
FORESIGHT: Future ORiEnted ScenarIo modellinG of Holistic land use sTrategies. Presentation Presentation for project kick-off meeting with DECC, Dublin. 19.04.2023
Commercial afforestation can deliver effective climate change mitigation under multiple decarbonisation pathways. Presentation Presentation to Global Bioenergy Platform at UN FAO, Rome. 08.05.2023
Visioning sustainable & resilient agriculture: known pieces of the confounding puzzle. Presentation Presentation to EPA Water Conference, Galway. 14.06.2023
Implications of Net Zero pathways for 2030 emissions in LULUCF. Report Summary report to DECC. 17.08.2023 (not public)
Food system transformation. Chapter Draft chapter on food system transformation for possible integration into the EPA State of the Environment report. 04.07.2023 (not published yet)
Forest planting scenario outputs for LULUCF SEC deliberations. Numerical summaries Numerical summaries for DECC and McKinsey. Jun-Sept 2023


Duffy, C., Prudhomme, R., Duffy, B., Gibbons, J., Iannetta, P. P. M., O’Donoghue, C., Ryan, M., & Styles, D. (2022). Randomized national land management strategies for net-zero emissions. Nature Sustainability, 1–8. DOI

Duffy, C., Prudhomme, R., Duffy, B., Gibbons, J., O’Donoghue, C., Ryan, M., & Styles, D. (2022). GOBLIN version 1.0: a land balance model to identify national agriculture and land use pathways to climate neutrality via backcasting. Geoscientific Model Development, 15(5), 2239–2264. DOI

Forster, E. J., Healey, J. R., Dymond, C., & Styles, D. (2021). Commercial afforestation can deliver effective climate change mitigation under multiple decarbonisation pathways. Nature Communications, 12(1), 1–12. DOI

OPSI (2021). Towards a strategic foresight system in Ireland. Observatory of Public Sector Innovation, OECD, Paris. Link (Retrieved 10.08.2023)


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