Participatory Development of Shared Socioeconomic Pathways for Austria's Agriculture and Food Systems

Agriculture and food systems are central to managing biodiversity loss and climate change. Future changes in agriculture and food systems are highly uncertain and depend on underlying socio-economic developments. Scenarios allow scientists, policy and industry decision-makers to consider such uncertainties and describe a spectrum of plausible futures. The Shared Socioeconomic Pathways for European agriculture and food systems (Eur-Agri-SSPs) semi-quantitatively describe pathways along future challenges for climate change mitigation and adaptation. However, additional or adapted drivers (i.e., scenario elements), like national policies or adaptations of European policies, are relevant to frame plausible future developments at national scales. We aim to set the standard for developing country and sector-specific SSPs in a participatory process by developing and applying an eleven-step protocol and engaging a diverse group of stakeholders throughout the whole research process. By downscaling the Eu-Agri-SSPs to a national level, we contribute to improve their usability in academia, governments and industry. This is achieved by matching qualitative pathways with the needs of integrated land use models (used to simulate land use scenarios), and by quantifying selected drivers for future developments together with stakeholders. In particular, we estimate 20-year trends (2000-2019) and apply fuzzy set theory to quantify ten scenario elements, which are typically required in integrated land use models. The final scenarios describe the semi-quantitative development for 79 scenario elements along the five topics "Population and urbanization", "Economy", "Policy and institutions", "Technology", and "Environment and natural resources" for the five AT-Agri-SSPs. Exemplary results reveal that stakeholders expect payments for agri-environment-climate measures to increase to 1200 million € in AT-Agri-SSP1 or to decline to 267 million € in AT-Agri-SSP3, 4 and 5. For direct payments, a complete phase-out was specified for AT-Agri-SSP1 and an increase to 711 million € in AT-Agri-SSP3. We discuss 14 lessons learnt and recommendations for future scenario processes and participatory quantification. Recommendations include: tailoring the assignment of scenario elements for quantification to stakeholders' expertise, keeping survey complexity low, providing historical and relevant SSP data, and encouraging stakeholders to jointly quantify interdependent elements. The AT-Agri-SSPs can inform policy-making, decision-making in industry, and research on the agriculture and food systems.