Nature and human society interact in complex ways with biodiversity underpinning the benefits that nature contributes to people (NCP) and human development often leading to significant losses in biodiversity through overexploitation and other drivers of change. These complex interactions result in large uncertainties that make it difficult for societies to resolve an appropriate course of collective action to adapt to or to mitigate change and to pursue sustainable livelihoods. Despite these uncertainties and complex interactions, it is important to understand the key interrelationships to develop effective management and policy strategies. However, social, economic and political conditions in the future may be very different from today. Scenarios and models provide means for exploring uncertainties about how different drivers of change might develop in the future and for considering how those changes might alter society's vulnerability and ability to take action. This improves understanding of the range of plausible futures in a region, alerts decision-makers to undesirable future impacts, and enables exploration of the effectiveness of policy options and management strategies.
Here we develop an assessment of the range of plausible futures for Europe and Central Asia (ECA region) based on a review of exploratory scenarios. The consequences of these futures for nature, NCP and a good quality of life, as simulated by models taking account of uncertainties in projections of different drivers of change. We provide the foundation for understanding the key challenges that may be faced by society in moving towards a more sustainable future. In the assessment, we also describe what a sustainable future might look like by reviewing different visions of sustainable development and how these relate to the United Nations (UN), the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the long‐term EU agendas and sustainability objectives. Possible pathways for achieving such visions are then appraised based on a review of pathways and normative scenarios. This analysis provides an assessment of the alternative policy choices or management interventions that can be used by decision-makers to move towards meeting sustainability goals and thereby support a good quality of life for the people of ECA by mitigating biodiversity loss and promoting a balanced supply of NCP.
The ECA assessment takes an integrated approach to assessing the relationship between nature and society and how they are influenced by natural and anthropogenic direct drivers as well as institutions and governance and other indirect drivers. Furthermore, it builds on the analysis presented in the previous chapters of the ECA report by finally forming the foundation to further develop options for governance, institutional arrangements, and private and public decision-making for implementing the future policy responses analysed in the scenario and modelling studies.