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Restoring nature for a revived ecosystem:  A scenario for the Adriatic Ionian region 

July 2022

Scenarios are a useful tool for thinking about the future

Future thinking and scenarios are a useful tool to allow the exploration of different possible and plausible futures. Although we cannot prepare for the future we can prepare for it and scenarios can be an antidote to presentism, allowing thinking out-of-the-box. Thus, they can be an interesting tool for glimpsing into future pathways for the EU digital, green and just transitions. With material from the ESPON TEVI 2050 project, we have looked in an earlier blogspot into a possible future path towards the digital transition, with the example of the Danube macro-region. This blogspot focuses on the green transition in the Adriatic Ionian macro-region. The green transition, running through the European Green Deal strategy, aims to turn the EU into a resource efficient and climate neutral economy.

Restoring nature for a revived ecosystem

By 2050, the citizens of the Adriatic Ionian macro-region have taken a radical decision to address the most long-term challenge of our times, climate change. The Adriatic Ionian region has taken big leaps towards reviving its eco-system and ‘give back’ to nature large parts of its territories to mitigate climate change effects and revive its biodiversity. This change has been slow and gradual, with first steps and thoughts about it taken in 2020s, to then increase close to 2040s and 2050s (see figure). This has brought immense changes in the living settlements of people, as natural areas have been extended, shrinking areas and left behind rural areas have been given back to nature. Therefore, people moved to the main vibrant urban centres of the region, as shown in the map, as well as in the smaller urban areas, so as to rewild nature (see map). Thanks to increasing digitalisation, the new geography of work, where people working from anywhere, has also moved people to smaller urban areas, increasing their critical mass and creating the so-called ‘Adriatic Ionian Mittelstand, i.e. a strong presence of small and medium-sized enterprises (see map). As also shown in the figure this increased between the 2020s and then took a stable turn until 2050.

The technological integration taking place in the region by 2050 has not only affected the geography of work, but also innovation. Innovation has been revised towards being blue, eco, social and circular. Especially blue innovation has had a gradual progress and development by 2050 in the region (see figure). In view of the effort to restore nature and achieve and environmental sustainability, a further shift in the region concerned the transport sector. The sea has for years served as a key transport means, however, by 2050 the sector has been greened and increased further in importance. Such development started slowly over the 2030s to increase gradually by 2050, with both cargo and ferry corridors connections increasing in the region (see map and figure). Last but not least, EU integration in the region plays a pivotal role by 2050, as regards the EU integration of non-EU member states in the region. This has not been a stable process, having its ups and downs and depending on the different external powers shifts and political decisions taken.

What can this future teach us? 

Restoring nature for a revived ecosystem shows that the Adriatic Ionian macro-region has taken a radical decision to address climate change. This has not been an easy task and has brought significant effects to the region, however, it was coupled with a strong social movement and increased environmental awareness. In an effort to create a positive future, people have decided to change the current state of play and bring dramatic changes to the region, without being stuck in inertia and short-termism. The scenario has shown that the choices we make today may change the course of the future and create positive futures for the next generations.

The scenarios are part of the work carried out in the framework of the ESPON TEVI 2050 project. The reports of the project are to be found on ESPON’s project dedicated website

by Maria Toptsidou

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