DECIPHER (DECIsion-making framework and Processes for Holistic Evaluation of enviRonmental and climate policies) is an EU Commission funded project that aims to embed risk, opportunity, resilience and feasibility dimensions into the economic methods that support decision-making in order to increase the effectiveness, efficiency, and legitimacy of climate and environmental policies.

The economic appraisal of climate and environment policies, as it is currently performed, falls short of contributing to the crafting of robust and legitimate transition pathways, because it fails to represent the multidimensional and multistage interaction of environmental policies with the society, the economy and the physical system. Acknowledging the need for decision-makers to have at their disposal tools that are both practical and sophisticated, DECIPHER’s international and interdisciplinary consortium will employ a systemic approach and use a diverse mix of economic models & methods and social science methods to create an enhanced framework for robust, innovative, adaptive, and inclusive decision-making for climate, biodiversity, and sustainability policies at all geographic scales.

To do this, this novel Decision-Making Framework (DMF) will take stock of past lessons on key factors of policy effectiveness and provide new insights on how global societal disruptions like COVID-19 and other crises can in fact act as ‘game changers,’ creating opportunities for transformational policy implementation and ‘bouncing forward. Importantly enough, the new DMF will be rooted in the experience and expertise of key stakeholders, enhancing its practical usability after the project ends, and be tested under real-world conditions as a tool for advanced and holistic evaluation of policies that are meant to shape Europe’s transition to climate neutrality. Towards this end, DECIPHER has the following key objectives and deliverables:

  • Build an iterative knowledge co-creation process for more transparent, inclusive and representative policy design and evaluation.
  • Gain an advanced understanding of the factors and dynamics that shape policy and political decision-making on climate and the environment through a social science lens.
  • Develop a new generation of enhanced state-of-the-art economic models that establish feedback loops with physical system models, embed systemic risks and uncertainty and capture behavioural and knowledge dynamics and socio-ecological system complexity.
  • Operationalise a novel decision-making framework having risk, resilience, and opportunity at its core.
  • Perform a real-world, stakeholder-led assessment of the design and implementation of overarching EU policies.
  • Revisit decision-making tools as black boxes by promoting open access and reproducibility.

IIASA, via the Systemic Risk and Resilience Research (SYRR) research group, contributes to the following work packages of the DECIPHER project:

  • Enriching forward-looking decision-making frameworks and processes: risk, resilience and understanding opportunity: In this work package led by IIASA, the objective is to review review and enrich (empirical) decision-making frameworks for improved forward-looking policy assessment. Attention across this workpackage is given to emerging and innovative analytical issues in decision-making. Specifically, this workpackage will assess novel methods for understanding resilience as policy outcome as well as the resilience of policies to challenge, e.g., due to protests and acceptability.


  • Improved understanding of the impacts of disruptive events (COVID-19, Financial Crisis, disasters, technology) on environmental policy-making: Employing behavioural, policy and governance research methods, in this task we will (i) study recent events and processes to identify needed innovation in policy design, policy instruments as well as governance that may enhance policy resilience as well (ii) identify key levers of transformational change stimulated and unleashed by disruption.