Austria has committed to achieving carbon neutrality by 2050 with a view on meeting the 1.5°C and 2°C target set out in the Paris Agreement of 2015. This however requires a significant transformation of societies at all levels and in all sectors. 

The agricultural, forestry, and land use (AFOLU) sector plays an integral role in this transformation, not only due to its direct linkages to our lives (e.g., diet and recreation), but also due to the sector’s potential to absorb and capture atmospheric carbon. These options present a potential conflict between the economic uses of land and climate change risks.

The research project, Zero emissions from agriculture, forestry and other land use in the Eisenwurzen and beyond (ZEAFOLU), which is funded by the Austrian Academy of Sciences, aims to examine the biophysical option space (i.e., the sum of feasible scenarios), of a world without AFOLU emissions in 2050. This option space, determined by, for example, agricultural technology, spatial patterns of land use, diets, and biomass demand, will be evaluated in terms of their impacts on biodiversity, the well-being of the population, and the economy, by means of a participatory process. In order to systematically scrutinize the dependency of the option space from biomass production and trade, which can result in a spatial disconnect between production and consumption, the project utilizes a nested analytical design in which the zero-AFOLU constraint is to be reached at four different spatial scales. This includes the Eisenwurzen region in Upper Austria – a long-term socio-ecological research (LTSER) platform site – as the focal region of research; Austria at the national scale; as well as the European and global levels.

ZEAFOLU is led by the Institute for Social Ecology and the Vienna University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences (BOKU) in cooperation with the International Institute for Applied System Analysis (IIASA), the Wegener Center Graz, and the ÖAR Regionalberatung GmbH.

IIASA contribution

At IIASA, research on systemic and qualitative evaluations of cumulative emissions is implemented at the Advanced System Analysis Program, which aims to provide insights into how the AFOLU sector limits or relaxes the cumulative emission allowances of non-AFOLU sectors if the 2°C or 1.5°C target is to be met. The short- and long-term implications for human well-being in the region, both objective and subjective, are to be evaluated in a co-production process with regional stakeholders. This task is implemented by IIASA Risk and Resilience Program researchers, Wei Liu and Jenan Irshaid, together with the ÖAR Regionalberatung GmbH and dozens of regional stakeholders from various AFOLU related sectors.


Jonas, M., Bun, R., Nahorski, Z., Marland, G., Gusti, M., & Danylo, O. (2019). Quantifying greenhouse gas emissions. Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change 24 (6) 839-852. 10.1007/s11027-019-09867-4.

Mochizuki, J., Schinko, T., Magnuszewski, P., Pajak, M., Bednar-Friedl, B., & Irshaid, J. (2018). Addressing energy transition gaps in climate and energy model regions of Austria through policy co-design. In: 19. Österreichischer Klimatag, 23 –25 April 2018, Salzburg, Austria.