Systems transformations are needed to attain a climate-compatible economy without compromising on other Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) such as access to clean air and energy. Developing methods and tools for the study of transformative policies that could enable different national systems to achieve these goals has been one of the core activities of IIASA’s Energy, Environment, and Climate (ECE) program. This theme builds on this legacy by developing new methods and integrated modeling techniques to analyze country-specific pathways and solutions.  


Decision-making support requires input at various geographic and jurisdictional levels, including global, regional, national, and subnational, which makes the integration of analyses across different spatial scales a major research focus at ECE. The heterogeneity of resources, potentials, and policy challenges calls for developing state-of-the-art methods and tools, e.g., for analyzing national and sub-national level transformation pathways, such as Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) under the Paris Agreement or the Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution (LRTAP).

Methods and tools

This theme coordinates with ECE researchers to advance modeling frameworks and research to be further tailored and enhanced to increase temporal and spatial granularity on the one hand, and to explicitly represent various policy options and measures relevant for decision-making at the sub/national scales on the other hand. This is accomplished by:

  • Developing flexible and standardized modeling workflows to build sub/national and multi-country models that can be integrated with regional and global models if needed.
  • Facilitating model linkages and input-output data exchange between different research groups and modeling activities, e.g., soft-linking national energy and climate pathways to air pollution and health impact analysis.
  • Applying advanced data analytics, such as downscaling and machine learning methods, to derive data and insight from different emerging sources relevant to sub/national analyses.

The core modeling frameworks being used under this theme are:

  • MESSAGEix: An open modeling framework for integrated assessments and systems analysis
  • GAINS:  A framework for analyzing GHG - Air Pollution Interactions and Synergies

Examples of advanced modeling methods related to this theme include:

  • Developing models and tools for analyzing novel storage solutions to enhance energy and water security (case study Central Asia).

Capacity co-creation and training

In addition to strengthening the sub/national level modeling capacity at IIASA, this theme aims to enhance the collaboration and knowledge transfer between IIASA and its National Member Organizations (NMOs) in this research domain. This will help national modeling teams to apply integrated assessments and provide evidence for transformative policymaking that can cover multiple challenges like air pollution, energy security, or environmental degradation. This will be achieved by organizing workshops, seminars, and community meetings, and hosting research exchanges at IIASA. Some examples include MESSAGEix Introductory Workshop and Getting Started with GAINS.

Examples of projects


Liu, J., Zhou, W., Yang, J., Ren, H., Zakeri, B. , Tong, D., Guo, Y., Klimont, Z. , Zhu, T., Tang, X., & Yi, H. (2022). Importing or self-dependent: energy transition in Beijing towards carbon neutrality and the air pollution reduction co-benefits. Climatic Change 173 (3-4) e18. 10.1007/s10584-022-03413-z.

Hunt, J. , Weber, N., Zakeri, B. , Diaby, A.T., Byrne, P., Filho, W.L., & Schneider, P.S. (2021). Deep seawater cooling and desalination: Combining seawater air conditioning and desalination. Sustainable Cities and Society 74 e103257. 10.1016/j.scs.2021.103257.

Bai, Z., Winiwarter, W. , Klimont, Z. , Velthof, G., Misselbrook, T., Zhao, Z., Jin, X., Oenema, O., Hu, C., & Ma, L. (2019). Further Improvement of Air Quality in China Needs Clear Ammonia Mitigation Target. Environmental Science & Technology 53 (18) 10.1021/acs.est.9b04725.

Amann, M. , Klimont, Z. , An Ha, T., Rafaj, P. , Kiesewetter, G. , Gomez Sanabria, A. , Nguyen, B. , Thi Thu, T.N., Thuy, K., Schöpp, W. , Borken-Kleefeld, J. , Höglund-Isaksson, L. , Wagner, F. , Sander, R. , Heyes, C. , Cofala, J., Trung, N.Q., Dat, N.T., & Tung, N.N. (2019). Future air quality in Ha Noi and northern Vietnam. IIASA Research Report. Laxenburg, Austria: RR-19-003

Thambi, S., Bhatacharya, A., & Fricko, O. (2018). India’s Energy and Emissions Outlook: Results from India Energy Model. NITI Aayog (National Institution for Transforming India)

Bhanarkar, A.D., Purohit, P. , Rafaj, P. , Amann, M. , Bertok, I., Cofala, J., Rao, P.S., Vardhan, B.H., Kiesewetter, G. , Sander, R. , Schöpp, W. , Majumdar, D., Srivastava, A., Deshmukh, S., Kawarti, A., & Kumar, R. (2018). Managing future air quality in megacities: Co-benefit assessment for Delhi. Atmospheric Environment 186 158-177. 10.1016/j.atmosenv.2018.05.026.

Henneman, L.R.F., Rafaj, P. , Annegarn, H.J., & Klausbruckner, C. (2016). Assessing emissions levels and costs associated with climate and air pollution policies in South Africa. Energy Policy 89 160-170. 10.1016/j.enpol.2015.11.026.