Horizon Scanning 2.0: Development of a standardised procedure to identify and assess future environmental impacts

In times of exponentially growing pressure on our planet, the identification and assessment of future environmental challenges and opportunities is becoming increasingly important in order to enable timely political capacity for action. At the EU and international level, processes have therefore been established to systematically identify risks and opportunities for the environment. Among these are UN Environment’s Global Environmental Outlook and the European Environment Agency’s SOER process.

This was the starting point of the project "Horizon Scanning 2.0". It established a standardised procedure, specifically for the German Federal Environment Agency (Umweltbundesamt), to identify and assess future positive and negative environmental impacts. Horizon Scanning is a tool for the early detection of economic, social, technological, political and ecological changes and their potential environmental impacts.

First, the process of Horizontal Scanning was prepared. This includes the selection and preparation of the relevant IT tools and the conceptualisation of the search field (scan field). Additionally, qualitative interviews with staff from the German Federal Environment Agency were conducted in order to determine requirements and information needs – and to find out at which institutional bodies Horizon Scanning  can be particularly used effectively. Subsequently, the Horizon Scanning process was carried out: new topics and trends were identified with the help of document analysis and expert participation. Through a Delphi Survey and a workshop, these topics and trends were then assessed with regard to their environmental impact. The results were subsequently processed and transferred to the environmental policy of the German federal government and to departmental research.