European Strategy and Policy Analysis System (ESPAS) Report: Global Trends to 2030 – Challenges and Choices for Europe

Τhe “ESPAS Global Trends to 2030: Challenges and Choices for Europe” 2019 report is a contribution to support policy and decision-makers as they navigate the world into 2030. This is not a report on global trends generally. It is an analysis of what global developments affect us, to what extent, and what we can do to shape them.

The European Strategy and Policy Analysis System (ESPAS) was created to provide a European space to identify and analyse the key trends and challenges, and the resulting policy choices, which are likely to confront Europe and the world in the years ahead.  It builds upon a vast array of reports and studies produced by the European institutions and third parties such as international organisations and research institutes.

The next decade will be defining for the future of Europe and Europe’s role in the world. The world is far more complex and competitive than before. Europe is a key global player in many areas, but the world is no longer Eurocentric – nor will it be so in the future. Europeans will be fewer, older, and relatively poorer while much of the rest of the world is rising.

The report presents three interlinked categories concerning the future: Mega-trends, Catalysts and Game-Changers:

Mega-trends are developments already underway and nearly impossible to change over the coming decade. Inevitably, all the subsequent possible futures will be framed by these trends. These are “irreversible certainties” that we have. As their name suggests, mega-trends are trends that occur on a large scale; they therefore affect large groups of humans, states, regions, and in many cases, the entire world. Climate change, demography, urbanisation, economic growth, energy consumption, connectivity and geopolitics are among the most prevailing mega-trends that are explored in this report.

Catalysts are trends that, while identifiable, have higher degrees of uncertainty because they move faster than mega-trends. Like their namesake from chemistry, these trends are agents of change which can accelerate or decelerate other trends. They are “uncertain certainties”. In contrast to mega-trends, humans can change them more easily. One example of a catalyst is violent conflict: a development for which the solution is likely to call for a quick reaction, and trigger other, fast-developing trends such as migration or populism, but caused itself by mega-trends such as demographics or urbanisation.

Game-Changers are decisions taken by humans in the present that will determine the future and they have the lowest degree of certainty. Game-changers are always set in a future determined by the mega-trends and catalysts evolving. The game-changers presented here constitute a European look at global priorities for action.

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