Department of Planning

About the project

About the project

‘Getting the data right’ is one of a total of five initiatives in the project package ‘Decarbonizing Denmark: 70by30’, which is funded by the KR Foundation. The project works purposefully to realise Denmark's ambitious climate goal and cement the country's leading position in the climate area internationally. 

‘Getting the data right’ will run over a four-year period, and is anchored in the Danish Centre for Environmental Assessment under the Department of Planning at Aalborg University.

‘Getting the data right’ has received DKK 39 million from the KR Foundation, of which DKK 21.9 million has been allocated to Aalborg University.

The project will be hosted by DCEA – The Danish Centre for Environmental Assessment – within the Department of Planning, Aalborg University. The project will be led by the researchers at DCEA that have been leading the development of the existing EXIOBASE 3 hybrid, the only input‐output model of the global economy that applies demand‐based causal modelling and balances both physical and monetary flows, thus providing logical consistency to the core data needed for economic models and carbon footprint generators.

DCEA is an interdisciplinary research group of 20+ researchers with extensive experience in life cycle assessment, quantitative sustainable development modelling, digitalization, big data, social planning procedures, and stakeholder engagement. The centre has a strong global network with key researchers and officers within input‐output and LCA modelling, as well as within statistical agencies and UN Environment. 

Project lead is performed by Associate Professor Jannick Schmidt supported by Professor Bo Weidema. Both researchers are high on global rankings and they have both published >50 articles in peer reviewed scientific journals. Bo Weidema has played a pioneering role in the development of Life Cycle Assessment databases. In 2003, he published the first Danish input‐output database and for six years he was the chief scientist and executive manager of the ecoinvent LCI database, responsible for the development of its current version 3. Jannick Schmidt has had a key role in the development of time series of hybrid input output databasesthat are fully balanced in both physical and economic units. The first of its kind was published in 2010. Since then, Jannick has implemented the concepts in the EXIOBASE database. 

Key issues adressed

The success of climate mitigation and adaptation options depends crucially on the ability of decision makers to choose the most efficient among the myriad of different actions and pathways by which the global community can reach (or fail to reach) the goals of minimizing global temperature increase and its impacts. One of the largest obstacles that cause inefficient or poor decisions and cause delaysin communication and implementation is the lack of up‐to‐date, valid, and trustworthy data with global coverage.

However, the carbon footprint databases and generators, current widely used for decision making, are generally outdated, too aggregated, incomplete, with limited validity, and not easily accessible. The currently most advanced footprint database and generator is EXIOBASE 3 hybrid, which has been developed by an international consortium under the leadership of the project applicants. It is the only input‐output model of the global economy with demand‐based causal modelling and simultaneous balancing of both monetary and physical flows. Nevertheless, its most recent update isfor year 2011, it is not easily accessible for decision makers, and it does not have a straightforward link to the integrated climate models and to other socio‐ecological impact models. Public funding has not been sufficient to ensure neither easy accessibility to the results nor simple mechanisms for continuous updating.  

The overall issue that the project addresses is this lack of updated, detailed, globally complete, valid, and trustworthy data. The project will provide a globally unique tool for quantitative assessment of the climate effects of decision alternatives, popularly speaking ‘a climate footprint generator’, and a mechanism to ensure its continuous updating. The project expands the detail, coverage and applicability of the currently most advanced hybrid input‐output database, brings the data up‐to‐date, and provides public access to work of previous research projects completed as part of several EU FP6 and FP7 projects.  

By basing the project on the many person‐years of experience behind EXIOBASE 3 hybrid, it will be possible to ensure the urgently needed early deliverables in the form of easy accessibility to updated data at a flexible level of detail, while at the same time providing much‐needed long‐term improvements to the database and model. The improvements needed are mainly with respect to the modelling of household behaviour and consumption patterns, carbon flows in ecosystems, and routines for handling uncertainty on raw data and calculations. Also, to ensure continuous updating, improvements are required both to the database and software architecture, allowing increased automation and open collaboration on data collection and calculation procedures, and to the organisational embedding, ensuring the continued maintenance capacity within an independent, self‐financed, international, academically based network.