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Targeted Scenario Analysis

Targeted Scenario Analysis, a Practical Policy Reform Tool to Advancing an Economic Green Recovery and Sustainable Sectoral Development Policy and Investment

UNDP developed Targeted Scenario Analysis (TSA) to respond to the growing demand from decision makers and stakeholders for effective policy-relevant economic analysis tools to advance national Sustainable Development Goals. 

Advancing sustainable sector policy and investment in high-profile productive sectors is at the core of achieving the renewed COP-26 commitments to greening the post-COVID19 economic reconstruction, tackling climate change, and restoring nature. However, policy reform is extremely challenging for politicians who maneuver within a short-term political planning horizon, the four to five years between elections, combined with significant lobbying pressure to maintain the status quo. Meanwhile, natural capital's gradual change provides ample time to follow a "business as usual (BAU)" path of unsustainable nature degrading policies over decades. In addition, the lack of economic data to demonstrate the economic losses associated with the BAU path from the monetary and natural capital perspectives prevents accountability by governments to demonstrate sustainable use and investment in natural capital.

Understanding the reasons underlying policy's objectives and shaping economic analysis to address them is critical to improving decision-making and advancing policy reform. Thus, UNDP's Targeted Scenario Analysis (TSA) offers a practical approach to connecting policy objectives with fit-for-purpose economic analysis. UNDP developed TSA over several years based on an extensive project portfolio review and research supported by leading environmental economists. TSA enables the conversion of economic data into sustainable sector development policy. 

TSA captures and presents the value of ecosystem services to target decision-making, not in a generic, abstract manner. TSA makes a direct comparison between two policy scenarios. First, a business-as-usual (BAU) scenario in which the status quo conditions, i.e., unsustainable sector management and limited investment, are projected into the future, and second, a so-called sustainable ecosystem management (SEM) scenario. SEM introduces ecosystem and natural capital management improvements into sector development policy and investment. A vital element of a TSA is that it is conducted for a particular productive sector and tailored to the specific objectives of the public or private decision-maker of the targeted sector. Policy scenarios are compared based on a wide range of carefully selected indicators in close consultation with the decision-maker (the TSA client). TSA's focus on a specific decision maker increases the likelihood that the data generated through the research is used to transition into a more effective and efficient allocation of public and private investment; therefore, it improves the sustainable management of natural capital. 

At the end of a TSA, the evidence generated through research provides balanced insights into the advantages and disadvantages of keeping on track with BAU, compared to a change of direction in which the targeted sector manages ecosystems sustainably and effectively. Another critical element that sets a TSA apart from traditional economic valuation or cost-benefit analysis is that TSA shifts away from generating a policy-isolated single static value toward a long-term analysis. Thus, it shows year-to-year changes between the BAU and SEM scenarios by applying key monetary and non-monetary indicators.

As such, the main product of the TSA is a package of policy recommendations supported by the economic evidence applied to each indicator of the benefits of shifting from BAU to SEM. For each policy recommendation, a subset of indicators and graphs illustrates the development of these measurable indicators over time for both policy scenarios. Each TSA graph includes a narrative that clearly states the primary stakeholder for the analysis, an in-depth description of the methods, assumptions, and data sources used to generate the results, and confidence levels and uncertainty associated. Apart from explaining the results depicted in the graphs, there is a clear indication of what those results mean in policy decisions. 

TSA's approach provides information on the results of specific decisions and management practices as a continuous, long-term analysis, showing relative change over time of key monetary and non-monetary indicators rather than a single static value. This approach is instrumental for decision making, as decisions are rarely made based on single numbers in isolation, but rather by comparing at least two policy options over time. As the name suggests, Targeted Scenario Analysis has three participatory pillars:

Targeted: TSA helps decision makers and stakeholders focus on critical decisions, which involves changing how the sector manages the ecosystem services, leading to improvements in sustainable development outcomes and profitable sustainable business. TSA targets management and investment policy, both public and private.

Scenario: It does this by developing and contrasting existing and future scenarios – Business as Usual vs. Sustainable Ecosystem Management – that link changes to biophysical and socio-economic indicators as the scenarios evolve.

Analysis: It presents an in-depth analysis of selected sustainable development indicators into the future. Decision makers select the priority and relevance of these indicators, e.g., changes in soil fertility or water availability, changes in natural capital-based productivity gains and losses, investment costs, avoided costs, net revenues, jobs, and equity and gender indicators.


TSA's value-added

Country-level client (government/private sector):

  • Improve sector policy design and fiscal reform.
  • Increase quantity and quality of public and private investment in SDGs, CC mitigation, and reduction of CO2 emissions from deforestation and land degradation.
  • Increase sustainable sector productivity and long-term profitability.
  • Increase GDP at the sector and national levels.
  • Increase direct net benefits for sector producers and value-chain stakeholders.
  • Increase other financial, economic, social, and environmental benefits.


Institutional:  Successful TSAs increment UNDP and its implementing partners' credibility vis-a-vis government partners, private sector, and producers.

Technical capacity: TSA combines the capacity of UNDP, high-profile companies specializing in TSA valuation, and academia.

Funding donor: Improves the interventions' cost-effectiveness, their support to achieving SDGs, and new commitments to tackle climate change.

Scalability: High potential for transferring TSA data (results), policy recommendations, and action plans between existing and future TSA studies and implications of achieving policy impact.

Since the publication of the TSA Guideline in 2013, TSA reports have been generated in over twenty countries, covering renewable, e.g., agriculture (coffee, cocoa, palm oil), livestock, and fisheries, and non-renewable resources, e.g., small-scale mining. The TSA's Implementation Map provides an overview of past, present, and fore coming TSA at the global level. 

The TSA approach is becoming a key component of UNDP implemented projects worldwide. It has been adopted explicitly by UNDP's Food and Agricultural Commodity Systems (FACS) Practice and Ecosystem and Biodiversity Practice as an essential tool to support policy reform around agricultural production and conservation. 




TSA Success Stories From Around the World

Currently, the UNDP Green Commodities Programme, UNDP-GEF and PAGE are supporting TSA studies in different sectors, for instance: several TSA in Cuba including key sectors such as human settlements, tourism, fisheries, agriculture and protected areas; forest/cattle farming in Colombia; artesian and small scale mining in Ecuador; cocoa in Peru; forest/cattle farming in Paraguay; forest/forestry in Liberia; illegal wildlife trade in Thailand, and forest/palm oil in Indonesia. A wide range of new TSAs are being planned and designed for 2020.

In Guatemala, the results of Targeted Scenario Analysis demonstrated that under conditions of “sustainable use” and by the year 2025: capture fisheries benefits increase more than 10-fold; tourism benefits are more than GTQ 200 Million, and aquaculture's per hectare per year income – in contrast to Business as Usual – reaches a massive $40,000 more. The UNDP’s Flor Bolanos says that “The Guatemala case demonstrates how strategic advocacy can positively impact on a number of coastal and marine management initiatives: it has helped fill a critical community fishing data gap; introduced participatory strategies for sustainable use and management; sprung a programme for the prevention, reduction and control of pollution from land-based sources in Marine Protected Areas; among other changes”.

UNDP’s Kifa Sasa said that “In Costa Rica, the TSA analyzed the benefits of sustainable pineapple production and led to the development, endorsement and implementation of the Pineapple Action Plan through 4 Ministries. The TSA determined that, over the course of 5 years, implementing the Action Plan would cost approximately US$6.5 million while the increase in benefits could be valued at US$15 million”.

In Mongolia, Dr. Ganzorig Gonchigsumlaa, co-author of a TSA study on protected areas, states “the TSA demonstrated its value as an effective tool for advocating for both immediate and longer-term changes by the Minister of Environment. The study helped to secure the existing funding for protected areas, based on the valuation of the ecosystem services they provide, and enabled the creation of a fund for the long term”.

For more information on TSA, contact Marlon Flores at or Usman Iftikar at