United Nations Welcome to the United Nations

Modelling Tools for Sustainable Development

Modelling Tools for Sustainable Development Policies

In their quest for sustainable development countries confront the need to harmonise policies in the economic, social and environmental dimensions. In doing so, it is critical to identify the inter-linkages that influence trade-offs and synergies across these dimensions. UN-DESA and partners have developed a suite of tools to address the complex interrelations underlying sustainable development. The website introduces practitioners to these tools, provides and interactive platform for policy analysts, and, to the extent possible, it makes available the data and model codes to promote further research and policy dialogue.


Assessing the economic impact of policies and shocks.

Economy-wide modelling

Development policy must address the way policies and economic shocks affect multiple variables such as public budgets, the external sector, economic activity and employment in sectors, poverty and inequality. Economy-wide models are useful tools to investigate these effects.

Fuel Tax and Development

A simulation of a fuel tax, a proxy for a carbon tax, in three developing countries shows differential impacts on GDP and in a set of key social indicators. Results suggest impacts depend not only on how the newly tax revenue is recycled back to the economy, but also on how differences in structural factors condition responses in countries. Results confirm that policy choices must be assessed on the basis of the specific characteristics and objectives of each country and that policies are not easily transferable across countries.

Explore Supplementary Materials


Universal Access to Electricity

Providing universal access to electricity by 2030 poses challenges to many countries and calls for a careful selection of technologies. Using open geo-spatial data this model estimates the mix of technologies that will provide universal access at the lowest cost. The model assesses ten scenarios defined by two prices for diesel and five consumption levels. Results for 44 African countries suggest that GRID connections could supply up to 76 percent of the electricity needs of the population in some scenarios. Other scenarios give preference to small scale renewable sources, which could supply up to 41 percent of electricity needs. The investment cost to reach universality averages around 350 US dollars per person, but it can add to 1,000 US dollars and more per person in several countries.

Explore Supplementary Materials


Atlantis, Integrated Systems Analysis of Energy

Building local energy-planning capacity in countries can greatly benefit from an open, accessible, transferable, yet powerful modelling package. UNDESA, in partnership with KTH-dESA, has piloted capacity development in selected countries to support country efforts in medium-long term energy planning and it is now initiating projects in new countries. These projects preferentially use the Open Source Energy Modelling System model (OSeMOSYS), a powerful yet open, flexible and transferable tool. To further facilitate capacity development and model improvement, UNDESA and KTH-dESA have developed a browser based interface for OSeMOSYS, the Model Management Infrastructure (MoManI). MoManI can provide development and energy planners with the tools required to construct models, explore scenarios and visualize results.

Explore Supplementary Materials




Understanding the impact of policies and shocks at the detailed level of households and individuals is key for the formulation of development policies. A number of methodologies have been used in many countries. Some methodologies, for example, use sector employment impacts derived from economy-wide simulations to estimate changes in income in households and make them suitable to analysis by gender, area of residence and other sociodemographic indicators. Other micro simulation exercises directly impose the expected effects of policies and shocks on the relevant variables in household surveys and administrative data to draw detailed pictures of their effects.

Growth and Social Inclusion

An economy-wide model probes into the links between projected rapid growth and the achievement of education, health and sanitation goals. Simulations suggest that economic growth greatly facilitates the achievement of social goals and that in its absence the financial burden of policies increases dramatically. A complementary microsimulation exercise traces their effects on poverty and income distribution.


Estimating Electricity Consumption from Household Surveys

Estimating the demand for electricity is a critical step in the design of a medium to long term energy plan. Frequently, estimates are based on time series with few observation points or on data from other countries or regions. Microsimulation models use household surveys to offer an alternative estimation route based on observed electricity demand by households with different incomes.

Supplementary Materials



Understanding the physical, technical and economic inter-linkages among critical elements of the environmental system is key to the formulation of sustainable development policies. Policies need to take into account the way water, land-use, food production, energy, and atmospheric conditions interact. Methodologies and modelling tools such as the Climate, Land, Energy and Water Strategies (CLEWS) and the Water, Food, Energy NEXUS help identify some of these trade-offs and synergies.

Climate, Land, Energy and Water systems: a Global Model

Analysing the relationship among water, energy, land and climate at the global scale can offer useful contextual information about the challenges countries face while progressing towards the Sustainable Development Goals. The Global CLEWS model offers useful contextual information about the inter-linkages among climate, land, energy and water. Global model results, suggest, for example, that limiting emissions below 2°C global warming requires strong dampening of world energy demand trends, as well as full-scale restructuring of the global energy supply towards renewable sources. 

Explore Supplementary Materials


Climate, Land, Energy and Water Systems: a Demonstration Model for Mauritius

Mauritius receives plentiful rainfall, however the high population density of the island puts pressure on water resources. The threat of reduced precipitation as a result of climate change is therefore a major concern. The Mauritius government has demonstrated strong leadership in the promotion of a broad range of renewable energy sources, including ethanol. Increasing bio-fuels, however, carries potentially important impacts on the use of water and land.
A CLEWs model of Mauritius explores how energy policy, such as the promotion of renewable sources of energy, can impact the use of water and land. A key concern in this are the prospects for the sugar industry, which to a large extent will determine the future of land and water use. Results suggest that boosting production of bio-fuels in pursuit of more sustainable energy supply and national energy security may compromise water security. The risk of water scarcity worsens if climate change brings less rainfall and higher temperatures to the country.
The modelling exercise sheds light on the interlinkages across a number of SDGs. For example, the attainment of SDG 7 (sustainable energy) may have both positive and negative impacts on other goals, such as SDG 2 (sustainable agriculture), SDG 6 (sustainable water management), SDG 8 (decent work and economic growth), SDG 12 (responsible production and consumption), SDG 13 (climate action) and SGD 15 (sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems).

Explore Supplementary Materials