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Can MCDA Serve Ex-Post to Indicate ‘Winners and Losers’ in Sustainability Dilemmas? A Case Study of Marine Spatial Planning in Germany

Weber, Jessica; Köppel, Johann

Multi-criteria decision analyses (MCDAs) have been developed to support and evaluate decision-making on multi-layered problems. The benefit lies in creating transparency, among other benefits, especially in tackling divergent stakeholder interests. Within the energy transition, area shortage can lead to sustainability trade-offs, calling for the reconciliation of planning processes and satisfactory compromises. While ex ante MCDAs complement planning, the ex post consideration of processes has been less widely studied. Using a case study of offshore wind energy (OWP) within German marine spatial planning, we investigated the shifting weights of sustainability criteria and stakeholder interests. A multi-criteria approach (Preference Ranking Organization Method for Enrichment of Evaluations (PROMETHEE)) addressed how decision-making can be iteratively traced, and the winners and losers indicated in sustainability dilemmas, such as between climate and biodiversity implications. Findings illustrate that stakeholders are divided in the green-on-green dilemma. The ‘winners’ embrace the branches of energy and climate protection. It remains a question though for ‘losers’ how weighting decisions of sustainability goals can be detrimental, such as ‘good environmental status’, and what kind of balancing occurs. How compromises are found, such as through transparency and solid justification, is crucial in satisfactorily solving trade-offs for public interests. PROMETHEE makes revealing stakeholder constellations within policy dynamics feasible, though assuming there is the will to work multidisciplinarily within future planning decisions.
Published in: Energies, 10.3390/en15207654, MDPI