Commission updates bioeconomy strategy for a sustainable Europe
The European Commission (EC) has put forward an action plan to develop a sustainable and circular bioeconomy that it says serves Europe's society, environment, and economy. The new bioeconomy strategy is part of the Commission's drive to boost jobs, growth, and investment in the EU. It aims to improve and scale up the sustainable use of renewable resources to address global and local challenges such as climate change and sustainable development.
According to a statement, in a world of finite biological resources and ecosystems, an innovation effort is needed to feed people and provide them with clean water and energy. The bioeconomy can turn algae into fuel, recycle plastic, convert waste into new furniture or clothing or transform industrial by-products into bio-based fertilisers. It has the potential to generate 1 million new green jobs by 2030.
In their letter of intent to the Presidencies of the European Council and European Parliament, President Juncker and First Vice-President Timmermans announced the new bioeconomy strategy as part of the Commission’s priority to boost jobs, growth, and investment in the EU. It is an update to the 2012 Bioeconomy Strategy.
The bioeconomy covers all sectors and systems that rely on biological resources. It is one of the EU’s largest and most important sectors encompassing agriculture, forestry, fisheries, food, bioenergy, and bio-based products with an annual turnover of around EUR 2 trillion and around 18 million people employed. It is also a key area for boosting growth in rural and coastal areas.
The EU aims to lead the way in turning waste, residue and discards into high value products, green chemicals, feed and textiles. Research and innovation plays a key role in accelerating the green transition of the European economy and in meeting the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, said Carlos Moedas, Commissioner for Research, Science, and Innovation.
The statement notes that delivering a sustainable circular bioeconomy requires a “concerted effort” by public authorities and industry. To drive this collective effort, and based on three key objectives, the Commission will launch 14 concrete measures in 2019, including:
1. Scaling up and strengthening the bio-based sectors: To unleash the potential of the bioeconomy to modernise the European economy and industries for long-term, sustainable prosperity, the Commission will:
- establish a €100 million Circular Bioeconomy Thematic Investment Platform to bring bio-based innovations closer to the market and de-risk private investments in sustainable solutions;
- facilitate the development of new sustainable biorefineries across Europe.
2. Rapidly deploying bioeconomies across Europe: Member States and regions, particularly in Central and Eastern Europe, have a large underused biomass and waste potential. To address this, the Commission will:
- develop a strategic deployment agenda for sustainable food and farming systems, forestry and bio-based products;
- set up an EU Bioeconomy Policy Support Facility for EU countries under Horizon 2020 to develop national and regional bioeconomy agendas;
- launch pilot actions for the development of bioeconomies in rural, coastal and urban areas, for example on waste management or carbon farming.
3. Protecting the ecosystem and understanding the ecological limitations of the bioeconomy: Our ecosystem is faced with severe threats and challenges, such as a growing population, climate change, and land degradation. In order to tackle these challenges, the Commission will:
- implement an EU-wide monitoring system to track progress towards a sustainable and circular bioeconomy;
- enhance our knowledge base and understanding of specific bioeconomy areas by gathering data and ensuring better access to it through the Knowledge Centre for the Bioeconomy;
- provide guidance and promote good practices on how to operate in the bioeconomy within safe ecological limits.
The EU already funds research, demonstration, and deployment of sustainable, inclusive and circular bio-based solutions, including with EUR 3.85 billion allocated under the current EU funding programme Horizon 2020. For 2021-2027, the Commission has proposed to allocate EUR 10 billion under Horizon Europe for food and natural resources, including the bioeconomy.
The Commission also revealed that it will hosta conference on October 22 in Brussels, Belgium to discuss the action plan with stakeholders and highlight tangible bio-based products.