On the role of a Circular Bioeconomy in the EU's 2050 decarbonization strategy
In November 2018, the Commission presented the European strategic long-term vision for a prosperous, modern, competitive and climate-neutral economy by 2050 (COM (2018) 773). It implies a significant decrease in use of the fossil carbon resources (oil and liquid gas production) by about 60 % by 2050. In order to preserve the global competitiveness of the EU economy, ensure access to raw materials, there is a need to change the modes of using natural resources, producing and consuming energy, industrial products, consumer goods, and services. Transition to a circular bio-based economy that seeks to substitute fossil-based raw materials and more carbon-intensive products and production process methods with resource-efficient and climate-friendly ones has a potential to lead the implementation of the 2050 decarbonization agenda, produce multiple societal benefits and maintain the global competitiveness of the EU economy.
Circular bioeconomy encompasses the sustainable primary production of renewable biological resources from terrestrial and marine ecosystems (agriculture, forestry, fisheries, aquaculture) and their conversion into sustainable products and services (energy, bio-based chemicals, food waste processing) through efficient and/or innovative technologies (Updated Bioeconomy strategy, 2018; Horizon2020, EU Commission). However, with a turnover value of €2.3 trillion and accounting for 8.2% of the EU's workforce, smartly managed bio-based circular economy can: (i) sustain a wide range of public goods, including biodiversity and ecosystem services; (ii) support modernization of the primary production systems and supply chains and reduce their environmental footprint holistically; (iii) increase global competitiveness of the EU industries and the EU economy, (iv) enhance the economic resilience, and (v) provide jobs and business opportunities. (Updated Bioeconomy strategy, 2018)
The 2050 strategy covers nearly all the EU policies and is supposed to be implemented with the aims to enable the EU leadership in "the concerned markets" (Horizon2020), support achieving the SDGs and the climate policy objectives through investing in effective and sustainable technological solutions, developing participative governance, aligning policy action in such key areas as industrial policy, finance, or research to support inclusive, fair and just transition to a new economy.
According to the European Bioeconomy Alliance in order to reap the full potentials of the circular bioeconomy, the European Union should step-up efforts to: (i) develop of a coherent, holistic, supportive policy framework for the circular economy and for bioeconomy along the whole value-chain; (ii) ensure the implementation of the bioeconomy strategy updated in October 2018 and its action plan“Bioeconomy: the European way to use our natural resources”; (iii) develop agricultural and rural development policies that support further the production and provision of sustainable biomass to feed into the circular bioeconomy (The EU Commission estimated that 30 % of all food produced in developed countries is discarded, and biowaste estimated at up to 138 million tons per year in the Union, of which up to 40 % is land-filled); (iv) Develop a robust, well-funded 9th framework programme for research and Innovation “Horizon Europe” with a clear focus on “bioeconomy” and boosts technological innovation across sectors; (v) Involve private partners and set-up effective Public-Private Partnerships that leverage innovation and investments on bio-based solutions; (v) consolidate the relevance of the circular bio-based economy with robust data and facts on its expected environmental, climate, social and economic benefits; (vi) raise awareness and promote a market preference for circular bio-based products through e.g. Public Procurement, standards and labels.
Recent studies also demonstrate that participative governance is still in its infancy stage: clear strategies for public engagement are missing, as rationales and designs of activities in this context seem to be limited to a one-way flow of information from stakeholders to the public.