Meeting Policy Challenges for a Sustainable Bioeconomy

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This publication investigates key aspects surrounding the sustainability of bioeconomy development: the use of biomass as feedstock for future production;  the design and building of biorefineries for the manufacture of a range of fuels, chemicals and materials, and also for electricity generation; and the use of biotechnologies such as synthetic biology, metabolic engineering and gene editing.

Today more than 50 countries have a dedicated bioeconomy strategy or related policies. While the bioeconomy is consistent with sustainability policy (examples are the circular economy, the UN Sustainable Development Goals, green growth, re-industrialisation, rural regeneration, climate change mitigation), synergies must be ensured to avoid over-exploitation of natural resources and conflicting global needs.



Enabling bio-based materials policy

In recent years, the absence of policy support for bio-based chemicals and materials production in the face of huge support for both biofuels and bioenergy has been a matter of contention. This lopsided emphasis has serious consequences for integrated biorefineries of the future. It systematically allocates (subsidised) biomass to fuels and energy applications; as a result, opportunities for high value-added and greater job creation could be missed. If lessons from petro-fining are any indication, lack of support for bio-based chemicals and materials production may completely throw the economics of integrated biorefinery operation into doubt. This chapter examines policy options that will start to address the situation from economic, environmental and social perspectives. It aims to help governments implement policy support for bio-based materials that can be consistent with that for national biofuels. This would be a cost-efficient mechanism that uses existing support policies and conditions rather than creating a separate support scheme with its own infrastructure and bureaucracy.


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