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.



Measuring biomass potential and sustainability

This chapter examines the issues around setting biomass sustainability as an essential element to a future bioeconomy. Use of biomass for bio-based production in ambitious bioeconomy plans is fraught with the risk of unsustainable, over-exploitation of natural resources. Developing only modest bioeconomy strategies is one option, but may not achieve the longer-term goals of highly ambitious reductions of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Another option is to create ambitious bioeconomy plans that make biomass production and use more efficient. However, studies also point out that more land is needed to produce biomass. So a dual strategy can be envisioned – land intensification and extensification. Each brings its own problems; the most frequently discussed relate to sustainability, and the inevitable competition for land between food and industrial use. There is no international agreement yet on how to measure biomass sustainability. As a result, estimates of biomass potential (how much can be grown sustainably) vary greatly. New institutions may be necessary to harmonise sustainability assessments.


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