“Building the Bioeconomy: Insights from European strategies”. ThinkForest event on 7 June 2016

ThinkForest, a European high-level forum on the future of forests, has organized the seminar: "Building the Bioeconomy: Insights from European strategies", which took place in Helsinki on the 7th of June.

The seminar was an occasion to reflect on the fact that the European forest-based sector is in a period of profound structural change. Fundamental changes have already taken place in forest products markets, and significant structural changes are anticipated in the next 10–20 years. For example, some important forest products face mature or even declining markets, and at the same time see increasing competition from emerging economies. On the other hand, forest products which did not exist in the 20th century are already in production now – not to speak of the possibilities in coming decades. The European forest-based sector is also becoming more diversified, interlinked, and cross-sectorial. It is increasingly affected by issues such as climate change impacts and policies, energy policies, advances in new technologies, the increasing role of services, and trends towards a low carbon bioeconomy or green economy. Furthermore, the forest sector is becoming more integrated with other industrial sectors, such as construction, energy, chemicals and textile industries.

The main theme of the seminar was Bioeconomy, which has been defined at EU level, as the production of biomass and the conversion of biomass into value-added products, such as food, feed, bio-based products and bio-energy. The Europe 2020 strategy calls for a bioeconomy as a key element for smart and green growth in Europe.

As it was reported during the event, the EU is updating its Bioeconomy Strategy, and a number of Member States are already working on their own national strategies. The EU is also planning its climate policy, and how to treat biomass-based bioenergy in the future. All these are central to the future development of the forest-based bioeconomy.

Mr Thomas Arnold of the European Commission emphasized that the bioeconomy concept is part of important EU policies such as circular economy, industrial renaissance, and renewable energy and resource policies, with research and innovation priorities supported under EU Horizon 2020 programme.  Mr Arnold acknowledged that the EU needs to take into account framework conditions – such as standards, national priorities and policies, access to finance – in order to deliver fully on the expectations of the Bioeconomy concept. As the EU Bioeconomy Strategy is under review, Member States are highly welcome to give their input in the process. The strategy will be updated, if deemed necessary, to better encompass decarbonisation and circularity while also promoting the renewal of key sectors such as agrifood, forestry, waste, marine, chemical, and construction.

The Member of the EU Parliament, Mrs Miapetra Kumpula-Matri stressed that, against the background of the Paris Agreement by which forests will play an important role in the fight against climate change, sustainable forestry should be better emphasized in the updated EU Bioeconomy Strategy. 20% of bioeconomy turnover comes from the forests based bioeconomy and there is a lot of potential to unlock. The strategy is very much chemistry-oriented at present and, according to the MEP, it fails to mention how relevant building with wood should be in the coming decades.

Additionally, Mr Arnold stressed that the views of stakeholders on the future of bioeconomy and on what the EU can do to further advance the concept both in theory and in practice are highly welcomed. It would be especially interesting for the Commission to learn whether at present there are any topics which are only limitedly dealt with in the circular Economy package and that stakeholders think they should be more clearly stressed in the updated Bioeconomy strategy.

Mr Göran Persson, ThinkForest President and Mr Esko Aho, EFI Strategic Adviser stated that "The bioeconomy can catalyse social, technological, and economic transformation towards inclusive, smart and sustainable growth. Three main reasons explain its potential. First, it creates new bioproducts that can outperform and replace fossil-based products and enhance the move to a low carbon economy. Rapid advances in bioscience, biotechnology and biorefineries mean that basically everything that can be made out of oil can also be made from renewable biological resources. Second, the bioeconomy supports new jobs in rural and urban areas, and third it enhances resource efficiency and security. A good example can be found in the construction sector, which in Europe represents 42 % of energy consumption, 50 % of material use, 33 % of waste and 35 % of CO 2 emissions." Mr Persson and Mr Ahothey concluded their intervention saying "It is time to enter a new era. The bioeconomy offers us the opportunity to move towards smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. It can help to address some of the most complicated, unprecedented challenges of our time. This is a unique opportunity which needs to be taken."

Further information is available on the following link: http://www.efi.int/portal/policy_advice/thinkforest/upcoming_events/

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