‘Without further investments we will miss the target’

Credit: Unsplash/CC0 Public Domain

“Without further investment in the bioeconomy, the net emissions target will not be achieved.” Data from the EU Biomonitor project points to gaps in the Green Deal and suggests speeding up procedures: “New technologies need to be promoted, but the length and complexity of the European approval process threatens to discourage investors.”

“To be carbon neutral by 2050, we need more investment than foreseen in the Green Deal, otherwise we will never make it. It is crucial that the European Commission further stimulates the bioeconomy and does not scare investors away.”

These are not critics or politicians speaking, but the figures released by an EU project that has modeled several possible scenarios for the coming decades. Biomonitor lasted more than four years and was launched in 2018 with the aim of addressing the information gap in bioeconomy research, to provide political and economic leaders with more effective planning tools. Justus Wesseler is the project coordinator.

What strategies do the data suggest for achieving the zero emissions target by 2050 set by the European Green Deal?

First of all, you need to invest more in the bioeconomy. And then you have to get the new technologies ready for use sooner than they are now.

Why are these two steps so crucial?

The bioeconomy can make a substantial contribution to zero greenhouse gas emissions, but will not be able to play such a key role without further technological changes. Therefore, the data suggests that we need more investment. What is now indicated by the Green Deal is not sufficient to achieve the target of climate neutrality by 2050.

What other scenarios have you considered?

One is just going about business as usual and it would actually lead to repeating in the future what has happened so far. A second scenario provides for an extreme strengthening of the bioeconomy, through targeted investment policy, and another scenario foresees the possible effects of the introduction of taxes on carbon dioxide.

What do you propose then?

It’s not up to us scientists and researchers to suggest what should be done, but we can say, “Hey, look at our results and see what can happen if you do this or that.” Our data and scenarios can only provide input for policy makers and European institutions to accelerate the implementation of the bioeconomy and to indicate where further adjustments are possible.

For example?

It depends on goals and priorities. But at EU level, for example, it can be useful to focus investments on specific subsectors of the bioeconomy where the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is greater than for others.

Are you satisfied with the outcome of the Biomonitor project?

Yes, definitely. In the beginning we were dealing with a kind of blank page. In 2018, we lacked a lot of information about the development of the European bioeconomy and its implications for sustainability. That means implications for greenhouse gas emissions, for biodiversity, but also for the labor market. Restructuring data has not been easy, especially in some subsectors of the bioeconomy characterized by the presence of few stakeholders. In addition, due to the Data Protection Regulation, some of them are only available on an aggregated level. But despite the challenges, I am very satisfied because we managed to achieve some very relevant results.

What are you most proud of?

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We have developed better methods to assess the sustainability of the bioeconomy, which can now be used by different stakeholders: EU policy makers, Member States, private companies. Some of the information was already there, but we helped to organize the data better and make it available for further review.

Is the job done then?

Far from. Our goal was to clear the way for a much longer journey. We identified the data gaps, but it was not up to us to fill them. We have just provided methodologies that can now be picked up by various stakeholders.

Paving the way for the bioeconomy also means embracing a new mindset. Do you think the time is right now?

When Biomonitor started, the mentality was not ready yet. But the war in Ukraine changed everything very quickly. Policy makers and citizens have become much more aware of how dependent we are on other regions of the world, especially with regard to energy supply. They have understood that we need to use energy more sustainably. And to that extent, the bioeconomy can be crucial. It can help improve the use of biological resources and convert them into energy, as well as other useful bio-based products, which can help reduce our dependence on Russia.

You mentioned the war in Ukraine and the spike in energy prices: how will such a geopolitical context affect the implementation of the bioeconomy?

It is of course quite a challenge. The effects will be positive and negative at the same time. On the one hand, the Ukrainian crisis has shown us how important sustainable energy supply is for the European Union. Generating energy from biological resources will become more important and this will stimulate investment and support the development of the bioeconomy. On the other hand, some bio-based products are already affected by the increase in energy prices and this can discourage consumers.

Some critics argue that many sustainable solutions are still quite expensive today, slowing down the implementation of the bioeconomy.

Some solutions may be a little more expensive, but this just goes to show that we need more progress and more investment to scale them up. Over time, costs and prices will drop, as always when developing new technologies. And then look what Tesla has accomplished: Their cars may still be just for big money backers, but they’ve basically forced the entire auto industry to follow suit and invest more in electric cars.

Let’s end with a tip for the future.

Our data also showed that the length and complexity of the approval process for new technologies is extremely expensive for companies and ultimately discourages investors. Very concretely, the European Commission could, for example, shorten such deadlines and thus stimulate the development of the bioeconomy. It would cost nothing and only require political will. It’s in their hands.


Investing in the ‘bioeconomy’ can create jobs and reduce CO2 emissions


More information:
Biomonitor: biomonitor.eu/

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Quote: Bioeconomy and carbon neutrality: ‘Without further investment we will miss the mark’ (2022, September 30) retrieved September 30, 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-09-bioeconomy-carbon-neutrality -investments.html

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