The industrialization of the Bioeconomy poses risks to the climate, the environment and people

The industrialization of the Bioeconomy poses risks to the climate, the environment and people

Civil society groups reject the impact of an exponential growth of the Bioeconomy

In recent years, in the name of climate change, governments have supported the substitution of biomass for fossil fuels to produce energy. Support for other products made with biomaterials is also being considered more and more often, which has become fashionable to call 'bioeconomy'.

The most widely accepted definition of the bioeconomy was provided by the OECD in 2006: "Set of economic operations of a society that uses the value, latent and housed in biological products and processes, to achieve new growth and social benefits for citizens and nations." Others, such as Wang Hong-guan, director of the Center for Biotechnology Development of China, define the bioeconomy as an economy based on biological resources and biotechnology, based on the production, distribution and application of bioproducts. For the European Commission, the bioeconomy is an economy that no longer depends on fossil fuels for energy and raw materials for industry, but onbiotechnological research, development and innovation capacity of economic actors.

Whatever its definition, the truth is that the bioeconomy proposes aparadigm shift in which all human creations are obtained through procedures controlled by man but integrated into the biosphere: procedures that imitate or exploit complete natural processes, from their generation to their degradation.

An example of this is the Biofuture Platform, an initiative proposed by the Brazilian government and launched in 2016 with the support of 20 countries. However, if you look closely, this Platform shows that the bioeconomy is simply a cover for a significant increase in bioenergy, which along with other short-lived 'biologics' have such bad climate credentials for the climate. like those of bioenergy. [1] The European Union and several countries (which have not yet subscribed to the Biofuture Platform) are also developing 'bioeconomy strategies' with similar purposes. [two]

The organizations that subscribe here are concerned that expanding the use of bioenergy and other short-lived bio-products (the so-called bioeconomy) will have a detrimental impact on the climate, human rights, nature protection and the transition to a low carbon energy system. We reject the Biofuture Platform and other similar developments for the following reasons:

1. Bad for the weather:

To meet the Paris Agreement goal of keeping global temperature rise below 1.5 degrees, we must rapidly decrease emissions, as well as increase the amount of carbon that can be removed by forests, grasslands and soils. Contrary to this, the Biofuture Platform advocates for the transition of the energy, transport and industrial sectors towards bioenergy and biomaterials. This ignores science (burning biomass to produce energy generates as many emissions as burning coal [3]), and also the production and consumption of biofuels, bioplastics and other biomaterials reduces the land available for crops, causes deforestation as well as other conversions in land use and releases nitrous oxide.

To mitigate the worst effects of climate change, we need governments, NGOs, academics and the private sector to work together to reduce excessive energy consumption and decarbonize the energy, transport and industry sectors, rather than allowing them to rich continue to consume excessively while transitioning to another resource that is also carbon intensive.

2. Bad for human rights:

An industrial bioeconomy would increase the demand for land for growing biomass. This would cause more deforestation and other changes in land use on a scale that would have devastating impacts on people. A conservative study of global biomass potential [4] found that for bioenergy to provide five percent of global energy consumption, it would require the conversion of an area of ​​land larger than India (386 million hectares). The bioeconomy that Plataforma Biofuture proposes would need even more land to convert it into bioproducts. The underlying assumption is that most of the land needed to convert the fossil fuel economy to the bioeconomy would be provided by the global South. But the growing demand for biofuels and biomass for heat and electricity has already led to large-scale land grabbing and the eviction of entire villages, as well as reduced access to farmland, forests and water resources [5] . Increased demand will worsen those impacts, especially when forests are replaced by plantations, increasing pesticide poisoning and labor rights violations, and reducing clean water and food sovereignty. Furthermore, the processing and burning of biomass for energy releases a variety of toxic emissions, posing additional health risks.

3. Bad for nature and biodiversity:

We are in the middle of a biodiversity crisis that will get worse with the Biofuture Platform's proposals to increase demand for land, water and forests. Demand for palm oil and soybeans are already accelerating the destruction of forests in many countries and the intensification of agriculture (more chemicals, less fallow land) in Europe and North America is accelerating the loss of insects and birds. [6] Demand for bioenergy has already led to the indiscriminate logging of highly biodiverse forests in the southern United States, [7] the Baltic States [8] and elsewhere, and as monoculture plantations advance, the agrobiodiversity is reduced and nature suffers. Plantations for bioplastics and other biomaterials will make these problems worse. We need to reduce the demand for wood and crops, not increase it. There is also an assumption that the production of bioproducts will largely depend on the use of genetically modified crops, trees, and microbes, which pose serious risks to the environment and human health.

4. Bad for a just transition to leave the fossil fuel economy:

The vision of the Biofuture Platform diverts attention and resources from real and proven solutions to climate change, consolidating energy, social and economic injustices around the world. This Platform would promote further increasing subsidies for bioenergy at the expense of genuinely low carbon renewable energy, such as wind and solar, which should be expanded immediately. "Modern bioenergy" (biofuels and biomass for heat and electricity) that the Biofuture Platform promotes is used mainly in the global North by industries that require high energy inputs, which should focus on reducing this consumption. Bioenergy gives them an escape route from having to deal with their wasteful consumption.

The signatory groups ask the 20 countries and the multilateral organizations that are signatories of the Biofuture Platform not to support bioenergy or other short-lived bioproducts. We call on other governments to refrain from supporting the Platform and its demands. We call on governments to propose meaningful and equitable responses to the climate crisis that respect human rights, focus on proven low-carbon technologies, reduce wasteful consumption and waste, and protect forests and other ecosystems.



[2] See to review the EU Bioeconomy Strategy.
[3] See for a list of scientific studies showing that the energy from burning wood is not carbon neutral
[4] Biomass Energy: The Scale of the Potential Resource, Christopher B Field et al, Trends in Ecology and Evolution, February 2008; Note that the 5% figure is based on global energy use in 2005. It translates into 27 EJ
[5] According to a report by Action Aid, EU investors acquired 6 million hectares of land in Sub-Saharan Africa for biofuel production in May 2013. Despite this, the EU has imported very little fodder for agrofuels from Africa, which suggests that the bioenergy turmoil is one of the causes of large land grabs, leading to the forced eviction of entire villages, and many communities losing access to their farmland, forests and water.
[6] See for example
[7] See for example
[8] See

Video: PIP18 - Breakout 2A: Climate risk beyond fossil fuels: the importance of forest management (October 2020).