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Bioeconomy in Germany - Background

In view of scarce fossil natural resources, climate change and the growing world population, it has become all the more urgent to develop sustainable strategies that enable efficient use of our natural resources: to assure over the long term the prosperity of modern societies. Many products we use everyday are based on petroleum, which represents the most important source of raw materials and energy for the chemical industry and its customers. But the use of fossil resources such as petroleum, coal and gas represent an appreciable burden on our climate and our environment. Experts have warned that present economic forms and our patterns of consumption are responsible for a major share of greenhouse-gas emission, and in turn, for present global climate problems.
The Reichstag building in Berlin.
Copyright: 
Cezary Piwowarski

How can the world sustainably grow? How can we combine economy and ecology?

Bioeconomy can provide an essential contribution to the solution of these problems. It offers the opportunity to achieve economic growth in harmony with the protection of nature and our environment.

Bioeconomy refers to the sustainable form of economic activity based on the efficient use of biological resources such as plants, animals and microorganisms. To make this possible, highly innovative approaches are necessary. The bioeconomy covers all industrial and economic sectors, which use renewable biological resources for producing products and providing services using innovative biological and technological knowledge and processes. These include agriculture, forestry, energy sector, fisheries and aquaculture, chemistry and pharmacy, the food industry, industrial biotechnology, cosmetics, paper and textile industries as well as environmental protection.

Bioeconomy’s key principles

In order to achieve sustainable economic growth, bioeconomy resorts to two fundamental principles: it is based on sustainably produced, renewable natural resources, and on bio-based innovations. A technically feasible and, at the same, more resource-efficient and bio-based structural transformation within industry is consequently not only imaginable, but also well capable of cost-efficient implementation. Alternatives to fossil raw materials, as well as the utilisation of renewable resources in industrial process engineering, new approaches are becoming apparent in our time. Solutions are necessary that combine economic growth with global responsibility for world nutrition and for the protection of our environment and climate as well as for animal welfare – and that allow a holistic perspective. To achieve this, structural change must take place throughout society that links economic growth and ecological compatibility.

Germany spearheading the bioeconomy

As a focal point for technology and research, Germany has set itself at the vanguard of this movement and occupies a leading international position. In 2010, it became one of the first countries to publish its National Research Strategy Bioeconomy 2030: a six-year strategy designed for the implementation across policy areas. The strategy accordingly set a specific course for biobased transformation of industry and society and was developed under the direction of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), together with six further ministries. From 2010 to 2016, €2.4 million was provided for research and development.

In its National Policy Strategy on Bioeconomy, enacted by the Federal Cabinet in 2013, the German government set an additional milestone for a bio-based and sustainable economy. This strategy was prepared under the direction of the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture for implementation across policy areas. The associated Bioeconomy Council advised the federal government in the specific elaboration and implementation of the National Research Strategy. The Bioeconomy Council http://biooekonomierat.de/en/ consists of experts from various professional disciplines in science and business. It prepares recommendations for the further development of future research focal points, and promotes civic dialog with all social stakeholders.

What is the Bioeconomy Council?

In 2009, the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) and the Federal Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection (BMELV) established the Bioeconomy Council as an independent advisory board to the German Federal Government. The central task of the current 17 members of the council, whose expertise covers the full spectrum of the bioeconomy, is to search for ways and means for sustainable solutions, and to present their insights in a global context. The Bioeconomy Council convenes regularly to prepare position statements and expert advice, organise events on relevant issues, and promote the future vision of the bioeconomy to broader society. The activities of the council are orientated both towards long-term objectives as well as current policy requirements.

The Bioeconomy Council completed its first working period on schedule early in 2012. The following summer, the Federal Government appointed a new committee under the same name, which began work in autumn of 2012. In the composition of members, equal consideration was given to the subject areas of the economy, science and society.

In November 2015, the first Global Bioeconomy Summit was held in Berlin. Organised by the Bioeconomy Council, around 700 participants from 82 nations met for the first time to define how bioeconomy would best contribute to green growth, the sustainable development goals and to climate change mitigation and adaptation. At the end of the summit, the participants agreed on a final communiqué, defining the five priorities of a global political agenda on sustainable bioeconomy:

  •  To use renewable resources, ensure food security and protect the ecosystem.
  • The bioeconomy's contributions towards the Sustainable Development Goals should be rendered measurable
  • Economic and scientific collaboration should be promoted and
  • Education, joint learning and dialogue should be driven forward, and
  • Not just individual sections but the bioeconomy as a whole should be considered in the global negotiations for COP 21, the Sustainable Development Goals and trade.

Summing up with regard to the Sustainable Development Summit in New York and the upcoming climate negotiations in Paris, Christine Lang, Co-Chair of the Bioeconomy Council, said, "Sustainability is one of the top issues on the political agenda. 2015 is the year of major international negotiations. The Global Bioeconomy Summit laid the foundations to integrate the bioeconomy in this process." Eight weeks prior to the Summit, UN negotiations on sustainable development took place in New York. Among many of the 17 adopted so-called Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are many that play an important role in building the bioeconomy.

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