Growing the circular bioeconomy key to achieving the 2040 climate target

Photo: Björn Leijon

As the European Commission has presented its Communication on EU climate target for 2040, Swedish Forest Industries Federation (SFIF) Director General, Viveka Beckeman welcomes the Commission’s proposed target, the focus on bioeconomy as an enabler and the outreach for dialogue with industry in a process that could prove decisive for the future of the EU’s green transition.

“The Swedish forest industries have taken a lead in the green transition – and we will continue to do so – but we need a sustainable framework within which to make the investments needed for the EU to achieve its environmental goals,” Beckeman says.

The Commission’s proposal set to cement the current administration’s legacy and establish the climate agenda for the new Commission that will be appointed following EU elections in June.

The outgoing Commission has set several ambitious climate goals, and it is vital that the next Commission continues on that path, Beckeman argues; however, she also stresses the need for economic growth to drive investment.

Degrowth dead-end

“If we fail to promote growth in the circular bioeconomy, we’ll all become poorer. Degrowth is not the way forward,” says Beckeman, underlining the importance of the Commission maintaining member states’ and forest industries’ freedom to fully benefit from existing profitable product areas, such as timber, cardboard, and paper, which also provide a significant climate benefit.

“The financial stability of these markets enables forest industries to invest in new, innovative fossil-free applications that promote circularity and protect biodiversity,” Beckeman says.

She cited the example of work on lignin, (complex organic polymers), found in wood that have successfully been developed as a replacement for graphite in batteries.

“It’s vital that we’re open to these sorts of applications. To achieve that, we need EU policy which promotes the circular bioeconomy and refrains from artificial division of products, for instance in long-lived versus short-lived. Instead, we need a more holistic view of products and their applications,” Beckeman says.

“Renewable materials will play a fundamental role in the green transition. We must not limit their use – to do so will threaten the emergence of new fossil-free products and services.”

Phasing out fossils

Besides the phasing out of fossils, the Communication emphasizes several other solutions as instrumental to reach the 2040 target, such as carbon removals.  

“It is utterly important that we keep focus on the key action – to phase out fossils. All industries need to work on their respective pathways and the forest industries can play a key role in helping others become fossil-free”, Beckeman says.

“When it comes to carbon removals, finding sustainable business models will be key. Carbon removals must however never be an excuse for industries not to work on reducing fossils. Furthermore, forests should not be used as a compensation for other sectors not doing their job on reducing emissions” Beckeman concludes.