The Joint Research Centre (JRC) is the European Commission's science and knowledge service which employs scientists to carry out research in order to provide independent scientific advice and support to policymakers. It has a Bioeconomy unit, that is bringing together knowledge and experts from within and outside the European Commission to act as a one-stop-access to data, knowledge and intelligence on bioeconomy.
Luisa Marelli is acting Head of Unit, and in her presentation she gave an overview of the Bioeconomy unit's mission and ongoing projects. There are many strong links between a growing bioeconomy and reaching the Sustainable Development Goals.
- Certainly the bioeconomy is a fundamental pillar for the Sustainable Development Goals, and the Europan Union is strongly committed to reaching those goals. The bioeconomy can play a fundamental role for climate change reduction as well as economic growth, and that's also why we promote the bioeconomy. But there are several other SDGs where bioeconomy plays a role. For example Responsible consumption, the reduction of consumer footprint, of course Zero hunger by promoting good biomass use for food and agriculture, but also Sustainable cities, because bioeconomy can offer a solution to waste streams which are a big problem in cities, Clean water... so as you can see, each sustainable development goal is linked to the bioeconomy and it's very important, says Luisa Marelli.
The EU Bioeconomy Strategy
During the past year, JRC has focused on supporting the soon completed revision of the EU Bioeconomy Strategy. On an overall perspective, they have monitored the progress of the EU bioeconomy covering all sustainability dimensions and within the overarching framework of the SDGs. On a strategic research level they have conducted the Biomass assessment study, of which one purpose is to provide a knowledge-based and forward-looking capacity on bioeconomy.
Luisa Marelli is pleased and optimistic about this work, but points out that there are still knowledge gaps to fill in.
- In making our calculations, we see that there are a lot of gaps in data collection. For example, in assessing the real biomass availability, in particular for residues, we don't know how much residues are available in reality, because some of the residues have existing uses, some are used to preserve the carbon stocks in the soil. So it's the biomass that is left after all those aspects that can be used for growing the bioeconomy, and data collection on this is difficult. Data are scarce and national reporting is not really homogenous in definitions, so it's difficult to get harmonized data in this aspect.
There is a debate going on, sometimes with a high level of engagement, about forestry and products from trees and its contribution to mitigating climate change. Luisa Marelli is well aware of this debate, and hopes that independent research and fact-based knowledge will clarify and move forward some of those discussions.
- Forest are a fundamental part to mitigate climate change. It's our main carbon sink, especially for Europe, so we cannot risk todecline this sink. On the other hand, we also need proper use of the wood, to store carbon long term and to substitute some carbon intensive materials. So we really need to make the best use of our forests.
The revised bioeconomy strategy is going to be ready in October.