EU’s Circular Bioeconomy Strategy welcome – substantial support to fossil-free innovation is needed for implementation

The Swedish Forest Industries Federation (SFIF) welcome EU’s updated bioeconomy strategy. It highlights key elements in a transformation towards a circular and sustainable society and is in good alignment with the Swedish forest sector’s vision to drive growth in the global bioeconomy.

Climate change is our time's most momentous challenge. The strategy underlines that transitioning to a bioeconomy is necessary to mitigate climate change and global warming. A fossil-free future is fundamental. The bioeconomy strategy points out the need for increasing industrial wooden construction as an excellent example of this transition.

- In Sweden, our forests are used sustainably, where wood production and maintaining biodiversity are on an equal footing. We have a big know-how on wooden construction and are at the forefront globally regarding developing alternatives to replace oil-based products. We are willing and able to contribute with knowledge and experience in implementing the bioeconomy strategy, says Carina Håkansson, director general of SFIF.

The updated bioeconomy strategy is an example of the fact that the importance of the forest to mitigate climate change and replace fossil materials have earned a broad acceptance. Another recent example is the IPCC special report on the possibilities to achieve the ambition of the Paris agreement of keeping global warming to maximum 1.5 degrees: it also stresses the importance of planting and growing forests.

-Growing forests is one of the most effective ways of reaching the goals of the Paris agreement. The better the trees grow the more carbon dioxide they bind, and the more trees we harvest the more biomass we can use to replace materials and products from fossil, finite sources, says Mårten Larsson, deputy director general, bioeconomy and international forestry issues of SFIF.

-The Swedish forest industry is close to fossil-free in its processes already. Moreover, by-products and sidestreams contribute to the society's need of renewable energy. There are numerous intense innovation efforts to develop bio-based fuels, materials and products able to replace climate-harmful fossil raw materials. These efforts need to increase further, says Torgny Persson, director of research and innovation at SFIF.

The revised EU bioeconomy strategy takes off from an increased economic growth for Europe, and the possibilities a growing bioeconomy will present in terms of job creation. One million jobs can potentially be created by 2030, mainly in rural areas. The bioeconomy is predicted to innovate and revive the European industry sector. The European Commission states that the EU already is a global forerunner in sustainable use of natural resources and that an effective/efficient bioeconomy will tap into nearly all the UN's Sustainable Development Goals.

Furthermore, the strategy points out the importance of understanding the ecological boundaries of the bioeconomy.

-In the Swedish forest sector, it's a no-brainer to use the forest in a way that gives future generations at least equal access to wood and other eco-system services compared to today. To be able to replace an increasing part of fossil raw materials we need to harvest more of the trees and plant new growing seedlings in their place. Sweden is an example of the fact that responsibly managed forests is a natural resource that is not limited. Well managed forests are forever, emphasizes Mårten Larsson.

The Swedish Forest Industries Federation is looking forward to the EU Commission presenting their revised bioeconomy strategy on Monday October 22nd in Brussels.

-We are excited to participate in the discussion about the key role of the forest in the circular bioeconomy, and the need for research and innovation to create the best prerequisites for the transformation to a fossil-free society. We need to strongly support innovations with potential through the upscaling process. That support is vital for the innovation to reach the fullscale market, says Torgny Persson.

In conclusion, Sweden has good qualifications to take a leading position in the transformation to a biobased economy, in EU as well as globally. Yet, Sweden is still lacking a bioeconomy strategy on a national level.

-The private sector is driving the development, but it needs to be in alignment with the politicians. Therefore, we encourage a future government to with no further delay launch a national bioeconomy strategy. Without one, Sweden risks a place in the back seat in implementing the world's bioeconomy, states Mårten Larsson.