Regional approaches for boosting bioeconomy
CEPF Secretary General Aljoscha Requardt spoke about regional bioeconomy strategies, opportunities and challenges for forest owners at a high level event hosted by the Committee of the Regions in Brussels last week.

The aim of the event on 20 March was to launch a debate among Regions and EU Stakeholders about how regional bioeconomy strategies can help reaching European sustainability and development targets and how this can boost growth and jobs. The well-attended event, with about 200 participants, was jointly organized by ERRIN (European Regions Research Innovation Network) and ERIAFF (European Regions for Innovation in Agriculture, Food and Forestry).

The agenda involved high level speakers from the European Commission, Academy and European Associations as well as two interactive regional panel discussions: “Stimulating bioeconomy environments at regional level” and “A bioeconomy for EU regions: tools and actors”.

Discussions on how we actually define bioeconomy and what is included in the concept became evident as Head of Unit Reinhard Buscher from DG GROW highlighted that one of the obstacles for growing a bioeconomy is the competition from bioenergy. In contrast, CEPF clearly sees bioenergy as an important part of the bioeconomy with huge potential for replacing fossil fuels and thereby moving from a fossil based society into a biobased one.

Mr Buscher also emphasised that the bioeconomy is a part of the broader concept of the circular economy, which will provide the legal framework. The Circular Economy package was one of the 80 pending pieces of legislation which were withdrawn by the new Commission as part of the drive for “better regulation”. A new package is currently being prepared under the auspices of Vice-President Katainen.

John Bell, Director for Bioeconomy in DG Research and Innovation, highlighted that the bioeconomy poses a great opportunity for economic growth in regions. The need to build new value chains was emphasised repeatedly during the day as crucial for moving the bioeconomy from niche to norm.

CEPF’s Secretary General, Aljoscha Requardt emphasised that the European forest sector already puts the bioeconomy into practise on a large scale, providing climate friendly raw material and products as well as millions of jobs. He highlighted that the bioeconomy is not only about new innovative products and industries; first of all it is about a guaranteed European biomass production and supply. Therefore, he argued, investments and support for the rural sector, making sure farming and forestry remains competitive and attractive, is crucial. He also stressed that long-term EU bioeconomy targets are only possible with coherent policies and called for enhanced coordination in the work within the European Commission.

The full CEPF statement can be downloaded below.

Following the event, ERRIN and ERIAFF will draft a consensus document based on the discussions. This document will have a two folded purpose; positioning the regional status in the on-going discussion at EU level and serve as guidelines for regions willing to adapt a bioeconomy.