Using biomass to produce food, materials and energy can help boost rural communities, increase competitiveness and combat many of the challenges that the EU is faced with. These are the conclusions put forward by farming ministers on the opportunities that a sustainable and circular bioeconomy presents for a greener, fairer and more competitive Europe.
Peter Kullgren, Swedish Minister for Rural Affairs:
The bioeconomy carries clear potential for addressing the challenges facing the EU today, including climate change, fossil-fuel dependency and food security. Promoting the bioeconomy in rural areas is a priority for Sweden, in particular given the opportunities it presents for job creation and encouraging rural regeneration.
In their conclusions, ministers highlighted the key role that the bioeconomy could play in achieving the environmental and climate goals under the European Green Deal, while also making the EU more competitive, helping it transition away from fossil-fuel dependency, and strengthening food security in the wake of Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine. They also stressed the importance of promoting research and innovation and improving alignment between scientific advances and industry policy. The conclusions will provide political guidance for the European Commission and member states on developing the potential of the bioeconomy in Europe.
Rural and coastal regeneration
The Council emphasised in particular the importance of the bioeconomy for helping regenerate rural and coastal areas by encouraging innovation and promoting job creation. Member states noted the need to recognise and make use of regional and local specificities, as well as engaging younger generations by promoting bioeconomy-related skills and training in rural communities.
Farming and forestry
Ministers looked in particular at the contribution that farmers and forest managers could make to promoting a circular bioeconomy at EU level. They noted the potential of agri-food waste for producing alternative bio-based resources, as well as the use of non-conventional water sources for irrigation. They emphasised the importance of the forest-based sector for the bioeconomy and highlighted the role of sustainable forest management.
While they welcomed the Commission’s progress report on the implementation of the EU Bioeconomy Strategy, ministers put forward a number of recommendations to help boost the potential of the bioeconomy in Europe. In particular, they called on the Commission to:
- better integrate bioeconomy into all policies and ensure policy coherence
- facilitate knowledge transfer towards less developed regions and rural areas
- update the EU Bioeconomy Strategy and associated action plan, and carry out an in-depth assessment of actions being taken at EU level
Ministers also noted that the bioeconomy was an integral aspect of the reformed Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and invited the Commission to follow up on how member states had incorporated it into their national strategic plans.
“Bioeconomy” refers to the use of renewable biological resources (biomass) from land and sea, such as crops, forest products, fish, animals and micro-organisms, to produce food, materials and energy.
In 2018 the Commission published an updated EU Bioeconomy Strategy, which sets out ways to speed up the development of a sustainable EU bioeconomy. The Council approved conclusions on this strategy on 29 November 2019.
Following a request from the Council, in 2022 the Commission published a progress report that identified positive trends but also noted areas for improvement, such as better land management and more sustainable consumption patterns.
The need to promote the bioeconomy was also highlighted in the European Council’s conclusions of March 2023, which highlighted the importance of “foster[ing] the transition towards a more circular economy to improve sustainability […] including by seizing the opportunities offered by the bioeconomy”.