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Gaining foresight on central Europe’s bioeconomy

A special report points the way to the development of circular bioeconomies in central and eastern European (CEE) countries, where the innovation and deployment gap between research knowledge and bio-based products is wide.

Climate Change and Environment
Society

To meet the Green Deal’s goal of making Europe the first climate-neutral continent by 2050, countries need to adopt a clear and aligned systemic approach to the transition. With this goal in mind, the Central-Eastern European Initiative for Knowledge-based Agriculture, Aquaculture and Forestry in the Bioeconomy (BIOEAST) is working to advance circular bioeconomies in CEE countries through a shared strategic research and innovation framework. By 2030, the BIOEAST initiative aims to have developed sustainable knowledge- and cooperation-based circular bioeconomies that will promote inclusive growth and create new value-added jobs, especially in rural areas. With support from the EU-funded BIOEASTsUP project, it has now published a special report that provides new insights into possible reforms in the development of bioeconomies in CEE countries. The aim of the report is to guide national policymakers and to identify specific challenges possibly facing the macro-region. The report is based on a foresight exercise developed in 2020/2021 to help CEE countries participating in the BIOEAST initiative choose viable paths to develop their sustainable bioeconomies during the period 2030-2050. During the exercise, 2 rounds of virtual workshops with over 250 participants were held in Czechia, Estonia, Croatia, Hungary, Poland, Slovenia and Slovakia. In these workshops, key stakeholders discussed technological, economic, social and environmental issues related to the bioeconomy. Their views and opinions were collected and used to develop four scenarios for the bioeconomy.

The scenarios

The four scenarios identified were: a fully thriving circular bioeconomy, a linear bioeconomy with some “business as usual” elements, a traditional fossil fuel-based economy, and a non-profit circular bioeconomy. According to the foresight exercise report, the scenarios were compared based on their performance in technology and innovation, environmental consideration, social inclusion, economic impact and resilience. They were also analysed in terms of their sustainability and feasibility, and investigated in four areas of interest: natural resources, food systems, decarbonisation, and governance. Based on the report, multi-level governance principles are needed to develop a sustainable bioeconomy in the BIOEAST region. “Due to the complexity of the sustainable bioeconomy, involving as many stakeholders as possible is a pivotal task. Policymakers at all levels must take a leading and directing role, with the help of researchers to ensure that the contributions of stakeholders are considered and policymaking is science-based,” the authors write. However, without collaboration, CEE countries cannot successfully transition to a successful bioeconomy. “In addition to a conventional public governance network, network governance is also essential. Environmental agencies and forestry chambers can contribute to a successful circular bioeconomy transition by boosting their role as communicators to the general public and the government. Businesses are crucial actors in the implementation of breakthrough technologies and other biobased solutions in biobased markets,” the authors conclude. The 3-year BIOEASTsUP (Advancing Sustainable Circular Bioeconomy in Central and Eastern European countries: BIOEASTsUP) project ends in September 2022. For more information, please see: BIOEASTsUP project web page

Keywords

BIOEASTsUP, circular economy, bioeconomy, central and eastern European, CEE, BIOEAST, bio-based

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