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Global Assessment of Biomass and Bioproduct Impacts on Socio-economics and Sustainability

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Harmonising global biomass production

Many countries are increasingly active in biomass production for use in various products. EU-funded scientists developed recommendations towards standardisation of global certification for positive socioeconomic impact.

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Public sustainability debates have mostly focused on biofuels, with discussions on biomass-related products lagging behind. Further, although environmental considerations have been extensively addressed, the socioeconomic facet of sustainability, including poverty reduction and labour conditions, has been largely absent from studies. Such was the impetus behind the EU-funded project 'Global assessment of biomass and bioproduct impacts on socio-economics and sustainability' (GLOBAL-BIO-PACT). In order to assess the socioeconomic impacts of biomass production, scientists evaluated seven case studies covering various feedstock and products in representative countries. Recommendations were then made to policymakers to foster greater sustainability, wealth and favourable working conditions. Regarding biofuel/bioproduct conversion chains, the team emphasised industrial- versus small-scale use of biomass, and produced several reports. One of these dealt with translating socioeconomic sustainability criteria into practically applicable indicators and thresholds. Evaluating the impact of biomass production on food security was an important component of the project that proved to be difficult and quite controversial. Researchers successfully developed a predictive modelling framework integrating economics and biophysical parameters of the food and energy systems. The link between socioeconomic and environmental impacts was evaluated with a focus on harmonising and improving certification processes. Given that public perception plays an important role in future policies, scientists developed a methodology and guidelines for assessing it. Several case studies were done to aid in evaluation. All of the above led to suitable socioeconomic sustainability indicators and recommendations regarding sustainability certification schemes, policies and harmonisation. Overall, the team concluded that a mandatory monitoring and evaluation scheme should be introduced for biomass and bioenergy companies selling certain products under the EU's Renewable Energy Directive (RED). These companies would, in turn, have to publish results as part of corporate social responsibility programmes. Such legislation should be applied equally and without bias globally. GLOBAL-BIO-PACT highlighted the ways and means for harmonising certification of the global biomass production industry for the greater benefit of all involved. Sustainable production that takes into account the socioeconomic impact on players big and small will have major positive impact on the world economy and its citizens.

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