European Commission: “further action” required to manage biomass demand

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A new assessment of the EU bioeconomy shows that while resource efficiency is improving, there is a growing pressure on ecosystems from forestry and agriculture, according to the European Commission (EC). A better policy coordination is therefore needed to tackle the multiple pressures on land from biomass demand.
The EC defined the bioeconomy as covering all sectors and systems that rely on biological resources. An assessment of the progress and the trends in the EU bioeconomy, carried out by the Joint Research Centre (JRC), has confirmed the findings of the EU Bioeconomy Progress Report, said EC. This indicated a need for both a reduction in consumption on the one hand, and a push to innovate and re-skill the workforce to achieve more efficient production and improve recovery and re-use of biomass on the other.
There is a trend of increasing supply and use of biomass for materials and energy in the EU. The highest increases was biomass-for-energy (both primary and secondary sources), followed by material uses.
Seeing as the EU is increasingly dependent on biomass for material and energy, the EC expects biomass to become even more important as a resource. Consequently, it feels the pressure on land to produce biomass, whether within or without the EU, should be closely monitored.
Indeed, the report Biomass production, supply, uses and flows in the European Union estimates the total supply of biomass, including domestic production and net imports, to be approximately 1 billion tonnes of dry matter (tdm), whereas the uses amount to 1.2 billion tdm. The additional biomass in uses with respect to production plus net import, is due to the recovery of waste from industry and households.
Furthermore, the EU-27 has been identified as an important contributor to tropical deforestation through the consumption and trade of products and commodities such as cattle (beef meat), cocoa, coffee, palm oil and soybeans, among others. EU imports contributed to up to 25.5% of the deforested area.
Next steps
The JRC review identified gaps in the current Action Plan that require further action. Firstly, increased focus on how to better manage land and biomass demands to meet environmental and economic requirements in a climate-neutral Europe. Secondly, more work is needed on improving sustainable consumption patterns to ensure environmental integrity.
Progress has been made in some areas, as an increasing number of national and regional bioeconomy strategies promote cross-sectoral cooperation and sustainability principles and invest in bioeconomy innovation, according to the EC. As of December 2022, in the EU-27 there are 10 EU countries with national bioeconomy strategies dedicated to the bioeconomy (Austria, Germany, Spain, France, Finland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Netherlands and Portugal); and seven with their respective national strategies under development (Czechia, Croatia, Hungary, Lithuania, Poland, Sweden and Slovakia).
Six countries have other policy initiatives dedicated to the bioeconomy (namely sub-national bioeconomy strategies in Belgium and macro-regional strategies covering Bulgaria, Denmark, Estonia, Romania and Slovenia). The remaining four EU countries (Cyprus, Greece, Luxemburg and Malta) cover the bioeconomy through national energy and climate plans, national strategies on adaptation to climate change and circular economy strategies.
Similarly, progress on bioeconomy deployment has been achieved in Central and Eastern European countries, aided by significant EU funding contributions and the establishment of new fora and networks.

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