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Scenarios for the EU bioeconomy in 2050

A study with four alternative scenarios for the bioeconomy of the European Union (EU) in 2050 has recently been published by a group of experts in the field.

The 2018 EU Bioeconomy Strategy aims to develop a circular and sustainable bioeconomy for Europe, strengthening the connection between the economy, society and the environment. In addition, it addresses global challenges such as meeting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) established by the United Nations and the climate goals of the Paris Agreement. Given the current situation, a circular and sustainable bioeconomy can be a fundamental instrument for the Green Deal in the post-COVID-19 era, making the EU more sustainable and competitive. For this reason, the Joint Research Center (JRC) of the European Commission (EC), in collaboration with the Directorate General for Research and Innovation, has created a network of experts to contribute to the Bioeconomy Knowledge Center of the EC. With the help of more than 50 specialists, a team of six experts has constructed four alternative scenarios for the EU bioeconomy in 2050, based on the multiple drivers that can affect their future and their interaction.

Four scenario narratives have been developed for the 2050 EU bioeconomy, with 2030 as the intermediate point:

Scenario 1 'Do it for us' where a set of policies is designed and implemented to promote a radical change in supply systems without social changes. In addition, global warming will be mitigated, so that by 2100, the increase in global temperature will be able to maintain around 2 ºC. As a result, it is shown that in 2050, social inequalities will increase and more than 50% of the real income of the European population will be lower than in 2020, although the climate goal is almost reached.

Scenario 2 'Do it together' in which both the political system and society are aligned to achieve the goal of climate neutrality and the SDGs. In this way, the world will be on the way to maintain by 2100 the increase in temperature by 1.5 ºC. The most relevant economic result of this scenario is the reduction of mass production and the increase of local production based on the community. The bioeconomy, including the food industry, offers innovative products for health and sustainability and the climate target is fully achieved.

Scenario 3 'Do it ourselves' where a political system is shown with an inability to implement climate policies and meaningful SDGs. In addition, the Paris Agreement is not achieved and because of this the increase in global temperature will remain at 2.5 ° C by 2100. However, consumers change their attitudes and behavior under the impulse of social movements more and more influencers and the aftermath of a series of dramatic crises. The result is the change in demand, which drives the adaptation of the supply system. This results in increased rates of quality community production. The bioeconomy, including the food industry, slightly increases innovation for health and sustainability products, based on own funds. At the same time, the business community strongly supports the drive for the ecological transition, but there is a lack of funding from public administrations, and it is in this scenario where local companies and SMEs have an advantage over large corporations although not climatic effectiveness is achieved.

Scenario 4 'Do what is unavoidable' where lifestyles are not significantly changed with respect to the current economic and productive system. Neither administration nor society proactively adopt measures to combat climate change and global warming, with greenhouse gas emissions on the way to a temperature increase of 3.5 ° C by 2100. In this way, the objectives of the European Green Deal and the SDGs are not fulfilled. On the other hand, innovation does not have only political support and conventional fuels dominate the world, although there is a small proportion of biofuels.

In conclusion, the report presents initial reflections on the transition paths towards scenarios in 2050 as well as perspectives for the future of the bioeconomy in Europe and in the rest of the world, with a focus on the implementation of the circular, sustainable and transformative bioeconomy in the EU and worldwide with a strong accent on the new term BioWEconomy which credo is 'leave no one out', as from the African proverb: 'If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together'.

Read the full document here.

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