In the EU, the bioeconomy concept was introduced in the middle of the last decade. The bioeconomy strategy and action plan was published in 2012. It includes the following definition: ‘The bioeconomy […] encompasses the production of renewable biological resources and the conversion of these resources and waste streams into value added products, such as food, feed, bio-based products and bioenergy.’ Due to its cross-cutting nature, many EU policies shape the bioeconomy, in addition to the bioeconomy strategy.
The bioeconomy strategy and action plan was published in 2012 and is currently being reviewed.
The main objectives are tackling current societal challenges such as
- ensuring food security
- sustainably managing natural resources
- reducing dependence on non-renewable resources
- mitigating and adapting to climate change
- creating jobs and
- maintaining European competitiveness
The action plan focuses on three areas:
- investment in research, innovation and skills;
- reinforcement of policy interaction and stakeholder engagement;
- enhancement of markets and competitiveness in bioeconomy sectors.
Bioeconomy (or bioeconomy-related) strategies also exist or are being developed in many of the EU Member States (see below) and their regions (see Regional policies — Smart specialisation). Bioeconomy strategies have also been established at international level (e.g. OECD bioeconomy agenda) and in many third countries (Source: German Bioeconomy Council and JRC research).
No specific EU bioeconomy legislation exists. However, sectorial legislation, which in many cases is considerably older than the bioeconomy concept, has major impact in the field.
The common agricultural policy (CAP) was first formulated in the Treaty of Rome in 1958. A strategic document has been developed under the Europe 2020 flagship initiatives. Reforms supported by the strategic document have taken place. The new CAP applies for the period 2014-2020.
The CAP is financed by two funds. They include several environmental measures:
1. European Agricultural Guarantee Fund (EAGF)
Cross-compliance links direct payments to farmers to compliance with basic standards concerning
- the environment
- food safety
- animal and plant health and animal welfare
- as the requirement of maintaining land in good agricultural and environmental conditions.
In order to receive green direct payments farmers need to adopt practices such as
- diversify crops,
- maintain permanent grassland, and
- dedicate 5 % of arable land to ‘ecologically beneficial elements’ fallow land, hedges and trees).
Help to stabilise biomass prices through public intervention (e.g. buying in through the competent authorities of Member States and storage of products).
Finances so-called agri-environment-climate measures.
These measures affect the availability, prices and price stability of biomass and the environmental impact of bioeconomy value chains using agricultural raw materials.
- Regulation (EU) No 1307/2013 establishing rules for direct payments to farmers under support schemes within the framework of the common agricultural policy
- Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) No 809/2014 laying down rules for the application of Regulation (EU) No 1306/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council with regard to the integrated administration and control system, rural development measures and cross compliance
- Regulation (EU) No 1308/2013 establishing a common organisation of the markets in agricultural products
- Regulation (EU) No 1305/2013 on support for rural development by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD)
There is no common forestry policy for the EU. Forestry legislation is dealt with at Member State level. At EU level, the forest strategy defines general principles. The strategy is complemented by a multiannual implementation plan. Forest-related provisions are also included in legislation of related sectors, e.g. Birds and Habitats Directives and rural development sectors.
Fisheries, aquaculture and algae
The common fisheries policy (CFP) is a set of rules for managing European fishing fleets and for conserving fish stocks. It was first introduced in the 1970s and went through successive updates. Strategies on fisheries, marine and maritime growth and aquaculture intend to boost these sectors, for instance exploring increased use of algae as a source for biofuels, high added-value chemicals and bioactive compounds.
Reforms supported by the strategies mentioned above have taken place. The new CFP applies for the period 2014-2020.
Main policy areas of the CFP and relevant updates:
- Fisheries management — Between 2015 and 2020, catch limits should be set that are sustainable and maintain fish stocks in the long term. The practice of throwing unwanted fish back into the sea was prohibited.
- International policy — Regulates the operation of European fishing boats outside EU waters and the international trade in fisheries products.
- Market organisation — Including marketing standards, consumer information, competition rules and marketing intelligence.
- European Maritime and Fisheries Fund
These measures have, inter alia, an important impact on the availability and prices of fish as a feedstock for the bioeconomy.
Food and feed security
Food security is a main societal challenge. The bioeconomy strategy and action plan stresses the need to reconcile the competition of different sectors (food, feed and industrial uses) for biomass.
The EU defined food security as a strategic priority for EU development policy. A comprehensive policy framework has been adopted to promote food security and combat malnutrition.
There is currently no EU food and feed security legislation, i.e. on ensuring food availability and access, or nutrition security legislation.
- Commission communication ‘An EU policy framework to assist developing countries in addressing food security challenges’
- Commission communication ‘Increasing the impact of EU development policy: an agenda for change’
- Commission communication ‘Enhancing maternal and child nutrition in external assistance: an EU policy framework’
- Commission communication ‘The EU approach to resilience: learning from food security crises’
Bio-based products are wholly or partly produced from biomass. They include products which were traditionally made from biomass, such as paper and textile. Product groups such as detergents, chemical building blocks and polymers, traditionally produced from fossil oil, are also increasingly based on biomass through novel value chains such as fermentation and biocatalysis.
There is no policy strategy or legislation specifically dedicated to the bio-based industry. However, bio-based products and industrial biotechnology have been identified as selected market and selected technology under the following initiatives.
- The ‘lead markets initiative for Europe’
- The key enabling technologies (KETs) strategy
- The communication ‘A stronger European industry for growth and economic recovery’
- The communication ‘For a European industrial renaissance’
Bio-based chemicals and materials have to comply with requirements for chemicals and materials in general, especially the regulatory framework for the management of chemicals (REACH, EU 2006). The European Chemicals Agency manages this integrated system for the registration, evaluation, authorisation and restriction of chemicals.
- Commission communication ‘A lead market initiative for Europe’
- Commission communication ‘Preparing for our future: developing a common strategy for key enabling technologies in the EU’
- Commission communication: ‘A stronger European industry for growth and economic recovery’
- Commission communication ‘For a European industrial renaissance’
Other sectors using biomass
There are no specific EU policies and legislation in other sectors which traditionally use biomass, such as the textile, wood and wooden furniture and pulp and paper sectors. However, they are covered by cross-cutting initiatives and policies such as the raw material initiative, which emphasises the scarcity of biomass and the circular economy package. They are also subject to the more generally applicable legislation such as product safety standards and internal market legislation.
Climate change and energy
Starting in 2007, several strategic policy documents (see below) were introduced that promote the use of renewable energy (which includes bioenergy) and combat climate change.
The following objectives for 2020 have been defined:
- to limit the global average temperature increase to less than 2 °C compared to pre-industrial levels;
- to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 20 % compared to the 1990 levels;
- to increase the share of renewable energy to 20 %;
- to reach at least a share of 10 % of transport fuels coming from renewable sources;
- to improve energy efficiency by 20 %.
These targets have been transposed in the following legal acts:
- Emissions trading scheme (ETS) directive
- Effort-sharing decision (ESD)
- Renewable energy directive (RED)
- Fuel quality directive (FQD)
A policy framework for climate and energy for the period from 2020 to 2030 defined the targets for 2030:
- 40 % reduction of GHG emissions compared to 1990 levels;
- at least 27 % share of renewable energy;
- 27 % improvement in energy efficiency.
On 20 July 2016, the EC published a low-carbon economy package comprising:
- a legislative proposal for a regulation on the inclusion of GHG emissions and removals from land use, land-use change and forestry (LULUCF) into the 2030 climate and energy framework, covering the period 2021-2030;
- a legislative proposal for a regulation on binding GHG emission reductions for Member States (2021-2030) — ‘effort-sharing’ regulation;
- a communication ‘A European strategy for low-emission mobility’.
On 30 November 2016, the Commission presented the clean energy transition package. The most important documents in the context of the bioeconomy are the following:
- communication 'Clean energy for all Europeans'
- communication 'Accelerating Clean Energy Innovation'
- proposal for a revised electricity regulation
- proposal for a revised Renewable Energy Directive
The EU has set itself a long-term goal of reducing GHG emissions by 80-95 % by 2050 compared to 1990 levels.
- Commission communication ‘An energy policy for Europe’
- Commission communication ‘A European strategic energy technology plan (SET-plan) — Towards a low carbon future’
- Commission communication ‘Limiting global climate change to 2 degrees Celsius — The way ahead for 2020 and beyond’
- Commission communication ‘Energy 2020 — A strategy for competitive, sustainable and secure energy’
- Commission communication ‘A policy framework for climate and energy in the period from 2020 to 2030’
- Impact Assessment accompanying the Commission communication ‘A policy framework for climate and energy in the period from 2020 to 2030’
- Commission communication ‘Energy roadmap 2050’
- The EU reference scenario 2016
- Commission communication: ‘Accelerating Europe’s transition to a low-carbon economy’
- Commission communication 'The role of waste-to-energy in the circular economy'
- Commission communication ‘A European strategy for low-emission mobility’
- Commission communication 'Clean energy for all Europeans'
- Commission communication 'Accelerating Clean Energy Innovation'
- Directive 2003/87/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing a scheme for greenhouse gas emission allowance trading within the Community - Emissions trading scheme (ETS) directive
- Decision No 406/2009/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council on the effort of Member States to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions to meet the Community’s greenhouse gas emission reduction commitments up to 2020 - Effort-sharing decision (ESD)
- Directive 2009/28/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council on the promotion of the use of energy from renewable sources - Renewable energy directive (RED)
- Directive 2009/30/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Directive 98/70/EC as regards the specification of petrol, diesel and gas-oil and introducing a mechanism to monitor and reduce greenhouse gas emissions and amending Council Directive 1999/32/EC as regards the specification of fuel used by inland waterway vessels - Fuel quality directive (FQD)
- Legislative proposal for a regulation on the inclusion of GHG emissions and removals from land use, land-use change and forestry (LULUCF) into the 2030 climate and energy framework, covering the period 2021-2030
- Legislative proposal for a regulation on binding GHG emission reductions for Member States (2021-2030) — ‘effort-sharing’ regulation
- Proposal for a regulation on the internal market for electricity
- Proposal for a directive amending Directive 2012/27/EU on energy efficiency
- Proposal for a Directive on the promotion of the use of energy from renewable resources
Circular economy - Waste
The EU waste legislation includes the Waste Framework Directive (EU 2008) and many further legal acts regulating the shipments and the management of waste including incineration and landfills.
The Commission decided to move away from the linear economic model of ‘take-make-dispose’ which has proven to be unsustainable. The new circular economy approach aims to maintain the value of products and materials for as long as possible whilst minimising resource use and generation of waste. In December 2015 the EC adopted the circular economy package (EC 2015b), comprising
- an action plan for the circular economy
- revised legislative proposals on waste
The circular economy package defines the following targets:
- to increase the recycling target for municipal waste to 65 % by 2030;
- to gradually limit the landfilling of municipal waste to 10 % by 2030.
The action plan acknowledges the potential of the bioeconomy to contribute to the circular economy by providing alternatives to fossil-based products and energy. The bioeconomy promotes the enhanced use of waste in existing value chains as well as the creation of innovative value chains using organic waste.
In 2017 the communication 'The role of waste-to-energy in the circular economy' was published. A strategy on Plastics in a Circular Economy (including action on marine litter) is also being prepared (see roadmap).
- Commission communication 'Towards a circular economy: a zero waste programme for Europe'
- Commission communication ‘Closing the loop — An EU action plan for the circular economy’
- Commission communication 'The role of waste-to-energy in the circular economy'
- Roadmap of strategy on plastics in a circular economy
Regional policies - Smart specialisation
Under the ‘Research and innovation strategies for smart specialisation’ (RIS3), the design of national/regional research and innovation strategies for smart specialisation is encouraged. This should lead to an integrated approach towards smart growth in all regions.
The European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF) consist of five main funds which support economic development across all EU countries.
The report 'Bioeconomy development in EU regions' provides a mapping of EU Member States’ / regions’ Research and Innovation plans & Strategies for Smart Specialisation (RIS3) on Bioeconomy.
- Regulation (EU) No 1303/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council laying down common provisions on the European Regional Development Fund, the European Social Fund, the Cohesion Fund, the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund
- Regulation (EU) No 1305/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council on support for rural development by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD)
- Regulation (EU) No 508/2014 of the European Parliament and of the Council on the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund
- Regulation (EU) No 1300/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council on the Cohesion Fund
Research and innovation
Research and innovation is at the heart of the flagship initiative ‘Innovation union’.
Funding for research is provided at EU, national and regional levels. Financial instruments for the implementation of the Europe 2020 strategy and the Juncker priorities are Horizon 2020 and the European Fund for Strategic Investment (EFSI) (EU 2015b).
For further information see Research and Innovation.
- Commission communication ‘Europe 2020 flagship initiative — Innovation union’
- Regulation (EU) No 1291/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing Horizon 2020 - the Framework Programme for Research and Innovation (2014-2020)
- Regulation (EU) 2015/1017 of the European Parliament and of the Council on the European Fund for Strategic Investments
Further cross-cutting policies
Many other horizontal policies such as environmental (including water), industrial, trade or internal market policies also have an impact on the bioeconomy.