Bioeconomy, leadership and international collaboration

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“Bioeconomy, leadership and international collaboration are central to transformational change”, said EFI Director Marc Palahí, opening a dynamic seminar on leadership and the bioeconomy on the first day of the 2019 Young Leadership Programme. He pointed out that the bioeconomy should not only be about replacing fossil products with biobased ones, but rather should be seen as an opportunity to revalue nature and ecosystems.

Xavier Marcet, President of Lead to Change, addressed the topic of leadership in a world of accelerated changes. He stated that developing technologies such as big data, robotics and augmented reality will change our lives and the way we work. This leads to the need for a new management of complexity. According to Marcet, especially young leaders value authenticity and call for more transparency than their predecessors.


Uneven distribution of forest resources and complex international governance regime

Peter Csoka, Forestry Policy and Resources Division, Forestry Department, FAO, pointed out that the world’s forest resources are unevenly distributed and the uses of wood in high income and low income countries vary greatly. While there are serious threats to the forest sector, such as competition for land, unsustainable illegal practices, degradation and loss of biodiversity, there are also opportunities as the role and possibilities of the forest sector are more recognised in the policy arena. The challenge is translating policies into action – an example is the way forests contribute to all SDGs – the forest sector must be able to show how.

The role of forest sector was also highlighted by Alexander Buck, IUFRO, as he spoke about global forest governance. He pointed out that the international governance regime related to forestry is complex and fragmented and the number of players in the field has increased. This brings the challenge of coordination and finding a common definition of bioeconomy. There is a need for new modes of governance. Cross-sectoral coordination is difficult, but needed as bioeconomy covers all sectors and systems that rely on biological resources. Buck concluded that the forest sector needs to take a lead in steering the process and that science has a crucial role, also in communicating and leading information exchange between the different sectors.


Bioeconomy in Europe, Russia and China

Lauri Hetemäki, EFI, noted that bioeconomy is not an end in itself, but a necessary tool to achieve the global targets: the SDGs, and keeping global temperature rise below 2° C. According to Hetemäki, bioeconomy development doesn’t necessarily mean significant increase in wood harvests in Europe. Raw materials may be side streams – increasing the use of residues and cascading. Also ecosystem services and forest management must be considered taking into account the diverse needs of e.g. urban areas.

In Russia, where the biological potential of bioeconomy is great with 20% of world’s forest resources, it is difficult to identify differences between green economy, bioeconomy, circular economy and low-carbon economy, said Sergei Bobylev, Center for Bioeconomy and Eco-Innovations, Lomonosov Moscow State University. Xiaoqian Chen, EFI, pointed out that the linear economy development has caused environmental degradation and pollution and the need to change is already recognised in China. In order to move towards a circular economy, China has already set goals e.g. to increase non-fossil energy to around 50% by 2050. Compared to how bioeconomy is defined in Europe and Russia, the concept is still new in China and has a narrow focus on biotechnology and biomedical fields. However, with 5.2% of global forests and the largest plantation forests in the world, the potential especially for forest-based bioeconomy is there.


The open seminar, "Leadership and transformational change towards the bioeconomy” took place in Joensuu, Finland on Monday 11 March 2019. The seminar was the opening event for the 2019 edition of EFI’s Young Leadership Programme YLP Eurasia. The 2019 edition focuses on Eurasia, exploring the potential of the forest-based bioeconomy in China and Russia in connection with Europe.


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