Circular bioeconomy strategy needed in Europe

Published on
From Science to Policy 5

The year 2016 was a turning point: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were adopted, and the Paris Agreement on climate change came into effect. These sent out a global political message of the need to transform our economic system to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure wellbeing for all.

The critical question now is how to reach the ambitious targets they set. A necessary part of the answer will be the move to a circular bioeconomy to increase the use of renewable non-fossil raw materials and products in sustainable, resource-efficient way. A new From Science to Policy study from the European Forest Institute analyses what a circular bioeconomy strategy would require, particularly in a European context.

Existing bioeconomy strategies have been helpful, but many, for example the EU Bioeconomy Strategy and Action Plan from 2012, have gaps in scope or focus and need updating due to major recent changes and new initiatives. In particular, it is crucial to connect bioeconomy to the circular economy concept, and to mainstream circular bioeconomy within the rest of the economy, not just advance it as a separate sector of interest to mainly rural communities. Forest-based solutions can help to develop and transform the circular bioeconomy from niche to norm.

The study’s key recommendations for a circular bioeconomy strategy include amongst others: the creation of a science-based circular bioeconomy narrative; design policies to support all dimensions of sustainability; abolish subsidies for fossil products and a need for higher and more effective carbon price; investment in R&D; developing EU-level common standards and regulations; and an emphasis on biobased services as well as products.

The report’s main outcomes and policy recommendations will be discussed at the ThinkForest seminar, ‘Looking ahead to a circular European bioeconomy’ in Brussels on 7 November.

Further information

Leading the way to a European circular bioeconomy strategy, From Science to Policy 5. European Forest Institute.

Authors: Lauri Hetemäki, Marc Hanewinkel, Bart Muys, Markku Ollikainen, Marc Palahí and Antoni Trasobares
Foreword by Esko Aho, Cristina Narbona Ruiz, Göran Persson and Janez Potočnik

The study is published on 31.10.2017, and is freely downloadable:

Further information from Lauri Hetemäki, EFI Assistant Director (lauri.hetemaki @

The European Forest Institute is an unbiased, science-based international organisation that provides the best forest science knowledge and information for better informed policy making. The From Science to Policy series brings together cross-boundary scientific knowledge and expertise to strengthen science-policy dialogue on a focused issue.

This work and publication has been financed by EFI’s Multi-Donor Trust Fund for policy support, which is supported by the Governments of Austria, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Norway, Spain and Sweden.