EuropaBio’s input to the EC consultation on the future “EU 2020 Strategy”: Towards a bio-economy in 2020

28.01.2010

EuropaBio’s input to the EC consultation on the future “EU 2020 Strategy”: Towards a bio-economy in 2020 

Faced with global warming and limited fossil fuel resources, the development of new biological processes and the use of renewable raw materials derived from plants, crops and trees has become an increasingly attractive alternative for feedstock. Using these processes and materials to produce fuel, innovative materials and chemicals has enormous potential to enhance quality of life while reducing negative environmental impact.

At the same time, national healthcare systems are facing challenges that put them under unprecedented financial, economic and social strain. For example, a December 2008 report from the European Commission revealed that the number of elderly people (aged 65 and above) will almost double, rising from 85 million in 2008 to 151 million in 2060 in the EU. This will result in a steep rise in health care demand leading to an increase in expenditure and the need for long-term care.

Healthcare biotechnological knowledge, which by 2015 is likely to be used in the discovery and development process for all new pharmaceuticals, will provide personalised, innovative, safe, and effective healthcare biotech products which have the potential to improve quality of life whilst supporting the budgetary efforts of national governments. There is also a need to respond to the growing demand for food without compromising on environmental standards. In a paper3 released in October 2009, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (UN FAO) estimated that we will have to produce 70 percent more food for an additional 2.3 billion people by 2050.

Meeting market demands and the growing need for food, whilst at the same time reducing the impact on our climate, is of critical importance to our future. Although in the past, discussions have centred on the causes of climate change, today society, industry, governments and other stakeholders are searching for solutions to mitigate its impact on our health and environment.

In spite of our endeavours so far to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, current practices and technologies will most likely be insufficient to achieve the ambitious objectives set by the European Union and other countries to tackle climate change. Regulators must therefore take bold steps towards establishing more sustainable growth and sustainable agriculture through the reduction of our carbon footprint and the mitigation of the impacts of climate change.

Our existing energy infrastructure and industrial production processes are largely based on fossil fuels, which results in high levels of greenhouse gas emissions. However, the bio-economy would help enable future generations to no longer be wholly dependant on fossil fuels and industrial raw materials. Bio-based products are a substitute for certain fossil fuel-based products, and play a valuable role in contributing to a more sustainable society, with the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, generate less waste, and use less fossil fuels and water. As a result, the potential to improve sustainability in industry is vast and should be among the top technologies considered in any policy discussion.

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