INSIGHT: Europe’s developing bioeconomy lacks policy coordination

Nigel Davis

26-Jan-2022

LONDON (ICIS)–Trade group Cefic’s comments this week on Europe’s developing bioeconomy highlight the policy coordination that is needed to capitalise on better, more efficient bioprocessing at scale.

  • Legislative proposals might hinder development of bio-based chemicals
  • Waste and safety aspects: greater regularity clarity needed
  • Cefic asks for increased funding for bio-based chemicals research and innovation

The growing bioeconomy can support Europe’s carbon emissions reduction and the shift of this industry away from its heavy reliance on hydrocarbon feedstocks, but certain pieces of legislation and the thrust of others stand in the way.

The business case for doing more bioprocessing, or innovating in the space, is challenged.

There are waste and safety aspects, consideration of how bio-products are viewed as well as the issue of adequately funded bioprocessing research.

Cefic identifies these and more in a position paper released as the European Commission assesses its 2018 Bioeconomy Strategy.

That appraisal and progress report will, Cefic says, highlight the contribution of the bioeconomy to the European Green Deal – this is the overarching EU strategy that ties all parts of the EU economy to the blocs’ climate change ambitions.

The Green Deal has environmental, social and economic aspects but the chemical industry is concerned that while it views itself as an enabler in the transition towards a more climate friendly future it is not always recognised as such and will be hampered by tougher EU regulation.

Bio-based and bio-derived products can support certain EU goals, the Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability, for example and the drive by the bloc to encourage the production and use of chemicals that are safe and sustainable by design (SSbD).

The introduction of bio-based chemicals, however, as replacements for others is not always recognised as a climate friendly transition by the industry.

Cefic does ask for “incentivised, increased market recognition and promotion of a level playing-field for biobased and bio-derived products, beyond standards and labels”.

It makes 10 policy recommendations and “asks” in its position paper on the EU’s bioeconomy.

Producers require greater clarity on the regulatory front when it comes to acceptance of the new bio-based products they are pursing and the processes they are using to make them. There are waste stream aspects here, alongside acceptance of the products themselves.

The industry generally would benefit from easier access to bio-based feedstock streams and is concerned that so called first generation bio feedstocks would be excluded from the EU’s Sustainable Finance Directive, for example.

“Some policy-driven market mechanisms and incentives have unintended consequences on feedstock availability”, it adds. It includes here the Renewable Energy Directive.

“Europe needs enabling regulations to valorise residues and wastes from bio-based products production, so it is necessary to adapt and clarify the end-of-waste legislation and definitions accordingly,” it said this week.

“We also need increased funding and financing streams for bio-based research & innovation projects as well as close to market and production projects such as under Horizon Europe, Public Private Partnerships or the European Circular Bioeconomy Fund, and more awareness campaigns to help lifting misunderstandings around bio-based products and their benefits.”

It added: “It is important to have an objective and science-based evaluation and recognition of the economic, environmental and social impacts of the bioeconomy and bio-based products.

“An improved access to sustainable biomass at fair economic and technical conditions is also critical for all market players while fully respecting the planet’s boundaries.”

Front page picture source: Cefic

Insight by Nigel Davis

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