From the Finnish forests to Brazilian orange bark - the economy of life

10.11.17 | News
Nordic Bioeconomy Day at COP23
Mia Smeds / Nordforsk
How is bioeconomy connected to the Sustainable Development Goals? That was the big question for Nordic Bioeconomy Day at the UN climate summit in Bonn, during which the Nordic Council of Ministers presented its Five Principles for Sustainable Bioeconomy, a new product written by the Nordic Bioeconomy Panel and the Baltic Sea Region Bioeconomy Council.

Universal language

Nordic Bioeconomy Day featured a line-up of international experts, entrepreneurs and policy makers. The informal and participative programme focused on solutions and sharing experiences from all over the world. Everything from orange bark from Brazil to Norwegian timber houses and Icelandic fish skin – and the issues are the same everywhere: turning waste into valuable products and moving away from the fossil-based economy.

The bioeconomy is a universal language. The resources may differ between the regions of the world but the challenges are the same: how do we stop wasting the biological side streams.

Senior Adviser Torfi Jóhannesson at Nordic Council of Ministers, concluded that “the bioeconomy is a universal language. The resources may differ between the regions of the world but the challenges are the same: how do we stop wasting the biological side streams.” Similar messages were echoed from different corners of the world: “There is no such thing as waste – only resources”.

Five Principles for Sustainable Bioeconomy

The challenges are global, and the main take away from the day was the potential for the Nordic bioeconomy to play a key role in a global perspective. Working together across sectors and borders has proven to be the most successful way to develop the Nordic bioeconomy. Even though the science of the bioeconomy is moving fast, in many countries, policies are not keeping up.

In this respect, the Nordic Bioeconomy Strategy has a valuable contribution to make. Part of the strategy consists of defining the five principles for sustainable bioeconomy:

1. Sustainable resource management – responsible use of our shared resources

  • Develop new technologies to increase output from harvested biomass through resource efficiency
  • Upgrade residues and waste to higher value products and services to optimise the quality and value of biomass
  • Contribute to circular bio-solutions that reuse and recycle materials throughout the value chain.

2. Food security and health – sufficient and nutritious food for all

  • Support production and innovation in alternative proteins for both feed and food 
  • Improve general health and nutrition by developing new, sustainable and healthy food and pharmaceutical products 
  • Guarantee food security and safety for all.

3. Resilient and diverse ecosystems – a liveable planet

  • Support action to cut air pollution and reduce CO2 emissions throughout the value chain and refine renewable alternatives to fossil-based products and processes 
  • Enhance biodiversity both on land and below water
  • Restore and sustain soil fertility, protect water quality by lowering usage and use proper purification processes for recycling.

4. Inclusive economic and social prosperity – sustainable societies

  • Create decent new jobs and retain existing ones, especially in rural and coastal areas
  • Develop and share financially viable and sustainable business models 
  • Provide rural and urban areas with environmental, social and economic opportunities and encourage new partnerships – at local, regional, national and global levels.

5. Sustainable consumption – changing consumer behaviour

  • Provide infrastructure that facilitates the reuse, recycling and upcycling of bio-based products 
  • Encourage green procurement in both the public and private sectors 
  • Commit to education and awareness of sustainable practices from kindergarten to university.

The bioeconomy is not only about burning wood – it is about a future without fossil fuels. It is about every country developing its own resources instead of exporting raw materials. It is about ensuring that the world will still be a habitable place in 1,000 years.