Climate and bioeconomy transformation

/files/images/thinkforest/aftercop21/fotolia_7547330_m_iren_270.jpg : 93Kb The defining issue of our times is climate change. It is the most important challenge we are confronted with because it exacerbates other challenges like water scarcity, food security, biodiversity loss, poverty and migration crisis.

The World Economic Forum released its global risk report earlier this year, and for the first time climate change was recognised as risk number one to the global economy. The report sends a clear message. But a stronger message, a transformational one came last December from the COP21 global Climate Agreement. A message that, in my view, announces the start of the post-petroleum era and the irreversible transition to a low carbon economy.

In this new era, our forests should play an unprecedented central role to mitigate and adapt to climate change by being a main pillar of the emerging European bioeconomy.

Just let me summarize why forests are crucial. First of all they are the largest biological infrastructure that we have in our continent, covering 40% of the land, producing by far the largest amount of renewable non-food biological resources. Resources that with existing technologies can be transformed into a new range of biobased products and bioenergy that can substitute fossil-based products from different sectors, without having negative impacts in food security. In addition to this important role in transforming the fossil-based economy into a bio-based economy, forests also capture carbon from the atmosphere and transform it in biomass. In fact 10% of EU emissions are captured directly by our forests. This is the equivalent of the CO2 emissions of the whole agriculture sector in Europe.

But of the same importance is the role forests have in adapting to climate change and ensuring a resilient continent by supporting biodiversity, and the water cycle. Forests, which are biotic pumps, play a major function in distributing water resources, via enhancing rainfall as well as increasing water infiltration in soils. And remember that without water there is no biomass, there is no food, there is no life.

In view of the strategic relevance of forests in both mitigating and adapting to climate change, holistic policies and management strategies are needed to support and include as a core cross-cutting element climate smart forestry in the emerging climate change and bioeconomy policy framework. To do so, the role of science becomes more important than ever to support policy makers to understand and explore policy options and develop coherent frameworks. I hope that our ThinkForest events make a contribution in that direction.

Marc Palahí, EFI Director


Photo: Iren/Fotolia