Author: peter

The forest in the bio-capitalism

By Peter Gerhardt The forest has always been more than the sum of its trees. It is familiar with being a place of longing and a habitat, to deliver firewood and construction material and at the same time to fulfill all the important ecological functions. Our requirements have already put this ecosystem under tremendous pressure and in many places around the world have contributed to the fact that the forests are exhausted or have been destroyed. Regardless, now the forest should also protect humanity from a possible climate collapse and serve as a raw material storage for the economy of the future – the so-called bioeconomy. This cannot go well. But let’s start at the beginning. At this year’s UN climate summit in Glasgow, the political leaders surpassed themselves in a kind of outbidding competition to determine which country wants to save most of their forests from deforestation in the name of climate protection. At the same time, generous reforestation initiatives were promised. A total of 137 governments, whose nations are home to over 90% …

Metamorphosis of destructive logging companies

By Michael Gerhardt The German version of this post can be found here. This article was published as well on The Ecologist , World Rainforest Movement Bulletin , Redd Monitor, World Nutrition and Robin Wood Blog . It sounds like a fairy tale. Multinational companies destroy forests and trample on human rights. Then, international environmental organisations come into play and transform the culprits into responsible companies within just a few months. Multinational palm oil, pulp and paper companies such as Wilmar, Golden Agri, APRIL (Asia Pacific Resources International Limited) or APP (Asia Pulp and Paper) have already completed the magic metamorphosis from destroyers to protectors of the Indonesian rainforest. All of these companies now sport a “zero deforestation policy”. Similar promises have also been made by consumer goods giants like Nestle, Unilever, Mars, L’Oreal, Procter & Gamble and Colgate-Palmolive, who require palm oil as a raw material for their products. Greenpeace, WWF and Co. appear to have success in what Indonesian environmental groups have been struggling to achieve for years, that is persuading notorious rainforest …

Barking up the wrong tree: Energy giants are on a worldwide shopping tour for wood in order to produce ”green” electricity

Humanity has got an energy problem. Fossil fuels such as oil, gas and coal are finite and burn-ing them causes climate change. Nuclear energy is dangerous and produces radioactive waste. Renewable energies such as sun, wind or biomass are thus to provide us with green energy in the future. That’s old news. Political efforts are made to induce the necessary energy transformation with quotas and sub-sidies. The EU wants biomass to play a major role in the renewable energies for the future. Renewables are expected to account for 20% of energy consumption by 2020, goals for 2030 are negotiated right now. As for the EU, biomass would primarily mean wood. The European hunger for wood has fatal consequences: forests are clear-cut and fertile farmland and precious ecosystems are destroyed for industrial wood plantations. And it’s not a no solution for climate change. Even the US government noted in June this year that energy from wood is by no means climate-neutral. Facing climate change and a new situation for energy policy, the energy giants’ coal-fired power …

Six reasons why eco-labels are not a good idea for the bioeconomy

By Peter Gerhardt They exist for wood, paper, palm oil or cod: sustainability labels. All too often, these have been launched with great fanfare for a better world, only to realise soberly soon after that overexploitation and environmental destruction simply continue. This could be due to the fact that many of these voluntary certification initiatives have a few fundamental flaws built in. The hope is that politics, business and associations will learn from past mistakes and question eco-labels with scepticism. This is particularly true with regard to the current bioeconomy debate, regarding the transformation of our economy from fossil to biological. Here, too, the call for eco-certificates is getting louder. Already today, the planet is exhausted by the biomass we demand from it: This leads to overfished oceans for Captain Iglo and destroyed rainforests for three-euro chicken. If fossil raw materials are to be completely replaced by biomass in the future, the question consequently arises on which earth this biomass should grow on, or which environmental crimes or human rights violations we might want to …

Impulses for the Bioeconomy Council

Position paper for pdf download here! The bioeconomy can only contribute to a sustainable future if our economy is put to the test and undergoes a comprehensive socio-ecological transformation. The Bioeconomy Council should therefore advocate for clear policy frameworks and guard rails within which the bioeconomy can be shaped sustainably. Due to the expected enormous demand for biomass, an indefinitely growing bioeconomy can become an additional threat to global ecosystems and the people who live on them. Already today, planetary boundaries have been exceeded in essential areas. In addition to the climate crisis and the massive change in land use, the loss of biodiversity and genetic diversity as well as the overloading of the phosphorus and nitrogen cycles show an excess that can destroy our livelihoods. Consequently, the bioeconomy also needs clearly defined growth limits to ensure economic activity within planetary boundaries. A realistic picture of the potentials should guide the implementation of the bioeconomy. Aspects related to the common good, such as food security, water availability, biodiversity and climate protection, as well as access …

Bioplastics – Sustainable Alternative or Just Another Eco-Lie?

From Paula Leutner Plastic has been polluting our oceans for years. From fishing nets to plastic bottles to straws – plastic in all its forms and variations is floating in the waters between Bremerhaven, Hawaii and Hong Kong. In other words: Everywhere. But the image problem of plastic is not only based on its destructive end of life, but also on its origin. Conventional plastic is made from crude oil and is therefore not exactly climate-friendly. Now there are supposed to be new solutions, which the industry is already happily embracing: Bio-plastics that come with a green promise. But what’s really up with this plastic – sustainable alternative or just another organic lie? The term itself already causes some confusion. Because ‘bio’ is not always organic and can mean both that the plastic is made from biological resources or that the end product itself is biodegradable. Numerous companies are already advertising that they offer such bioplastics. Coca Cola is designing the PlantBottle, Pepsi together with Nestlé and Danone the NaturAll Bottle, LEGO wants to convert …

Mission implementation plan – Bioeconomy Council is on its way

The newly appointed Bioeconomy Council is to support the German government with expertise in the phase-out of the fossil economy. The success of this change also depends on the Council’s commitment to a socio-ecological transformation. All good things come in threes. To what extent this proverb applies to the Bioeconomy Council, which is now being launched in its third edition, remains to be seen. In December 2020, the Federal Government appointed the council for three years, composed of a total of twenty scientists and associations representatives. New this time is that the ministries for the environment and development cooperation, among others, were actively involved in the appointment of the council members. Accordingly, the round of experts is now more diverse, recruited from the biotech lobby all the way to the environmental movement. In contrast to the past, this is a clear step forward: until now, the Council was the domain of more technology-friendly departments and therefore not a haven for ecological and justice issues. In this respect, it is hardly surprising how biased the previous …

Limits to Growth for the Bioeconomy

Press memo: Bremen, April 16, 2021 Environmental and development associations are giving the German Bioeconomy Council a paper with their demands on the way The newly appointed Bioeconomy Council should impose a consistent socio-ecological transformation of the economy on the German government. This is what the environmental and development organisations involved in the Bioeconomy Action Forum are demanding in view of the Bioeconomy Council meeting next week on April 19 and 20, 2021. The key points for a socially just and ecologically sustainable bioeconomy are explained by the associations in their joint declaration “Impulses for the Bioeconomy Council”, which was handed over to the Council members in the run-up to the meeting. The environmental and development organizations demand, among other things, that the interests of nature, resource and climate protection be enforced in biomass production, that genetic engineering be effectively regulated and that biomass imports be restricted. In addition, the NGOs continue, food security and human rights should not be further jeopardised in the course of the bioeconomy, research funding should set new priorities, and …

May 27, 2021 – Workshop Bioplastics – Opportunities and Risks

The agenda (pdf) for download here Plant-based plastics are among the practical applications of the bioeconomy that have already successfully entered the market. There are different interpretations concerning the evaluation of the sustainability of bioplastics.. Are plastics made from biological resources an important contribution to overcoming the fossil age or does the potential demand for raw materials of a plant-based plastics industry threaten global ecosystems? This question will be explored by the speakers and participants of the workshop. Online workshop of the Bioeconomy Action Forum, May 27, 2021 at 10:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. 10.00 am Peter Gerhardt and Jonas Daldrup (denkhausbremen): Welcome 10:10 a.m. Philipp Sommer: Bioplastics – Solution or Dead End? Philipp Sommer is an expert on circular economy at Deutsche Umwelthilfe. 10.30 a.m. Christoph Lauwigi: Bioplastics from the BUND’s perspective Christoph Lauwigi is the spokesman for the Waste and Resources working group at BUND. 10.45 a.m. Constance Ißbrücker: Bioplastics and their importance for the Circular Economy Constance Ißbrücker is Head of Environmental Affairs at the European Bioplastics Industry Association. 11:05 a.m. Discussion …