Author: peter

Study on the bioeconomy in neighboring European countries

What is actually going on in the bioeconomy debate at EU level and in our neighboring European countries? And how do our colleagues from the environmental and development associations assess the respective national discussions on the bioeconomy? This is the subject of the short study “Shaping Bioeconomy Strategies in Europe: The Role of Civil Society”. In it, author Wolfgang Kuhlmann, commissioned by the Bioeconomy Action Forum, describes the main European policy processes and highlights the debate in Finland, Sweden, Estonia, Italy, France and the Netherlands. The focus here is particularly on the role of civil society. Even if the paper does not claim to be exhaustive, it does show one thing: Looking beyond the German horizon provides fresh impetus. Click here to download Summary of the Study The EU Bioeconomy Strategy stresses the role of bio-based products as alter- natives to fossil-fuel counterparts, and their importance in developing a sustain- able economy based on renewable materials in Europe. It encourages member states to develop national bioeconomy strategies or equivalent policies that enhance the cooperation between …

Alternative Bioeconomy Summit

Far more than 100 experts from civil society, ministries, federal agencies and academia had dialed in to the Alternative Bioeconomy Summit on February 23, when Silvia Bender, State Secretary at the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL), opened the event with her keynote address: “How much bioeconomy can our globe cope?” is exactly the right question, she believes. In addition, Bender warned not to repeat the mistakes of the so-called energy transition in the bioeconomy and, above all, to ensure that fewer primary raw materials are used in the future. It is about saving resources and not about ‘business as usual’! This provided the framework for this online summit. “How should a future bioeconomy be organised within planetary boundaries?” was accordingly also the key question for the high-level panels and working groups. For the future it is crucial not to get lost in abstract debates. The bioeconomy must be regulated with concrete and effective instruments. Panelists (from top left to bottom right): – Silvia Bender, State Secretary at the Federal Ministry of Food and …

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 …

“Paper Saving – Packaging in Focus” Conference

Jan. 22 to 23, 2019 in Bremen, Germany denkhausbremen and the Environmental Paper Network (EPN) invite you to attend the “Paper Saving – Packaging in Focus” Conference from January 22-23, 2019 in Bremen, Germany. Paper packaging is the main driver of the persistently high paper consumption in Germany and around the world. The majority is used to support the booming online retail sector. In 2017, almost half of German paper consumption was for packaging (9.9 million tonnes). The paper that provides this packaging has negative impacts on sustainability and social justice, including forest loss, climate change, and human rights abuses. To discuss this issue, denkhausbremen and the Environmental Paper Network (EPN) have organised the “Paper Saving – Packaging in Focus” Conference to bring together leaders from NGOs, manufacturers, and retailers. The participants will work out solutions and strategies for the responsible use of paper packaging. 1. Dialogue with the Industry Tuesday January 22, 2019, 11.30am – 5.30pm House of Science, Sandstraße 4/5, 28195 Bremen Daniel Müsgens: Paper packaging – trends and developments Olaf Dechow: Sustainable …

Forests under pressure: why the bioeconomy threatens our ecosystems

By Peter Gerhardt The fossil era is coming to an end. Mankind will increasingly have to rely on renewable raw materials. The term bioeconomy has become established for this economy fed by biological resources. Forests get under pressure: their wood is considered to play a decisive role in the supply of raw materials for the bio-based future. Yet, the forest ecosystems are already being exhausted by the global demand for wood for fuel, construction material, electricity production or pulp for paper production. The natural limits of our planet are progressively entering the core of the political debate: Climate change is moving millions of people around the globe. With regard to the global climate, Brazil’s burning rainforests have long since ceased to be a national issue; they are also an issue for the global community. Even the dwindling biodiversity has arrived in the mainstream and the »Save the bees!« referendum is mobilizing 1.8 million voters in the state of Bavaria. At the same time, large parts of the population are propelled by unrestrained market forces, leading …

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 …

Biodiversity at risk

A study by denkhausbremen and BUND examines the possible impacts of the bioeconomy. Bioeconomy could become a catalyst for the already dramatic extinction of species if no immediate and consistent action is taken to reverse the trend. This is the disturbing conclusion of the study “Bioeconomy in the Light of Planetary Boundaries and Biodiversity Conservation” published today, in which denkhausbremen and BUND focus on the impacts of the bioeconomy on biodiversity conservation. The two authors – Dr Joachim Spangenberg (BUND) and Wolfgang Kuhlmann (denkhausbremen) – summarise the main scientific findings on the poor conservation status of many species and ecosystems in Germany. In particular, industrial agriculture is a major driver of species extinction. Furthermore, the non-ecologic management of many forest ecosystems is detrimental to biodiversity. The study also provides a detailed insight into the current status of biomass use in Germany and derives possible opportunities and risks for a future bioeconomy. The sobering conclusion: replacing fossil raw materials with biomass is not an option – at least if raw material consumption is not drastically reduced. …

No forest overexploitation for a flawed energy transition

Joint statement by German environmental and development associations on wood biomass Download the statement as a pdf here Forests are irreplaceable for the protection of biodiversity and our climate, they form the basis of life for people, animals and plants. Nevertheless, the global forest ecosystems are threatened. There are many reasons for this – from illegal logging to the expansion of agricultural land to the high demand for raw materials in the paper and pulp industry. As a result, forests are cleared, overexploited or converted into timber plantations with few species. Now the forests are also coming under pressure in the name of climate protection. One reason for this is the wrong decision by the EU to classify the combustion of wood as climate-neutral. This gives the EU member states the opportunity to subsidize wood biomass for electricity and heat production as a climate protection measure. There is a danger that the energetic use of wood biomass will continue to be promoted on a large scale in Germany. The federal government wants to bring the …