Key Messages

Growing the bioeconomy in the Global South in a circular, sustainable way offers direct economic and environmental benefits, with the potential to capture the economic opportunity of bio-based products of bio-based products for food, feed waste products and energy estimated at USD 7.7 trillion (WBCSD 2020).

The bioeconomy can help achieve climate mitigation and resilience goals and attenuate the effects of climate change, while increasing food security, income generation capacity and jobs, and safeguarding the wider economic and social well-being of the population. Importantly, it aids in climate mitigation through carbon storage in a wide range of materials, which is of increasing importance in the Global South, as levels of carbon emissions begin to overtake those in the Global North. In addition, this can help achieve resilience to heat, floods, and coastal erosion, as bio-based products can be designed to be biodegradable and valorisation of organic wastes reduces water, soil, and air pollution. It can reduce biogeochemical flows of nitrogen and phosphorous that can harm ecosystems and biodiversity, land-system changes, and freshwater use. Thus, growing the bioeconomy is relevant to addressing multiple environmental issues.

However, there are potential trade-offs between growing the bioeconomy and carbon mitigation, biodiversity loss, and social well-being considerations like food security. This makes ensuring the circularity and sustainability of the approach imperative.

A smooth transition requires a co-ordinated systems approach to accomplish the change because of the number of players involved, from primary producers to those managing logistics as well as research institutes. To help achieve this, we have created a framework, which involves four building blocks: policy framework, partnerships and collaborations, skills and social attitudes, and technological and process innovation. The paper also describes a roadmap for informed decision-making and action.

Shalini Goyal Bhalla (International Council for Circular Economy) co-authored this paper.

Press Release

Growing the circular bioeconomy, with a focus on the Global South