Aux Farms, Citoyens! France’s Bioeconomy Plan is a stirring call to action on jobs, climate, innovation

June 26, 2017 |

It took a long time, but France in the past year published a national bioeconomy strategy and its national government has approved it. It’s here in full form.

We’re publishing a digested version today not only as  summary of activities in France (and its extensive bioeconomy resources, industrial base and technical innovation level), but as a model of what a cogent national strategy can look like.

The 4 Guiding Goals

Good jobs and good products while preserving resources for the long term — France sums up it’s four goals this way:

1. To guarantee food security and acceptable living standards for present and future generations by preserving natural resources and ecosystem functions in habitats
2. Efficient, resilient and circular, productive for the long term
3. Focused on its citizens and with local roots, A bioeconomy that contributes to the development of economic value and jobs
4. Providing innovative, effective and affordable solutions able to meet the diversity of human needs

The Challenge of rising population and emissions

The Plan focuses on “new modes of production and consumption that are, at one and the same time, more efficient, resilient and compatible with the planet’s limits and mechanisms” — citing the The Paris Agreement on to limit climate change to “well below 2°c”, and noting the “crucial issue of global food security and the particular vulnerability of food production systems,” given an “outlook is for a human population of over nine billion by 2050” and a shift to more protein in the diet.

The Good News

The Plan states the bioeconomy’s role as central to the changes that must come: “The use of bioresources… offers opportunities for our economy. It can contribute to greater food sovereignty and the restoration of our trade balance, as well as creating value-added, thereby reinforcing the dynamism of rural areas and developing employment.”

30% of France’s overall emission target

France’s goal is to reduce its emissions of 500m co2 equivalent tonnes (as of 2103) to around 325m co2 equivalent tonnes by 2030. The Plan anticipates that as much as 30% of this reduction could come from the bioeconomy, in four ways.
1. replacement of products of fossil origin by products derived from bioresources: 40mt of co2 per year by 2030 and storage of 5mt of co2 per year;
2.  the potential emissions reduction in the farming industry considered achievable by 2030 (notably by encouraging changes in
3. Farming methods and energy self-sufficiency based on methanisation, for example) would be in the region of 10-15mt;
4. a 20 % reduction in food waste by 2030 would avoid emissions of 10mt co2eq/year.

The 22 steps towards realizing the bioeconomy potential

In all, France identified 22 steps under 6 categories of action relating to co-operation, production, environment, innovation, and dialogue.

Making bioeconomy products a market reality
1. Raising the profile of innovative bioeconomy products
2. Clarifying and highlighting the positive externalities of biobased products
3. Making use of public procurement for biobased products

Supporting the transition to a high-performance, innovative and sustainable biobased industry 
4. Fostering industrial ecology through synergy in uses of bioresources and the factors of production
5. Developing novel, flexible production systems suited to the resources used
6. Rolling out industrial activities
7. Fostering dialogue between farming, forestry and fisheries upstream and processing industry operators

Producing bioresources sustainably to meet the needs of all bioeconomy value chains
8. Improving and sharing our knowledge of the resources and their uses
9. Producing and using more bioresources
10. Using bioresources and seeking the best possible organization

Guaranteeing a sustainable bioeconomy
11. A competitive bioeconomy works in synergy with natural mechanisms
12. The development of the bioeconomy has a major regional component
13. A productive and competitive bioeconomy is founded on sustainable production
14. The bioeconomy must make use of environmental impact assessments

Building a dialogue with society for a shared bioeconomy
15. Informing and engaging the actors
16. Organizing debate to ensure informed decisions

Innovation for a high+performance bioeconomy
17, Understanding and assisting changes in global food systems
18. Continuing research efforts to develop outlets for chemicals, materials and energy
19. Supporting research for more sustainable production systems and biomass adaptation
20. Making use of research for a regionally integrated bioeconomy and sharing value
21. Successfully combining and evaluating multiple innovations in meta-systems
22. Using research to support bioeconomy training

Defining an action plan

At the heart of the plan, four action stages.

Stage 1. A broad survey of measures linked to each of the six core themes, making a distinction between what has been done and what might be done. This inventory will be based on previous discussions or on new contacts if necessary.

Stage 2. Prioritization of the measures listed and preparation of datasheets for the new measures. the datasheets for measures must contain:

• a description of the measure and the timetable for its implementation;
• the targets and the means for measuring how far they have been achieved;
• an evaluation of the impacts on existing systems and the solutions for limiting negative effects;
• the links with existing measures and supplementary measures that can be added;
• the individual in charge of the measure, along with the partners and the resources deployed;
• distribution to all economic sectors of information on targets and methods;
• organization of monitoring, ex-post evaluation and feedback.

Stage 3. Tracking the action plan based on efforts to link up with schemes already in place and contributing to it (e.g. Strategic sector contracts) and specific tracking of new measures.

Trans-Europe and international partnership

The French bioeconomy plan takes into account the European Commission’s 2012 strategy: “innovating for sustainable growth: a bioeconomy for Europe” and four initiatives that have flowed from that.

The plan notes that “France’s active participation in EU and international policymaking…will make it possible to advocate French views in all these bodies and, reciprocally, to enrich national thinking based on the experience of partner countries.” The plan’s authors envisage four steps for European co-operation:

1. formation of several working groups in the standing committee on agricultural research (scar) in dg research.
2. the setting up of the European bioeconomy observatory, backed by a panel of experts.
3. formation of an expert group on biobased products as part of the Lead Market Initiative in order to underpin their development.
4. the launch of a public-private partnership associating the European Commission with a consortium of manufacturers, involving €1 billion of public money and €2.7bn in private-sector funding.

The goals are to:

1. benchmark the various European strategies,
2. set up a network of french actors engaged in the bioeconomy at European level in close conjunction with the strategy committee,
3. play an active role in European proceedings and consultations.

At the international level, the plan aims at co-ordinating with the International Energy Agency, the UN Environment Program and the FAO.

The role of IAR

No note about the French bioeconomy would be complete without noting the role of the IAR bioeconomy cluster and associated projects. For 10 years, IAR has been supporting more than 210 projects for a total investment of €1,5 billion. Five examples of IAR projects are:

1. BBI – biobased industries joint undertaking (http://www.bbi-europe.eu). AIR is a board member of the BBIju
2. IMPROVE – plant based proteins (http://www.improve-innov.com/en)
3. PIVERT – oilseed biorefining (http://www.institut-pivert.com)
4. FUTUROL – ligno-cellulosic ethanol (http://www.projetfuturol.com)
5. BIO-LIC – overcoming hurdles for industrial biotechnology (http://www.industrialbiotech-europe.eu/)

More on the story

You can view The Digest’s 2017 Multi-Slide Guide to the French bioeconomy here.

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