Barcelona BioEco 2014
Barcelona BioEco 2014 is the first event in a series of bi-annual global forums on sustainable economic development derived from a wide variety of forest-based renewable resources and ecosystem services. The focus is on the challenges of the Mediterranean area and Southern Hemisphere – with strong global connections.
Forests have the potential to make a significant contribution to the development of the bioeconomy. They are a source of renewable raw materials with a low carbon footprint. Forests are a viable source of energy, and forest products are generally easy to either reuse or recycle. Moreover, forests constitute a green infrastructure: water supply, leisure, health and tourism are just a few of the activities they make possible.
In broad areas of the Mediterranean region, the underutilization of forest resources and the need to reduce forest fire risk through sustainable management are creating interesting opportunities for increased production of biomass for bioenergy in the Mediterranean. Yet this is not the case everywhere. We must consider to what extent all Mediterranean forests can contribute to the increased supply of energy and raw materials. The challenge remains as to how forests in low forest cover countries of the southern and eastern Mediterranean can contribute to a bioeconomy.
On the other hand, the high value of forest ecosystems and their services, the high cost for forest protection and the lack of vibrant and viable value chains highlight the need for a step-change in the forest management paradigm.
Forests must be considered as multiple-use natural landscapes. This can be especially effective in the Mediterranean, where wood is not as productive or profitable as in regions with higher levels of rainfall. More emphasis can be made on using forests as multi-functional landscapes that provide wood, feed, food, activity areas, wildlife habitats, and tourism and recreation opportunities. Forests should be understood within their broader landscapes, where a multitude of different products, services and functions are performed, and the true value of forests is recognised.
Read more on Forests & Energy
The Mediterranean region hosts the largest share of population living in low water availability areas. Population growth, increased urbanisation and economic development will contribute to increased stresses. Available knowledge predicts that the Mediterranean climate areas are those that will suffer the most important drop in precipitation and increased temperatures. Forests are a key green infrastructure providing water regulation and filtering services, but are also a great competitor for water resources with other users. It might happen in the short term that water becomes the most relevant forest product in the Mediterranean. However, are we ready to set up the societal, institutional and economic arrangements to sustain these developments?
According to the IPCC, reducing emissions from buildings is among the most cost effective opportunities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Wood and Cork are typically the best prime material available for building structures with respect to embodied energy use, carbon emissions and water usage. Technological development is changing the scale of what it is possible to build in wood. Skyscrapers of 30 storeys and mainly based in wood are now constructible, with excellent safety and isolation properties. Other bio-based products, such as cork, can provide light and beautiful solutions for isolation, flooring and interior decoration.
Bioeconomy is about a wiser use of natural resources. It clearly concerns technological development, sustainable management of resources and good governance structures, but it is mainly about behavioural change. We need to be aware of the way we use resources, pay attention to carbon, energy, water and material footprints and change our consumption patterns and perhaps some of our current values. The drive towards sustainability is a key challenge: either we embark on it all together or it will not happen.
Making innovation happen is the critical challenge in the transition to the bioeconomy. Innovation is needed in the management and governance of natural resources, in technology, engineering and industrial processes as much at it is needed in business models and in developing an institutional, corporative and regulatory framework able to foster green investments. Determining those most urgent first steps is now a priority.
The bioeconomy must be developed according to the principles of sustainable development. If this is not assured as an integral component when planning bioeconomy strategy, the increased presence of biological inputs at all levels of the value chain could lead to a depletion of some natural resources and the corresponding degradation of ecosystems, to land-use conflicts, and to increased competition between food production and other economic activities. Thus, it is important to consider the impacts of local and regional policies at the global scale.
Read more on Sustainability
The speed and depth of climate change is putting at risk the wellbeing of millions of persons and extremely valuable infrastructures. In a deadly synergy with other environmental pressures, such as ecosystem fragmentation and habitat destruction, it is jeopardising the survival of thousands of unique animal and plant species.
To what extent can we tackle this challenge replacing fossil fuel derived energy sources and materials with bio-based products? What grey infrastructures can we replace with green, nature-based resources? How can we move in this direction within safe boundaries?