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Sustainable and circular bioeconomy in the biodiversity agenda

Opportunities to conserve and restore biodiversity in agrifood systems through bioeconomy practices









Gomez San Juan, M., Harnett, S. and Albinelli, I. 2022. Sustainable and circular bioeconomy in the biodiversity agenda: Opportunities to conserve and restore biodiversity in agrifood systems through bioeconomy practices. Rome, FAO.



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    The bioeconomy offers opportunities to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions along the agrifood system by replacing fossil-based resources and processes with biological ones, from microbiome innovations, biofertilizers and biopesticides, to alternative proteins, bio-based plastics and textiles, and biological waste management, to name just a few. A sustainable and circular bioeconomy also presents opportunities to improve climate change adaptation and resilience, through promoting ecosystem restoration, supporting indigenous and local livelihoods based on biological products and services, and building the conditions for more sustainably managed forests and fisheries. Several countries have identified circular bioeconomy as a strategy to achieve their nationally determined contributions (NDCs), some have included bioeconomy practices in their climate agenda, and others explicitly include bioeconomy strategies and policies as key elements in their pathway towards Paris Agreement targets. FAO works with countries to improve policy coherence in order to achieve national sustainability objectives. Climate action is specifically referenced as a key criterion in the aspirational principles and criteria for a sustainable bioeconomy, produced by the FAO-led International Sustainable Bioeconomy Working Group (ISBWG).
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    Bioeconomy is the production, utilization and conservation of biological resources, including related knowledge, science, technology, and innovation, to provide information, products, processes and services across all economic sectors aiming toward a sustainable economy’. Its cross-cutting nature offers a unique opportunity to comprehensively address interconnected societal challenges such as food and nutrition security, fossil-resource dependence, natural resource scarcity and climate change, while achieving sustainable economic development. However, developing bioeconomy as such is not sustainable per se. The development of an economy that is based on biomass resources faces several trade-offs. It is crucial that bioeconomy development does not hamper but rather strengthens food security as a basic human need and right, while also helping to achieve several other Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Taking this into account, in January 2015, on the occasion of the Global Forum for Food and Agriculture summit in Berlin, 62 Ministers of Agriculture recommended that FAO coordinates international work on sustainable bioeconomy. To that end, the German Ministry for Food and Agriculture has provided support to FAO to develop Sustainable Bioeconomy Guidelines. The project aims to develop sustainable bioeconomy guidelines to assist countries as well as producers and users of biomass and bioproducts in developing and implementing sustainable bioeconomy strategies, policies and programmes.
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    FAO Members endorsed Bioeconomy for Sustainable Food and Agriculture as one of 20 programme priority areas (PPAs) in FAO’s Strategic Framework for 2022–2031. The bioeconomy PPA is led by the FAO Office of Climate Change, Biodiversity and Environment, and co-led by the FAO Agrifood Economics Division. FAO’s approach to bioeconomy has a special focus on Sustainable Development Goal 12 (responsible consumption and production), in particular on achieving more sustainable natural resource management, less pollution and less waste. It also aims to promote bioeconomy innovations to support food security, rural livelihoods, Indigenous rights, gender and youth empowerment, climate action, and biodiversity and ecosystem restoration.

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