The aim of the bioeconomy is to unlock the full potential of all types of sustainably sourced biomass, including residual biomasses, such as crop residues, industrial side-streams and food waste, as well as organic municipal waste, by transforming it into value-added products. A side-event at COP27 focused on the role of bio-based industries in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, for example, by diverting biomass from landfills, while fostering economic competitiveness, creating jobs, safeguarding the environment and protecting biodiversity.
Stephan Sicars, Director of the Circular Economy and Environmental Protection Division at the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), kicked off the event by presenting an overview of the economic, social and environmental benefits of a just transition to a bio-economy, with focus on Egypt’s bio-based economy strategy, devised by Egypt’s Ministry of Environment with support from UNIDO and funding from Switzerland.
Sicars said, “We see the circular bio-based economy as a powerful tool for protecting the environment and meeting our climate change targets, for restoring degraded soils, strengthening local manufacturing, substituting imports and promoting exports, attracting new investments and creating local jobs, including in rural areas.”
A panel of experts then discussed initiatives taken by governments and the private sector to facilitate a just transition to a bio-economy.
Ali Abo Sena, CEO of the Environmental Affairs Agency at Egypt’s Ministry of Environment, introduced the country’s bio-based economy strategy and explained how it contributes to Egypt’s climate resilience and sustainable development objectives.
Michal Harari, Deputy Head of Cooperation at the Embassy of Switzerland in Egypt, elaborated on examples of bioeconomy tools and initiatives supported by Switzerland in Egypt and other countries.
Ehab Usama, Chitosan Egypt, and Ahmed Rady, Egymag Biotechnology Company, presented their innovative business models and technologies for valorizing agricultural and food waste to produce feed, organic and bio-fertilizers and bio-pesticides, while at the same time providing new income-generating possibilities for waste collectors.
Maya Jacob John, from South Africa’s Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, elaborated not only on the benefits of using agricultural residues but also on the importance of the design stage. “Bringing in biodegradable material does not solve plastic leaking to the environment,” she said. “Rather it is important to develop a circular system, including the improvement of the collection system.”
Ahmed Gaber from Chemonics Egypt stressed the fact that ideally biomass should be turned into products that have the highest value added, and that, from a climate change perspective, act as the longest-lasting carbon sinks. He then elaborated on the value added products that can be produced from biomass, from energy and heat at the lower end, to pharmaceuticals at the higher end.
Jukka Kantola from the World Bio-Economy Forum concluded the panel discussion by shedding light on the international dimension of the circular bio-economy and the latest developments at the global level.