Mitigating climate change


The call from the IPCC’s latest report is clear: there is a rapidly closing window of opportunity to secure a liveable and sustainable future for all9.
We must defossilise the economy.

Using renewable materials is advantageous for several reasons: they have a low carbon footprint; they are regenerative by nature; they capture and sequester CO210.

The bioeconomy, by producing fossil-free renewable materials and fuels, can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) and remove CO2 from the atmosphere. Switching to using biological resources and processing methods in a sustainable way could save up to 2.5 billion tonnes of CO2-equivalent per year in the EU by 203011.

Between 1990 and 2020, the area of forest in the EU increased by around 14.4 million hectares and covers around 40% of its territory. Over the same period, wood stock in forest increased by around 8.2 billion m312.

Sustainably managed forests in the EU – 60% of which are privately owned – play a key role in achieving the EU climate neutrality target by acting as carbon sinks while preventing fossil emissions through the substitution effect, which is achieved by reducing the demand for products and energy that are based on fossil fuels. The overall positive climate effect of the forests and wood-based sector is estimated at 806 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent annually. This corresponds to savings amounting to approximately 20% of all fossil-fuel emissions in the European Union13.

A number of BBI JU-funded projects contribute to climate change mitigation14. Considering only the BBI JU Flagships, the total CO2 savings are expected to surpass 800 kt CO2 per year15.

Significant emission reductions can also be found in other sectors:
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Cover crops can contribute in addition to biomass production, to mitigate climate change by absorbing carbon dioxide through photosynthesis and storing \ carbon in the soil. Sequestering atmospheric carbon (CO2) in the soil helps to offset greenhouse gas emissions16.
Biogas production from animal manure is an important energy source that helps in climate change mitigation. Up to 240% GHG savings compared to fossil fuels are reached when biogas is produced from animal slurry, the biogas plant has closed digestate storage and the energy (power + heat) needed to operate the biogas plant originates from its own combined heat and power unit17.

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If 80% of new residential buildings in Europe used certified wood in the structures, cladding, surfaces and furnishings, the houses would store 55 million tonnes of CO2 a year, equivalent to 47% annual emissions of Europe’s cement industry18.

Bio-based coating materials
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Life-cycle analyses show that, compared to conventional plastics, bio-based plastics generate significant CO2 savings up to carbon neutrality depending on the feedstock, the product, and the application.
Substituting the annual European demand for fossil-based polyethylene (PE) with bio-based PE would save around 73 million tonnes of CO219.

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In 2021, renewable ethanol reduced GHG emissions by 77% compared to fossil fuels20 .Biodiesel can achieve significant reductions in the range of 50% to 90% compared to conventional diesel.
The significant GHG-saving performance of ethanol is also accompanied by significant capture of CO2 (1.05 million tonnes).


  • 9.Working Group II contribution to the Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
  • 10.European forests have the capacity to absorb the equivalent of nearly 10% of all European GHG emissions each year. European Commission, Climate neutral food and wood: Showcasing best climate practice in agriculture, forestry, food systems and the bioeconomy, 2020.
  • 11.European Commission website, Bioeconomy, Bio-based products and processes.
  • 12.In M. Köhl, S. Linser, Part I, Status and trends in European forests characterized by the Updated pan-European indicators for sustainable forest management. In FOREST EUROPE, 2020: State of Europe’s Forests 2020.
  • 13.P. Holmgren, Climate effects of the forest-based sector in the European Union, 2020.
  • 14.BIC, Towards a climate-neutral Europe by 2050, the contribution of the bio-based industries, 2021.
  • 15.CBE-JU, Strategic Research and innovation Agenda, 2022.
  • 16.European Commission, Joint Research Centre, Adoption of cover crops for climate change mitigation in the EU, 2019.
  • 17.European Commission, Joint Research Centre, Solid and gaseous bioenergy pathways: input values and GHG emissions, 2017.
  • 18.Aalto University, Building European cities with wood would sequester half of cement industry’s current carbon emissions, 2020.
  • 19.Based on the European demand for conventional polyethylene in 2020 (Plastics Europe) as well as on -3.09 CO2-eq/kg bio-based PE (Braskem, I’m GreenTM) ( European Bioplastics, Environmental benefits of bioplastics).
  • 20.This marks the tenth consecutive year in which EU renewable ethanol increased its GHG-reduction score. The 2021 findings were compiled from ePURE members and certified by auditing firm Copartner (E-Pure, press release).