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Green and growth are not contradictions

Higher Education Minister Morten Østergaards speech at the opening of the conference "Bioeconomy in action" 26 march 2012 in Copenhagen.

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Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen. It is a pleasure to welcome you to Copenhagen. And it is a pleasure to welcome you to this conference on bioeconomy.

The Danish EU Presidency has four key objectives. Two of them are also central for this conference. The first is to promote a green agenda for Europe. And the second is to contribute to renewed European growth. They are connected. Green and growth are not contradictions. On the contrary.

The Danish Presidency is promoting a proactive agenda for green and sustainable growth. The aim is create growth without increasing resource and energy consumption. And it can be done.

 
In recent years, the EU has developed an ambitious energy and climate policy which has positioned the EU as a global leader. And we must work to retain our advantage through new initiatives.

Global challenges and opportunities

This meeting is an excellent opportunity to facilitate European collaboration on new solutions to our economic and environmental challenges.

Creating economic growth and jobs is a common challenge for all European countries. There is also a common goal to reduce fossil fuel dependence and improve economic and environmental sustainability.

The title of this conference really says it all: Bioeconomy in Action. That is exactly what we need.

Globally, we are facing an increasingly greater challenge of supplying enough food, water and energy. The world's population is expected to increase from 7 billion in 2012 to more than 9 billion in 2050. Food demand is expected to increase by 70 per cent.  And it's estimated that the annual food waste in the EU is 180 kilos per person.

This development makes it clear that new and innovative thinking is required. We cannot turn back time. We must look new opportunities based on research and innovation.

For example, crops in the fields should not just be raw material that can be used for feed or as food.  There are new possibilities to make use of materials, which today is considered as waste.

In the near future new biological products can replace products from the petrochemical industry. This could be plastic, raw materials for cosmetics or the replacement of costly metals. Likewise, waste or by-products not used for food or new materials can be used for energy production.

It should not be a question of how biological production can be used for either food and feed or energy, but how it can be used for both and not least how we can produce more.

Pig City

Allow me to present a concrete, Danish and down to earth example. The project's name is Pig City. It combines pig production and tomato production in a self-sufficient energy system that reuses all waste products. It is really quite simple.

On the farm, the pigsty is located on the ground floor. And the tomato garden is on the first floor. The pigsty heats up the garden above it with help from the surplus heat from the animals. The tomatoes grow with help from the heat and absorb the CO2 produced by the pigs. The slurry from the pigs is transformed to fertiliser and biogas that provides electricity for the tomato garden.

And you end up with pig and tomato production under the same roof, but without any waste or pollution. It's an ingenious and interesting idea for farming of the future.

The bioeconomy strategy and Horizon 2020

The Danish Government welcomes the strategy entitled "Innovating for Sustainable Growth: A Bio-economy for Europe".

This strategy highlights the urgent need for action. But also points to Europe's opportunities to create growth and jobs through better management of the renewable biological resources.

The strategy illustrates the importance of focusing on challenges in order to find the best solutions.  But challenges also represent opportunity. And Europe has opportunities for developing new and smarter technologies which can also take care of the environment.

Action is needed. And intelligent action requires research and innovation. Research and innovation are prerequisites for developing new solutions and new technology.

If we want a bioeconomy, science must be given high priority.

The need to increase public funding for bioeconomy research and innovation has been recognised under Horizon 2020, which will potentially be the world's smartest and most collaborative research programme.

Horizon 2020 is the European Commission's proposal for a new research and innovation framework programme. It is based on a challenge-driven approach and is designed to bridge the gap between research and market. And the bioeconomy strategy is naturally aligned with Horizon 2020 because research and development are necessities for realising the strategy's potentials.

For instance, the Commission has proposed that almost 4.7 billion euro should be spend on the Challenge "Food security, sustainable agriculture, marine and maritime research, and the bioeconomy".

And there will be further support under elements of the Challenges:

  • "Climate action, resource efficiency and raw materials"
  • "Secure, clean and efficient energy".

It is estimated that direct research funding associated with the Bioeconomy Strategy under Horizon 2020 could generate about 130 thousand jobs and 45 billion euro in added value in bioeconomy sectors by 2025.

Further growth is expected from other – direct and
indirect – public and private investments in all parts of the bioeconomy.

Consequently, Horizon 2020 is a programme that will be a crucial instrument in ensuring Europe's future. And the Danish Presidency will do its utmost to progress the negotiations on Horizon 2020 and has set the ambitious goal to reach a partial general approach on the overall structure at the Competitiveness Council at the end of May.

Cooperation is needed

We need wide-ranging cooperation on all levels to achieve a bioeconomy.

We have to pool together new knowledge and experience and encourage more public-private partnerships. Close cooperation with the private sector is an important prerequisite to ensure that knowledge from universities and other institutions is disseminated properly.

Transnational cooperation is vital. Not least on a European level. Member States have a responsibility for cooperation not just internally between government bodies and stakeholders but also cooperate across national borders with other Member States.

Therefore, I very much welcome the initiative of the Danish Minister of Food, Agriculture and Fishery's to initiate a discussion about bioeconomy with her EU colleagues at one of their coming Council meetings. Within the framework of the Common Agriculture Policy and Common Fisheries Policy there are interesting possibilities for contributing to the bioeconomy strategy.;

I have also noticed that the Commission intends to set up a European bioeconomy panel in order to facilitate the implementation of the action plan.

The Danish Government welcomes the proposal and will be glad to participate. We are interested in sharing experiences with other Member States and hopefully we can learn a lot. And we have an open mind with regard to collaboration.

Great potential for bioeconomy

The list of speakers and participants at the conference represents several governments, politicians, industries and NGOs. This underlines the importance of the bioeconomy.

Great potential lies in establishing a bioeconomy in Europe. And some Member States have already developed strategies for bio-based economies.

I hope that you will share your success and failures with us for the common good. Because it is vital that we:

  • develop new knowledge that promote green and sustainable growth
  • develop new products and markets,
  • and create new growth and employment.

I hope you will have a rewarding conference. Thank you.

last modified Jan 13, 2022