The latest ‘What Science Can Tell Us’ study from the European Forest Institute is titled: ‘Towards a sustainable European forest-based bioeconomy- assessment and the way forward‘. The study presents the scientific evidence from different disciplines and provides a synthesis of existing knowledge for policymakers on the importance of forests and the forest-based sector in contributing to the future European bioeconomy. It presents the economic, social and environmental sustainability aspects of a forest-based bioeconomy, and discusses issues that may affect the bioeconomy development in Europe.
48 scientists from 27 research institutes in 12 countries contributed to the report. We contributed with the second chapter and discussed the forest-bioeconomy from a political science perspective. Our chapter is structured in two parts: the first part presents national bioeconomy strategies and country highlights in relation to forests. The second part reviews and discusses some of the most recent social scientific research focusing on the forest-bioeconomy in Europe.
The main take home messages from our assessment are:
• Most bioeconomy strategies offer different understandings of what a bioeconomy
is. What goals should be prioritised and how these can be achieved is largely
dependent on the different prerequisites and complexity of the forest-based
sectors in each country. Hence, bioeconomy strategies of different geographical
regions and the European Union do not prioritise the same aspects concerning
the forest-based bioeconomy.
• Bioeconomy is acknowledged as a “boundary concept” in the forest sector. Forest
actors generally accept the bioeconomy concept, as it is open enough to accommodate
the varying needs and constraints of those employing it. Although
forest stakeholders consider themselves an important pillar of the bioeconomy,
few national strategies have actually consulted or involved forest actors in drafting
national strategies. Only forest-rich countries form an exception.
• Bioeconomy strategies as such primarily focus on economic goals. In contrast,
environmental and societal objectives could be better integrated in bioeconomy
• So far, the available literature in relation to bioeconomy strategies is dominated
by natural and engineering sciences. Studies with a social scientific perspective
are less visible. In particular, results concerning involved actors, actor networks,
rules and norms are missing.