Government strategy envisions bio-based economy reaching £440bn in value, but industry sceptical it can get there without further policy support
Ministers want to see the value of the UK’s ‘bioeconomy’ double to £440bn by 2030, after last week unveiling its long-term “vision” to boost growth in the sector.
The long-awaited Bioeconomy Strategy promises to “create the right national and international market conditions” for bio-based solutions such as compostable plastics and biofuels to thrive in the UK.
“Growing our bioeconomy will ensure that the UK becomes an inviting and vibrant place to invest and do business, supporting innovation and stimulating economic growth,” Minister for Business and Industry Richard Harrington said in a statement. “We will become a global leader in developing, manufacturing, using and exporting bio-based solutions, strengthening the UK economy and moving us towards a low carbon future. This is an opportunity we cannot afford to miss.”
But while industry experts welcomed the fresh focus on the potential of bio-based solutions, some warned the strategy must be underpinned with more tangible policy actions if it is to drive the scale of change the target implies.
“The vision described in the new Bioeconomy Strategy is positive and welcome, however, it clearly lacks the definitive policies required to see it delivered,” Mark Sommerfeld, policy manager at the Renewable Energy Association, told BusinessGreen.
“It is hard to see how we can decarbonise practically, and cost effectively, without bioenergy, yet action is needed now. Firm proposals to support biomass power through reforms the CfD [Contract for Difference] scheme; support biomass heat beyond the end of the RHI [Renewable Heat Incentive] and increase the amount of renewable transport fuel in the petrol mix by introducing E10, would all help put this high-level Strategy actually into action.”
Others expressed frustration that a document so long in the making – the first consultation was launched back in 2016 – appears to contain little in the way of tangible new policies or funding.
“CIWM welcomes both the government’s ambition to double the impact of the bioeconomy to £440bn by 2030 and the collaborative approach that has been adopted, which reflects the need for a cross-disciplinary approach to the realising the bioeconomy,” Pat Jennings, head of policy and communications at the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management (CIWM), told BusinessGreen. But she added that the strategy is “very much a work in progress” and “light on deliverables and milestones”.
Earlier this week the government did commit £60m towards a new innovation challenge, designed to accelerate the development of greener plastic packaging. It has also promised, in the Bioeconomy Strategy itself, to establish a “delivery plan” that will set out detailed actions and tasks needed to grow the bioeconomy, but did not set out any timeframe for when the new plan would be delivered.