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Land availability for biomass, energy and other non-food services in the EU: Event summary

Authors: Kaley Hart, Clunie Keenleyside, Daniela Russi, David Baldock, Gauthier Schefer

IEEP, Wageningen University & Research and Navigant held a workshop on 18 November to explore where crops for non-food purposes could be grown in Europe in the future. Current policy seeks to steer these crops to abandoned or degraded land, but the workshop looked at how much is available, where it is and how suitable this land might be in practice.

The study sought to identify the scale of land that is currently not used for agricultural production in the EU (excluding forest areas) and has the potential to be used for biomass cropping where this can be done sustainably. Taking into account the drivers of land moving out of agricultural production, it reflects on the role of policy in supporting, maintaining or bringing back land into agricultural production and the extent to which policy is required to incentivise its use for non-food purposes. The study has drawn on the latest statistical and scientific data available, a review of the available literature, six case studies in EU farming areas facing issues of land-abandonment, plus three thematic case studies of other land (airport land, closed landfill sites and the combination photovoltaics and agricultural production on the same land).

The ambition to move towards a more circular and bio-based economy in the EU is leading to increased demand for biomass to replace non-renewable feedstocks with renewable resources for the production of bio-based materials, chemicals and energy. The ambitions in the Green Deal for a circular bioeconomy must be carefully reconciled with other policy goals such as the transition towards more sustainable agricultural management, land use, biodiversity conservation and climate mitigation, while also ensuring that there is a sufficient supply of healthy and nutritious food, jobs and income. Using sustainably produced biomass grown on agricultural land for energy or other non-food purposes is therefore of great interest in the transition to a more circular bioeconomy. However, to avoid putting additional pressure on agricultural land and competing with food production, it is preferable to grow these crops on land that is under-used or has become abandoned and/or degraded, provided that this can be done sustainably.

The recording of the workshop can be found here.

You will find attached the main report presentation and the case study presentations from Bulgaria, Croatia and Italy.

The European Commission is planning to publish the report soon. Once it is available a link will be provided on this page.

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