Journal Article

Bioeconomy and SDGs: Does the Bioeconomy Support the Achievement of the SDGs?

AGU Earth's Future, 7 (1): 43 - 57

This paper evaluates how bioeconomy activities, stated in the concepts of the European Union, Organisation for Economic Co‐operation and Development, and the German government, potentially affect the targets of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The aim of the bioeconomy is to substitute the use of fossil resources by renewable resources, while the SDGs set targets for a holistic sustainable global development. A literature‐based influence analysis on empirical studies is employed to derive three bioeconomy scenarios (business as usual, bioeconomy, and sustainable bioeconomy) and to quantify their effects on the individual SDG targets. It is shown that the bioeconomy scenario has positive as well as negative effects on the SDG targets. While targets for cleaner industrial production are strongly supported, socioeconomic targets are subject to mixed effects and environmental targets significantly hurt. This paper outlines which SDGs need special attention when implementing a bioeconomy according to the above‐mentioned concepts. The results add to the debate on SDG trade‐offs and on the substitutability of SDG targets. Without regulations, policies, and investments ensuring sustainability, or in case the substitutability of SDG targets is not allowed, the bioeconomy concepts have the potential to jeopardize the achievement of several SDGs. In contrast, the sustainable bioeconomy scenario assumes strong sustainability measures that reveal the extensive potential of the bioeconomy to support the achievement of the SDGs.