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UPM is a global leader of the bio-based forest industry with a history dating back over 100 years. UPM Biochemicals offers and develops innovative and sustainable wood-based chemicals for a variety of uses.
Christian Hübsch has been heading the UPM Biochemicals Lignin Team since 2015, with global responsibility for all lignin-related activities. He will be appearing on the third session “Bioproducts around us” at the World Bioeconomy Forum (WCBEF) virtual event to be broadcast live from Ruka, Finland on 10th September 2020. He spoke to the WCBEF about the future of bioproducts and the needed support for further development in the sector.
How well are your particular industries doing when it comes to creating new bioproducts, and what could be done to help or enhance your progress further? (for example, government policy, or private investment)
The forest industry, including UPM, seems to be well underway regarding the creation of new bioproducts. Based on the industry’s core competence in sourcing and processing sustainably produced biomass, various companies have established their own programs towards biofuels, biochemicals, and biomaterials. Given the size of the leading players, bioproduct-related initiatives are typically scalable, which will help in the long run in making significant contributions to the bioeconomy.
Covid-19 has shown that fast and far-reaching regulatory measures are possible. The EU should be at the forefront of a global initiative on climate actions. External costs on climate and the environment need to be internalised, a CO2-tax being one possible instrument. Politics needs to steer transformation towards circularity and sufficiency, by incentivising / mandating the concept of ‘reduce, reuse, recycle, and replace’. Renewable carbon is the key to achieving the EU-target of climate-neutrality by 2050.
Do you see the circular bioeconomy as having an important role in the post Covid-19 world?
The Covid-19 crisis has shown the vulnerability of today’s global supply chains. The bioeconomy concept is targeting shorter and often regional supply chains, which are more resilient towards potential disruptions. Additional benefits are short transportation distances, reduced lead-time, reduction in inventory, and overall significant reduction of the carbon footprint.
Secondly, Covid-19 has sensitised consumers regarding the importance of healthy and sustainable products. It will be crucial to intensify stakeholder communication and to allow end-consumers to easily differentiate between sustainable and non-sustainable products.
Lastly, the pandemic has shown that fast and extensive regulatory measures are possible, if required. In order to achieve the 2050 EU climate-neutrality target it will be of utmost importance to quickly establish a legislative framework that will allow the phasing out of fossil carbon from today’s value chains.
As the bioeconomy can provide solutions to many challenges, it has the potential to emerge from the crisis even stronger than before.
The World Bioeconomy Forum has a diverse range of high-level speakers and panelists, what are you hoping to achieve by taking part in the event, and what are your hopes for the future of the circular bioeconomy?
This year’s World Bioeconomy Forum has a remarkable line-up of contributors, from politics, industry, and academia. I am more than confident that there will be plenty of opportunities for getting new insights and inspiration. With more and more renewable solutions becoming available to the market, and new technologies maturing, my hope is that all stakeholders, but especially politics take bold steps in further developing the circular bioeconomy. We should not forget that ultimately consumers will be the key driver. Keeping consumers informed about the benefits of the circular bioeconomy will be critical.
The “Bioproducts around us” session of the event will also include a presentation from Michael Carus, Founder and Managing Director of nova-Institue, and a Biobased value chains panel discussion moderated by research leader Ludo Diels, Flemish Institute for Technological Research. The panel will include speakers from top companies in the bioeconomy like Niklas von Weymarn, CEO, Metsä Spring, Alois Kindler, Principal Scientist, BASF, Alex Michine, Founder and CEO, Metgen, Eddie Peace, Leader, Bioproduct Development, West Fraser, Bruno Gorrini, Principal Researcher in Bioforest, Arauco.
Five Minutes With… is a series of interviews being run by the WCBEF to highlight some of the high-level speakers and panellists taking part in the event this year. To view the whole full day programme and register for the event please visit http://www.wcbef.com/