Bringezu, S., Distelkamp, M., Lutz, C., Wimmer, F., Schaldach, R., Hennenberg, K. J., Böttcher, H. & Egenolf, V. (2021): Environmental and socioeconomic footprints of the German bioeconomy. Nature Sustainability 4, 775–783, DOI: 10.1038/s41893-021-00725-3.

Abstract

Hoping to support sustainability, countries have established policies to foster the bioeconomy (BE), based on the use of biomass and knowledge on biological principles. However, appropriate monitoring is still lacking. We estimate global key environmental footprints (FPs) of the German BE in a historic analysis from 2000–2015 and in projection until 2030. Overall, the agricultural biomass FP is dominated by animal-based food consumption, which is slightly decreasing. The forestry biomass FP of consumption could potentially shift from net import to total supply from domestic territory. Agricultural land use for consumption is triple that of domestic agricultural land (which covers half of Germany) and induced substantial land use change in other regions from 2000–2015. The FP of irrigation water withdrawals has decreased over 2000–2015 and might continue to decline in absolute terms by 2030, but the share of supply regions with water stress might increase. The climate FP of BE contributes 18–20% to the total climate FP of domestic consumption, while employment makes up 10% and value added only 8% of the total German economy. These findings imply that sufficient monitoring of the BE needs to consider both production and consumption perspectives, as well as global FPs of national economies.

Keywords

Agriculture, Business, Environmental economics, Political economy of energy, Sustainability