Weltkugel im Gras

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The Federal Government is creating the basis for sustainable use of biomass from the forestry, agriculture and waste management industries. To this end, the Economic Affairs and Climate Ministry, the Agriculture Ministry and the Environment Ministry are presenting core principles today with a view to ensuring sustainable production and use of biomass which is firmly oriented to the climate, environmental and biodiversity targets. The parameters are the sustainably available biomass potential, the preservation of natural ecosystems, and the food first principle. The strategy is to be drawn up on this basis in a dialogue with representatives from government, business, academia and society; it is to be adopted next year. The Federal Government is completing another element of its mandate in the coalition agreement. It aims to identify medium-term and long-term prospects for the use of biomass. It does not focus on the short-term role for bioenergy in the context of energy security.

The Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Climate Action, Robert Habeck, said: “Biomass – that is to say things like wood, energy crops and organic waste – is a domestic resource and is in great demand. Even if it is of natural origin and a regenerative raw material: using it is not necessarily good for the climate or the environment. Also, there is a limited amount of available biomass. This means that we need rules enabling us to use it sustainably. We are setting out the principles for this in the Biomass Strategy: it aims to ensure that the amount of biomass used is sustainable, and that it is deployed in a more targeted way for climate change mitigation and the transition of our economy to greenhouse gas neutrality. In this way, we are putting reliable conditions for investment in place for the long term, including in rural areas – and always in harmony with the preservation of our natural environment. Also, the strategy will serve as an example in the EU to show how best to combine the attainment of climate and environmental targets.”

Federal Minister of Food and Agriculture Cem Özdemir commented: “In these times of the far-reaching repercussions for global food security from Russia’s illegal attack on Ukraine and the increasing competition to obtain scarce raw materials, it is more important than ever to display foresight and responsibility in the way we use our natural resources. The production of grain and oil seed in the field, animal husbandry and the use of grassland, the timber from the forest: all of these are fundamental to how we produce and use biomass, and are a key pillar for our agriculture and forestry and for our rural areas. With a view to further efforts which we need to take to secure the supply of food and energy, to mitigate climate change and to protect biodiversity, the National Biomass Strategy is an important instrument enabling us to use sustainably produced biomass in a targeted manner that helps the system, and to safeguard its potential. In order to counter these challenges, we need to carefully weigh up the future uses of the sustainable biomass potential, only a limited amount of which is available, and to back this up with clear policy principles and specific policy instruments.”

Federal Minister for the Environment Steffi Lemke added: “The climate and biodiversity crises are two sides of the same coin, and can only be resolved together. We must not play off the crises against each other. The National Biomass Strategy therefore aims to find out how much sustainably collected and produced biomass is available, and to make use of this within the limits set by the environment. If biomass is to make a measurable and sustainable contribution towards climate action and the protection of biodiversity, it is necessary to weigh up precisely what this finite resource is to be used for. We need an efficient cascade use: valuable materials must be used sustainably, in the case of timber for example in order to make construction materials or furniture. At the same time, the protection of ecosystems which naturally store CO2 results in a measurable contribution towards climate change mitigation and the preservation of biodiversity, meaning that it may make sense to leave the timber in the forest.”

Biomass from agriculture and forestry is already used in many areas in Germany – not least, in order to help Germany meet its climate targets. This includes, for example, liquid manure for the production of biogas and thus energy, and timber for the construction sector. Going forward, demand for biomass is set to grow. At the same time, the globally sustainable potential volume of biomass is limited. This makes it even more important to set out strategic principles for the sustainable production and use of biomass in order to provide more incentives and rules for the sustainable use of biomass. The key principle is the rigorous cascading and multiple use of biomass – i.e. always to give priority to its use as a material which permits carbon to be bound for as long as possible, and only to consider energy-related uses at the end of the cascade. Here, the most efficient decarbonisation options should always be used.

The strategy is also intended to counteract the increased pressures of use – e.g. on nature conservation sites – and the competition for land which is used, for example, to produce food. The National Biomass Strategy therefore also forms part of the agro-ecological transformation that we need. The strategy also aims to strengthen the climate action function of natural ecosystems like forests and peatlands, as anchored in the revised Federal Climate Change Act.

You can find the link to the core principles here.