The Circular Bioeconomy Alliance (CBA) was established by His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales in 2020. The CBA is an action-oriented partnership that connects the dots between investors, companies, governmental and non-governmental organizations and local communities to advance the circular bioeconomy on the ground while restoring biodiversity globally.
The CBA’s activities include its global network of Living Labs for Nature, People and Planet which use landscape restoration projects as the starting point to catalyse the development of circular bioeconomy value chains while restoring biodiversity and local livelihoods.
The diversity of new members reflects the nature of the Alliance, which includes large and small intergovernmental organizations, companies, investors, research organizations and NGOs, who provide expertise and implement projects in areas related to the circular bioeconomy.
The Alliance is facilitated by a Secretariat hosted by the European Forest Institute. For more information please contact:
HRH The Prince of Wales launches restoration of forest landscapes in Romania by his Circular Bioeconomy Alliance
Europe’s largest cross border forest restoration project launched
New science-policy study on forest biodiversity published
Leading scientists, experts and practitioners met in Sibiu, Romania on 30 May to launch Europe’s largest cross border forest restoration project. The ThinkForest science-policy event celebrated a growing movement to restore forest biodiversity and advance the circular bioeconomy, for the benefit of people and the planet.
The event was opened by His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales, who the same day launched a landscape restoration project in the Carpathian mountains, funded by his Circular Bioeconomy Alliance and developed in collaboration with the Horizon 2020 project SUPERB.
The Romanian Minister of Environment, Waters and Forests Barna Tánczos joined HRH for the opening of the event.
His Royal Highness emphasised in his opening speech that we have to rethink our economy if we want to rewrite our future. We need a circular bioeconomy, investing in three mutually reinforcing areas: biodiversity, innovation and local and indigenous communities. The rest of the world can learn from the way Romania has relied on regenerative approaches to create rich landscapes in areas such as Transylvania, where man lives in harmony with nature.
The ThinkForest event also marked the launch of the 20m euro Horizon 2020 project, SUPERB, coordinated by the European Forest Institute. The project involves more than 100 forest science and practice organizations in 20 different countries and includes 12 large-scale forest restoration demonstration sites across Europe. One of the sites is located in the Romanian Carpathian mountains.
Marc Palahí, European Forest Institute Director and chair of the Circular Bioeconomy Alliance said: “Scientific collaboration is crucial to scale up successfully forest restoration in Europe in a context of rapid environmental changes and increasing demands on our forests. I am proud of EFI´s leadership in bringing together some of the leading scientists and practitioners in Europe to demonstrate why and how we can restore forest landscapes for different purposes and benefits.”
A new EFI science-policy study on Forest Biodiversity in Europe was also presented at the event. Written by a group of distinguished scientists from 10 European countries, the study provides policymakers as well as forest and landscape managers with a better understanding of the complex subject of biodiversity in the context of European forests.
ThinkForest is a European high-level discussion and information-sharing forum on the future of forests. ThinkForest is facilitated by the European Forest Institute, an independent, science-based international organization. More information: https://www.efi.int
The Circular Bioeconomy Alliance was established by His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales in 2020. It provides knowledge-informed support as well as a learning and networking platform to connect the dots between investors, companies, governmental and non-governmental organizations and local communities to advance the circular bioeconomy while restoring biodiversity globally.
Chair of the Circular Bioeconomy Alliance Marc Palahí reflects on the opportunities offered by the circular bioeconomy
The multidimensional and mutually accelerating crises that are converging today – climate, biodiversity and health – are the consequences of the same fundamental problem: our economic system. It is a system addicted to fossil resources and to growth at all costs, that has failed to value our most important capital and the basis for human health and wellbeing: Nature.
Now we have arrived at a tipping point characterized by the unparalleled alteration of our biosphere, upon which humanity depends. We need to rethink our economy if we want to rewrite our future on time.
We fundamentally need a new economy, where life – remember that bio- means life! – and not consumption becomes its true engine and purpose. A new economy that prospers in harmony with nature but at the same time is powered by nature. This is not a contradiction but a necessary condition to create a circular bioeconomy. Because above all a circular bioeconomy is about reconnecting humanity, nature and the environment as a basis for a sustainable future.
A circular bioeconomy is about restoring and sustainably managing our biological systems to produce in a synergistic way food, energy, ecosystem services and biobased solutions to decarbonize our economy while generating jobs and prosperity. Doing this also requires us to recognize and invest in biodiversity as its true engine. Biodiversity is a prerequisite for life to adapt and evolve in a changing environment – and a bioeconomy is an economy that ultimately relies on life and its diversity.
The circular bioeconomy is also an opportunity to holistically rethink our land, food and energy systems while simultaneously transforming key industrial sectors and their value chains to become circular and carbon neutral. The beauty of biological resources is that, if managed wisely and sustainably, they are renewable and circular by nature. This is why biobased solutions are key to decarbonize our economy and make it circular.
Forests are central in transitioning to a circular bioeconomy. Not only because they are our main biological infrastructure, our largest terrestrial carbon sink and main host for biodiversity, but also because they are the main source of non-food non-feed biological resources. With emerging science knowledge and new technologies these resources can be transformed into a new range of wood and non-wood based solutions that can replace and environmentally outperform fossil products in sectors like construction, textiles, chemicals, transport or packaging.
For instance we can now produce a new generation of sustainable low carbon textile fibres with a carbon footprint six times lower than polyester, without generating the problem of microplastics because they are biodegradable. We can also produce a new generation of wood engineering products to replace steel and concrete at scale – two materials whose production is responsible for more than 12% of the carbon emissions globally. Using wood in building construction not only reduces the carbon footprint of our cities compared to using concrete and steel but it can also transform cities into a carbon storage infrastructure. Every cubic metre of wood products we use in our buildings stores a ton of CO2.
Over the last few decades Europe has invested substantially in forest science, technology and innovation and industrial forest-based sector development. This explains why the European Union, which hosts 4% of the world forests, is responsible for more than 40% of the global forest products export value. In comparison, Brazil hosts 12% of the world forests but is only responsible for about 4% of the global export value. Africa as a continent harvests 54% more wood than the EU, but the export value of the products made is 17 times less than that of the EU: 6 billion dollars versus 100 billion dollars. This is because 90% of the wood harvested in Africa is used for low efficient energy. This demonstrates the great potential for transcontinental collaboration to increase the climate mitigation impact of the wood-based solutions we are generating, while also increasing the economic value and jobs attached to them. At the Circular Bioeconomy Alliance we are demonstrating on the ground how restoring landscapes, investing in biodiversity and innovation can create new value chains that economically and environmentally outperform fossil-based value chains.
Over the next two decades we need to put forward the greatest economic transformation in human history, due to the scale and speed of change required to achieve a climate-neutral, inclusive and nature positive economy. This is an unprecedented global challenge but it is also the greatest opportunity to rethink our economy and create a better world for future generations.
Forests and the forest-based circular bioeconomy are crucial to catalyse the radical change that the world needs. Unlocking their potential requires working together across disciplines and sectors to develop transformative insetting strategies rather than focusing on offsetting tactics.
Palahí, et al. 2020. Investing in Nature as the true engine of our economy: A 10-point Action Plan for a Circular Bioeconomy of Wellbeing. Knowledge to Action 02, European Forest Institute. https://doi.org/10.36333/k2a02
Hetemäki, L., Palahí, M. and Nasi, R. 2020. Seeing the wood in the forests. Knowledge to Action 1, European Forest Institute. https://doi.org/10.36333/k2a01
The event showcased the key contributions that the forest sector provides to the sustainable circular bioeconomy, bringing together perspectives from the public and private sector, academia and civil society, and from various geographical regions and contexts. Speakers included both policymakers, such as Minister Lee White, Minister of Water, Forests, the Sea, and Environment who spoke about the opportunities for the circular bioeconomy in Gabon, and CEOs from sustainable wood-based industry, who reflected on new innovative fields for wood products such as bamboo and cosmetics.
CBA Chair Marc Palahí set the scene, and explained that the circular bioeconomy is an opportunity to holistically rethink our land, food and energy systems to catalyse the change that industrial sectors need to become circular and carbon neutral. Over the next decades we need to put forward the greatest economic transformation in human history to move towards a climate-neutral, inclusive and nature-positive economy. “A forest-based circular bioeconomy is not just “another solution” it needs to be seen as a catalyst for changing and inspiring change in a number of sectors through insetting strategies rather than reactive offsetting tactics”, he said.
CBA Living Lab Coordinator Stéphane Hallaire explored further how to make the circular bioeconomy and restoration mainstream. He explained how the CBA Living Labs develop circular bioeconomy value chains while restoring biodiversity and local livelihoods.
Marc Palahí, Chair of the Circular Bioeconomy Alliance reflects on his recent trip to Ecuador
The Amazon basin is witnessing, like no other place on the planet, the collision of two worlds: a dying world, characterized by an extractive and fossil economy that is addicted to growth at all costs and which fails to value our most important capital, nature… and an ancient world, centered around nature and life, the indigenous world which not only portrays the past but also leads us to the future.
In March I had the opportunity to visit Ecuador´s Amazon region on behalf of the Circular Bioeconomy Alliance; a truly transformative experience. I had the pleasure to be accompanied by my CBA colleagues Stephane Hallaire (Reforest’Action) and Laure Gay (Lombard Odier) and guided by Atossa Soltani from the Amazon Sacred Headwaters Initiative and colleagues from indigenous organizations such as COICA and CONFENIAE. My first day in the region, though, was a very depressing one. I was brought by a group of local indigenous people to see the impacts of illegal gold mining along the river Napo, near the town of Tena.
Extractive gold mining operations have led to a lunar landscape, a level of destruction I had not seen before. The local communities living nearby still do not have access to clean water and were also suffering from many consequences derived from months of co-existence with illegal mining workers. The mining activities seemed to me to not only suck the life out of nature but also from the people.
I talked with an old lady who was very upset, and who wanted to tell me how indigenous ancient goldmining was sustainable and respectful as it followed the rhythms of nature. How was this possible, I asked, given gold is a non-renewable material? I could not see how sustainability and natural cycles could be brought into the equation. She explained that indigenous communities only collected gold when the rivers rise after the rains. This was the moment to collect gold with a minimum of human intervention with the help of natural cycles.
Unfortunately what I saw in Tena is not the exception but rather common, as the mining and oil industries are a main driver of deforestation in Ecuador and one of the main threats to indigenous communities.
Fortunately, the following day, I had the opportunity to see another world, a world full of life and respect for nature, a world of the past that should inspire the future too. After an hour on a very small plane we landed in the community of Sharamentsa on the river Pastaza. I spent several days living with the Achuar along the river Pastaza, and it was inspirational to see the sacred respect they have for nature, as well as for the things that truly matter.
Every day we woke up at 3 am to drink guayusa, a herbal tea prepared with the leaves of guayusa tree (Ilex guayusa), which has been drunk since ancient times in the Amazon due to its health benefits, including antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. During the guayusa ceremony we shared the dreams we had the previous night and discussed them collectively. The guayusa ceremony is also used by the Achuar and other indigenous communities to purify and energize their bodies.
Another fascinating part of the morning is when the Achuar paint their faces with natural inks that last for one day. They paint their faces according to their mood but also depending on their purpose for the day. The process requires meditating and reflecting before starting the activities of the day. These two morning rituals mean that Achuar people have already invested several hours communicating and reflecting on their dreams, feelings and purpose for the day. In my view, a great investment!
Walking the Amazon rainforest is very special, but doing so in the company of indigenous people is a holistic experience that allows you to witness the profound connection that humans can establish with nature, being part of it, living in harmony with it, shaping it and in turn being shaped by it. Such harmony requires an important ability that indigenous communities have and that in many respects we have lost in the modern world: the ability to transform knowledge into wisdom.
The indigenous knowledge and wisdom about the Amazon forest is the result of more than 12,000 years of sustainable co-existence. This makes the Amazon basin one of the world´s best examples in terms of agrobiodiversity, domestication of plants, and human symbiosis with natural ecosystems resulting in the distribution of particular plants positive for human health and wellbeing. During my stay in the Amazon, I could see that forests for indigenous communities are not only their pharmacies, groceries and workshop but they are also their healing, meditation and spiritual refuge. Almost every tree and plant seemed to have a specific use (knowledge) for them, which is the basis for their sacred respect to biodiversity and nature (wisdom).
I have conducted research on forests and the circular bioeconomy for twenty years, and have talked in many public events about it. I must admit that I have never seen so clearly before what I really mean when I say circular bioeconomy: an economy powered by nature that prospers in harmony with nature. While I am conscious that we cannot all live the way indigenous communities live in the Amazon, we can still rethink many of our values and economic guiding principles to reconcile knowledge and wisdom, the ancient and the future, nature and humanity. The climate, biodiversity and “values” crises we are facing are not different crises, just different consequences of the same problem: our profound disconnection with nature, and therefore with our own selves.
The Amazon is the largest tropical forest in the world. More than 10% of the known plant and animal species coexist there. Today, this ecosystem of over 7 million square kilometres is threatened by deforestation, fires, mining, oil and gas development, large dams for hydroelectric generation and illegal invasions. What I saw in the Amazon is a collision of two worlds – which is resulting in the destruction of the future. The “modern world” is in many ways destroying the Amazon, but what happens in the Amazon will put at risk the future of the world.
Boulton and colleagues argue that three-quarters of the Amazon rainforests have lost resilience since 2000, meaning the forest is losing its ability to recover after droughts and other disturbances. This loss of resilience has profound implications for biodiversity, carbon storage and climate change at a global scale.
Deforestation and climate change, via increasing dry-season length and drought frequency, may already have pushed the Amazon close to a critical threshold of rainforest dieback. Already in the 1970s, Brazilian scientists Salati and colleagues demonstrated that not only is vegetation the consequence of climate, but also that vegetation can influence the climate. They scientifically showed that the Amazon generates approximately half of its own rainfall by recycling moisture 5 to 6 times, as airmasses move from the Atlantic across the basin to the west. Moisture from the Amazon is also important for rainfall and human wellbeing because it contributes to winter rainfall for parts of the La Plata basin, especially southern Paraguay, southern Brazil, Uruguay and central-eastern Argentina; in other regions, the moisture passes over the area, but does not precipitate out.
This brings us to the key question that Lovejoy and Nobre asked themselves a few years ago: where might the tipping point be for deforestation-generated degradation of the hydrological cycle? The first model to examine this question back in 2007 showed that at about 40% deforestation, central, southern and eastern Amazonia would experience diminished rainfall and a lengthier dry season, predicting a shift to savanna vegetation to the east. However, Lovejoy and Nobre believed that a tipping point for the Amazon system to flip to non-forest ecosystems in eastern, southern and central Amazonia could be reached at 20-25% deforestation and therefore it is urgent not only curb further deforestation, but also restore forests to create a margin of safety, by reducing the deforested area to less than 20%.
In this context, one of the main purposes of my trip to Ecuador as Chair of the Circular Bioeconomy Alliance was to launch a transformative initiative – a Living Laboratory to be developed by the indigenous communities with the support of our new member, Fundación Pachamama and our Living Lab coordinating organization, Reforest´Action. It aims to accelerate landscape restoration in Ecuador and Peru, while creating new forest-based value chains around cocoa, vanilla, medicinal plants and even eco-tourism, financing regenerative landscapes while preserving ancient traditions. The CBA will also support a new school for young indigenous leaders, to build new capacities to scale up restoration work and bio-based business models.
G. Sampaio,C. A. Nobre, M. H. Costa, P. Satyamurty, B. S. Soares-Filho, M. Cardoso, Regional climate change over eastern Amazonia caused by pasture and soybean cropland expansion. Geophys. Res. Lett.34, L17709 (2007). https://doi.org/10.1029/2007GL030612
Nabuurs, GJ., Harris, N., Sheil, D., Palahí, M., Chirici, G., Boissière, M., Fay, C., Reiche, J., Valbuena, R. Glasgow forest declaration needs new modes of data ownership. Nat. Clim. Chang. (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41558-022-01343-3
 C. G. Jung would certainly have found a good explanation of the importance of the paintings in creating the persona – the social face or masks we use to relate to others or to conceal the true nature of the individual.
The SMI Fashion Taskforce, chaired by entrepreneur Federico Marchetti, has today announced its new Regenerative Fashion Manifesto which has been developed in partnership with the Circular Bioeconomy Alliance (CBA) led by scientist Marc Palahí.
In signing up to the Manifesto, Taskforce members are committing their brands, which are amongst the biggest names in the fashion industry, to a progressive shift towards Regenerative Fashion – a circular biobased industry that is inclusive, climate and nature-positive, using newly created or restored regenerative landscapes as the basis for circular bioeconomy value chains.
Regenerative landscapes are resilient, biodiversity-rich and deforestation-free. They produce a diversity of goods and services such as food, energy, and biomaterials, as well as ecosystem services including carbon sequestration. Such regenerative practices empower local and indigenous communities, support their prosperity and respect their ancestral rights.
The Himalayan Regenerative Fashion Living Lab The Himalayan Regenerative Fashion Living Lab is the first project developed according to the principles and ambitions of the new Manifesto. The project seeks to demonstrate the potential of regenerative fashion to restore harmony between local communities, nature and the environment while creating sustainable fashion value chains.
The Himalayan initiative is a €1m project that will restore degraded landscapes and recover traditional textile craft skills in order to enhance the local cashmere, cotton and silk economies while addressing global challenges related to climate change and biodiversity loss. Work on the project will begin next month with help on the ground from Reforest’Action and the Balipara Foundation.
Fashion Taskforce Chair, Federico Marchetti said of the project: “The Regenerative Fashion Manifesto is another concrete step towards creating a much more sustainable fashion industry. It is not simply empty words, the manifesto comes with a concrete €1m project for the degraded landscapes of the Himalayas attached. This project will serve as a blue-print for what can be done to shift the fashion industry towards a more equitable, nature positive future.”
Marc Palahí, Director of the European Forest Institute and Chair of the Circular Bioeconomy Alliance added “The partnership between the Fashion Task Force and the Circular Bioeconomy Alliance provides fashion brands with a unique platform for transformative and sustainable action – connecting the dots between landscapes and closets to transition towards regenerative value chains that support biodiversity and local livelihoods while mitigating climate change.”
The Global Forest Summit on 24 March, organised by Reforest’Action and the Open Diplomacy Institute, highlighted the work of the Circular Bioeconomy Alliance.
The GFS closing session reflected on how the development of a circular bioeconomy is an opportunityto rethink holistically our landcapes and cities as well as our food and industrial systems to create a nature-positive and climate-neutral world.
Marc Palahí, CBA Chair emphasised that “a circular bioeconomy is about investing in nature as the true engine of our economy, and is about managing sustainably our biological systems to produce in synergistic way food, energy, biobased solutions to decarbonize our economy, while creating new jobs.”
His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales emphasised in his closing speech that while the Glasgow Declaration offers us a helpful framework, achieving results requires transformative action on the ground. “This is why in 2020 I established the Circular Bioeconomy Alliance to create community led regenerative landscapes that work for nature, people and the planet. Working in harmony and in partnership with local and indigenous communities I am delighted to say that we are already piloting regeneration initiatives in 10 countries”, he said.
Local communities, AstraZeneca, NGPTA, local partners and the Circular Bioeconomy Alliance have established the first ‘Living Lab’ in Ghana. This community-led forest restoration project aims to plant and steward 4.5 million trees by the end of 2025 and establish circular business models for local communities.
The project, co-designed with local stakeholders, will restore 2,500 hectares of dry and savannah forest and demonstrate the benefits of biodiversity regeneration to the local economy, through the creation of local jobs and training programmes. The project also establishes 1,000 hectares of woodlots to grow sustainable timber and fuel wood and 1,500 hectares of agroforestry and regenerative agriculture.
The natural forested land in the Atebubu and Wiase districts in central Ghana has been subject to degradation and habitat change due to heavy encroachment and tree cutting for charcoal and timber. Local communities face challenging economic conditions and a deteriorating natural environment.
Integrating both traditional knowledge, technology and innovative farming methods, the projects in Atebubu and Wiase place the local communities at the heart of landscape restoration. The programme will combine natural forest restoration, agroforestry and woodlots, benefiting people, society and planet, through:
Enhanced biodiversity, improved soil and local air quality, protected watersheds
Improved livelihoods through employment in tree nurseries and the timber value chain
The creation of nature-based business models for smallholder farmers
Project planting began in August 2021, with an initial trial of 100,000 tree seedlings. Further planting will take place over the next four years, beginning in May this year.
Jason Snape, Head of Environmental Protection, AstraZeneca, says “At AstraZeneca, we are committed to helping to restore forests for the health of people, society and the planet. The Living Lab in Ghana is a unique public-private partnership working with local communities to build social and ecological resilience, while inspiring action towards a circular bioeconomy. As part of our AZ Forest programme, we are proud to support the restoration of biodiversity and local livelihoods.”
Marc Palahi, Circular Bioeconomy Alliance Chair, said: “With the support of AstraZeneca, we have co-designed and are implementing forest actions based on sound scientific evidence and inclusive dialogue, creating public-private-community partnerships to foster ecological and community resilience in central Ghana.”
We have over 15 Living Labs in our global network, spread across four continents. To celebrate the International Day of Forests, watch our new video to find out more about the ideas behind the Living Labs – and meet some of those working on the ground to connect the dots.
Our Living Labs demonstrate how investing in nature and empowering local and indigenous communities can catalyse the development of circular bioeconomy value chains while restoring biodiversity and local livelihoods. They are the start of a journey towards regenerative landscapes and resilient communities.
This multi-year project will restore and protect mangroves in North Sumatra, as well as provide economic opportunities to local communities.
Project launch: 2017 Location: Sumatra, Indonesia Objectives: Biodiversity conservation, fight against climate change, protection of coastlines and fight against rising sea levels, economic development for indigenous populations Key activities: 1,000,000 trees planted by 2021-2022 / Awareness raising of local communities / Involvement of women / Training and capacity building Main species planted: Bakau minyak (Rhizophora apiculata), Red mangrove (Rhizophora stylosa), Loop-root mangrove (Rhizophora mucronata) Partners: Local communities, Reforest’Action, Yagasu
In 1987, there were 200,000 hectares of mangroves in North Sumatra. Today, less than half remains with just 83,000 hectares. This massive deforestation is mainly due to human pressure: the mangrove is converted into areas for intensive shrimp and fish breeding, and illegally cut down to make firewood or charcoal.
The mangrove of Sumatra is essential for local communities: its disappearance generates a saline seep which makes the coastal lands uncultivatable. Coastline protection from erosion and rising sea levels is also removed.
Action on the ground This multi-year Living Lab in Indonesia aims to restore and protect mangroves, raising awareness and educating the public about the environment. The project combines five different species of mangrove planting along the coasts of North Sumatra. Approximately 200,000 trees were planted in 2019-2020; 300,000 in 2020-2021 and 500,000 are planned during 2021-2022. Key activities and benefits of the mangrove restoration include: maintenance of the banks, retention of sediments, maintenance of fishing activities through biodiversity and participatory planting, the involvement of women, and awareness raising of local communities.
Restoring the mangrove Thanks to its aerial roots, the mangrove is the only tree capable of growing in salt water. Mangrove trees are planted by the sea to fight against shoreline erosion and to protect the surrounding villages from rising water levels. The trees also help to preserve the coastline biodiversity, on which the populations depend, especially for food through fishing. The young plants are produced from propagules in tree nurseries associated with the project. Propagules are long tubers that fall from the mangroves and are then harvested by local communities within the remaining mangroves.
Protecting coastal areas Trees are planted along the coast, in several villages located in the north of Sumatra island. Near the villages of Kuala Langsa, Lubuk Kertang and Sicanang, the planting of mangrove trees in coastal areas will gradually restore degraded soils and protect the coasts from erosion and rising water levels.
Integrating and training local communities To include and educate as many people as possible, Yagasu offers training workshops for local communities about the protection of mangroves and the fight against deforestation. By encouraging the development of economic sectors directly coming from the mangrove, the Living Lab works to ensure the sustainability of the Sumatran mangrove, simultaneously increasing the economic development of local populations.
The project directly contributes to the achievement of 14 of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals, which provide a roadmap to a better and more sustainable future.
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