“Previously unimaginable scenarios are becoming more and more probable”

“Previously unimaginable scenarios are becoming more and more probable”

What are the social impacts of a biobased economy? And what might a biobased society look like? These were two main questions at the Bioeconomy Day event jointly organised by NordForsk and Nordregio at the Nordic Pavilion at the UN Climate Change Summit COP23 in Bonn, Germany.

On Wednesday 8 November, as part of the discussions regarding the bioeconomy, Professor Jan Vermaat, co-leader of the Nordic Centre of Excellence, BIOWATER, presented a few scenarios about what the future may look like. He warns the audience about the new fights for resources that may arise in years to come, pointing out his concerns about the future.

“The Nordic countries are forerunners when it comes to decoupling growth and emissions, but will we be able to create fossil-free growth for all in the future” Vermaat asks. “We need new institutional frameworks at the local, regional and national level to transform a fossil fuel-based economy into a bioeconomy.”

In their activities at NCoE BIOWATER, Vermaat and his team bring together scientists and stakeholders from different sectors of society, such as the farming and forestry industries, to collaborate on drawing up scenarios for bioeconomic development. The NCoE is the first Nordic science centre and platform that provides solutions for land, environmental and water resources management.

“Together, we are producing plausible future projections. We design scenarios and need all the smart input we can get from different sectors. Everyone has an interest in this, from farmers to industry owners, and these scenarios will have a profound influence on policy in the Nordic societies,” says Professor Vermaat.

While he does not wish to sound too negative, the professor cannot ignore the facts.

“The Nordic societies are changing, the global societies are changing, and in 2030 we will feel even more that the climate has changed since 1990. The curve is very steep. It will be very difficult to turn our Nordic societies into truly circular, zero carbon-dioxide economies in ten, fifteen years from now,” he says.

“My ideal scenario is very close to the circular economy, and it could very well be possible,” Vermaat says, but continues:

“Previously unimaginable scenarios are becoming more and more probable. If political instability in the world further increases, if large wars break out, if the ice cap collapses, and if some of these superior storms really hit again and again in Florida, New Orleans, and the Philippines, Taiwan and China, then it’s time for a new world.”


Knowledge sharing is key when it comes to influencing policy. Research and negotiations on how to promote sustainable resource management will continue. NordForsk will continue to disseminate some of the wide-ranging research findings from its Arctic Programme on Friday 10 November at the UN Climate Change Summit COP23.

Follow us on twitter from COP23: #NordicSolutions #COP23

Text and Photo: Mia Smeds