Biotechnology could cut C02 sharply, help build green economy

Posted on September, 17 2009

Industrial biotechnology has the potential to save the planet up to 2.5 billion tons of CO2 emissions per year and support building a sustainable future, a WWF report found.
Industrial biotechnology has the potential to save the planet up to 2.5 billion tons of CO2 emissions per year and support building a sustainable future, a WWF report found.

As the world is debating how to cut dangerous emissions and come together in an international agreement treaty which will help protect the planet from potentially devastating effects of climate change, innovative ideas how to reduce our CO2 are very valuable.

A recent report published by WWF Denmark identifies the potential to be between 1 billion and 2.5 billion tons CO2 per year by 2030, more than Germany’s total reported emissions in 1990.

Industrial biotechnology could help create a true 21st century green economy, the report states.

Industrial biotechnology applications are already widely used in everyday life. They help reduce the amount of time needed to bake fresh bread, increase the yield in wine, cheese and vegetable oil production and save heat in laundry washing.

“Low carbon biotech solutions are a good example of hidden or invisible climate solutions that are all around us already today but are easy to overlook for policymakers, investors and companies.” says John Kornerup Bang, Head of Globalization Program at WWF Denmark and coauthor of the report.

A newer example on how biotechnology solutions could help reduce carbon emissions is the harvesting of biogas from waste digesters and wastewater streams.

The report emphasizes the potential of taking that existing technology even one step further and creating fully closed loop systems.

Biorefineries are able to transform any biobased waste material into a valuable feedstock for the production of other biobased materials. The possible emission reductions for such processes are estimated to be as high as 633 million tons of CO2.

The report indentifies four fundamental dimensions of industrial biotechnology: Improved efficiency, the substitution of fossil fuels, the substitution of oil-based materials and the creation of a closed loop system with the potential to eliminate waste.

But as with most technologies, the potential to achieve sustainability objectives does not automatically translate into such goals be­ing realized.

“Politicians need to set the path toward a green economy. This will not be easy, and we must look for new solutions, which can help us reduce emissions very quickly. It is clear that there is no alternative to explore these inno­vative pathways,” John Kornerup Bang said.

For further information
John Kornerup Bang, Head of Globalization Programme, WWF Denmark, , +45 2680 5330
Natalia Reiter WWF International,, +41 22 364 9550

Notes to editors:

• The 24-page policy paper (click on the link to download), which contains the key findings, as well as policy recommendations as can be downloaded.
• The detailed technical report (click on the link to download) - ‘GHG Emission Reductions With Industrial Biotechnology: Assessing the Opportunities’ - which provides the analysis and background for the conclusions.
• This report is part of The Bio Solutions Initiative – Eliminating the first billion tonnes of CO2 that will map the first strategic billion tonnes of CO2 reductions from low carbon biotechnology. The initiative will also engage in dialogue with central policy makers and create low carbon business partnerships to ensure that low carbon biotech solutions become an integrated part of all major climate projects and initiatives. The Denmark based industrial biotechnology company Novozymes has supported this work and provided some of the peer reviewed LCAs. However, the study is broader than Novozymes applications and includes application from all actors in the sector. For more information on Novozymes’ perspective on the sector, please contact, Annegrethe Jakobsen +45 44 46 30 50 +45 30 77 30 50.

The approved motion will complement regional and national efforts to protect the Amazon against climate change.
© Brent Stirton/ Getty Images / WWF-UK