Biomass demand will increase, while supply, which depends on the productivity of the land sector, is under significant constraints, notably linked to global environmental change. In this context, this Policy Brief draws on recently published 2050 scenarios to (a) identify biomass supply-demand balances that meet the biophysical challenges of 2050 (climate, food, biodiversity) and (b) highlight the socio-economic and political issues raised by these scenarios.

Key Messages

  • To contribute to climate neutrality and to adapt to climate change impacts, action for biodiversity restoration must be prioritized to guarantee productive capacity and resilience. Such action should include a “recomplexification” of forestry systems (irregular forests) and agricultural systems (longer rotations, agroecological infrastructure) and a reduction in the use of synthetic inputs.
  • These developments, combined with the projected impacts of global changes on ecosystem productivity, lead to the adoption of a scarcity management approach, rather than one of increasing supply derived from an increase in average yields.
  • The increasing use of biomass for non-food purposes– from the current level of 50 million tonnes of dry matter (MtMS)/year up to 100-120 MtMS in 2050, depending on the scenario–requires the prioritizing of sufficiency in the scenarios analysed:
    • reducing the average consumption of animal products by about 30%, to reduce the proportion of biomass used for livestock;
    • reducing final energy consumption to limit demand for biomass energy and to allocate it to high value-added uses.
  • The development of intermediate cover crops would allow a net increase in available biomass of 15 to 20 MtMS/year. The potential need for water, as well as the cost of establishing these cover crops, requires an evaluation of the agroecological and economic conditions for their development.
  • Storage objectives (65 to 75 MtCO2 eql/year) are put at risk by losses in the biological productivity of forests. Achieving these targets requires major changes in agricultural land, including the expansion of agroforestry, intermediate cover crops and hedges, and a tripling of the area under legumes.
  • A reorganization of biomass flows as envisaged in the scenarios analysed would have significant social and economic, and even cultural, implications that cannot be ignored; dealing simultaneously with socio-economic and biophysical issues thus implies structuring the discussion on transition pathways to ensure that no issues– whether environmental, social, or economic–and no stakeholders are excluded, to make certain that policy decisions are as all-embracing as possible.
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