WWF report: Industrial biotech can save the world up to 2.5 billion tons of CO2 per year

The WWF report Industrial biotechnology – more than green fuel in a dirty economy?, which has been published today, concludes that industrial biotechnology can provide dramatic reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

WWF, the world’s biggest environmental NGO, has calculated that industrial biotechnology could generate between 1 and 2.5 billion tons of greenhouse gas reductions per year by 2030, as well as build a new green economy that cleverly works with nature to meet human needs.

“WWF sees industrial biotech as an industry that can play a very significant role in the development of a new, green economy if developed in the right way. The world can’t afford to ignore this opportunity,” says John Kornerup Bang, Head of Globalization Programme for WWF.

Industrial biotechnology is currently used to produce hundreds of everyday products, including detergents, textiles, bread, wine, beer, and bioethanol. For example, the use of modern enzymatic detergents has reduced washing temperatures from 60 to 30 degrees Celsius, saving millions of tons of CO2. However, the potential of industrial biotechnology is much greater and includes a transformation of our economy. The future could hold a bio-based economy in which biorefineries outcompete petrochemicals by transforming waste products and other biomass into fermentable sugars to make energy as well as products that are currently made from oil. This could include everything from diapers to plastics.

Need for strong public policies
The report emphasizes that strong public policies must be in place to help realize the potential of industrial biotech and points out initiatives such as pollution costs charged to petrol-based materials, investment in advanced waste management technologies, and labeling systems for bio-based products. Novozymes agrees with WWF that strong public policies must be developed to challenge today’s conventions.

“In a few years sugar will be the new oil. Already today close to 200 biorefineries are operating in the US and yet we have only seen the beginning. Industrial biotechnology today is a sector with a number of pioneers who are demonstrating that this is technically feasible. However, to make the biobased economy into reality, they will require political backing. Novozymes is dedicated to helping ensure a radical shift in the way our societies work, and to reduce our dependency on oil,” says Steen Riisgaard, CEO of Novozymes.

Dramatic CO2 savings in four closely linked focus areas
In the report WWF outlines four key areas in which industrial biotechnology can provide radical emission cuts:

Potential CO2 savings per year in 2030

Four high-potential focus areas

204 million tons

Improve efficiency in industrial processes:
Boost industrial biotech to provide significant reductions in the use of energy and raw materials across industries.

1,024 million tons

Provide substitutes for fossil fuels:
Provide quick cuts in CO2 emissions by replacing fossil fuels with biofuels in the transportation sector.

668 million tons

Substitute materials:
Help build a new infrastructure that replaces fossil materials with biomass in the creation of products from plastics to diapers.

633 million tons

Help recycle our waste:
Provide the basis for a society in which waste material is reused as feedstock for the production of energy and materials.

Total: 2,529 million tons


Notes to editors:

  • The 24-page policy paper Industrial biotechnology – more than green fuel in a dirty economy? , which contains the key findings as well as policy recommendations, can be downloaded at this address: www.divshare.com/download/8537942-24e 
  • The detailed technical report GHG Emission Reductions With Industrial Biotechnology: Assessing the Opportunities, which provides the analysis and background for the conclusions, can also be found here: www.divshare.com/download/8537939-3e0