Digital Forum

Nature at the heart of a global circular bioeconomy


Forests, trees and landscapes have long played a role in economic development, with the rise and fall of societies coinciding with the health of farms, fields and forests and the availability of their biological resources as renewable sources of energy, building materials, food and other ecosystem services. Now, sustainable landscapes are more important than ever in protecting the world from accelerating climate change and helping to mitigate the runaway consumption of non-renewable resources.

The circular bioeconomy – an economy powered by nature and its sustainable resources – offers a unique opportunity to use renewable natural capital to holistically transform and manage our land, food, health and industrial systems as well as our cities. If managed sustainably for people and the planet, it has the potential to decarbonize our economy and restore biodiversity while providing jobs and achieving inclusive growth.

On March 19, the European Forest Institute (EFI), the recently-merged Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and World Agroforestry (ICRAF) and the Finnish Innovation Fund Sitra, in collaboration with the Global Landscapes Forum (GLF) and the Sustainable Markets Initiative Circular Bioeconomy Alliance (SMI CBA), hosted the world’s first conference examining the forest-based bioeconomy with a focus on the Global South.

This half-day digital forum brought together investors, scientists, forestry, agroforestry and landscape experts, practitioners, community and business leaders and policy makers to explore what it will take to shift to a circular bioeconomic model that supports people and the planet, putting nature at the heart of how we operate.

Outcome statement

Our economic system is rife with perverse incentives, which must be suppressed. The removal of subsidies for fossils fuels, bioenergy and agriculture would be an immense boon for forests and the environment, if well thought through and rather invested into a circular bioeconomy.

Robert Nasi, Director General, Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), Managing Director, CIFOR-ICRAF

Forests, landscapes and agroforestry can catalyze this vital transformation as they are our main terrestrial natural capital supporting wealth creation in rural and urban areas.

Marc Palahí, EFI





Jutta Urpilainen

European Commissioner for International Partnerships

Setting the scene: the circular bioeconomy in context

Robert Nasi, Director General CIFOR, and Marc Palahí, Director EFI, will introduce and provide context on the role of trees and forests in the circular bioeconomy and welcome panelists and participants to the day’s discussions and dialogue.


Marc Palahí

Director of the European Forest Institute (EFI)

Robert Nasi

Director General, Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR)
Managing Director, CIFOR-ICRAF

Master of Ceremony

Opening plenary: Why do we need a circular bioeconomy?

The ecological sustainability crisis has three dimensions: climate change, nature loss and pollution, and it is threatening the foundation of our economy and our well-being. We need a systemic change to shift our economic system to build, rather that destroy, natural capital and this means we need a systemic change towards the circular bioeconomy. The transition must be fair and inclusive so that no person or no country is left behind. Therefore, we need to focus on local jobs, local sustainability and local prosperity and how these ‘locals’ connect and support each other in the wider regional and global systems.

The panel will discuss what are the key elements of the systemic change – the transition towards the circular bioeconomy. We will discuss how we could use the circular bioeconomy as an effective tool for build more sustainable, more prosperous, and more inclusive societies with plenty of opportunities for new jobs and industries.


H.E. Sharon Ikeazor

Minister of State for Environment Nigeria

Janez Potočnik

Co-Chair of the International Resource Panel and Partner, SYSTEMIQ

Christopher Martius

Director gerente de CIFOR Alemania
Investigador principal de CIFOR-ICRAF

Akanksha Khatri

Head of Nature Action Agenda, World Economic Forum’s Platform, Global Public Goods


Mari Pantsar

Director, Sustainability solutions, The Finnish Innovation Fund Sitra


Session 1: Will there be enough wood?

Demand for roundwood to supply energy and materials is expected to increase significantly in the coming decades as fossil-based raw materials are replaced with forest biomass and wood products.  The reality, however, is that there are currently no systematic studies offering up-to-date outlooks on the implications of forest bioeconomy development for global forests. In this session we aim to bridge that gap in understanding and offer insights into demand and supply for forest biomass as part of the shift to a circular bioeconomy, including reflections on how sustainable wood supply should be reconcile with biodiversity protection and providing inclusive prosperity for local communities.


Dr. Mujawamariya Jeanne d’Arc

Minister of Environment, Republic of Rwanda

Michael Allen Brady

Team Leader, Value Chains, Finance, & Investments

Lauri Hetemäki

Assistant Director of the European Forest Institute (EFI)

Pina Gervassi

Climate Change Director, FSC International


Jo O’Hara

Consultant and coach for climate positive future


Session 2: From theory to practice: the circular bioeconomy in action

Panelists will explore the most recent research and innovation to highlight successful forest-based solutions for the circular bioeconomy transition. What are the climate benefits of using wood- and other biobased solutions compared to fossil and non-renewable products. How we can we ensure that latest innovations and technologies are transferred to the global south?


Niklas von Weymarn

CEO, Metsä Spring and Board member, Woodio

Rocio A. Diaz-Chavez

Deputy Director for Research and Energy and Climate Change Programme Leader, SEI Africa

Vicente Guallart

Architect, Guallart Architects

Izabella Mônica Vieira Teixeira

Co-Chair, The International Resource Panel – IRP/UNEP-ONU


Mary Njenga

Research Scientist, Bioenergy, World Agroforestry (ICRAF)


Final Plenary: Financing the circular bioeconomy

Scaling up successful circular bioeconomic models requires investment and leadership from industry and investors in addition to the right policy and science. With plenty of small-scale examples being tested and proven, how can we unleash the power of private finance and what will it take to make these examples more common?


Lee White

Minister of Water, Forest, the Sea and Environment, Gabon

Jennifer Pryce

President and CEO, Calvert Impact Capital

Christopher Kaminker

Head of Sustainable Investment Research & Strategy, Lombard Odier


Justin Adams

Co-Director, Nature Based Solutions, World Economic Forum
Executive Director, Tropical Forest Alliance

Closing remarks

Reflections on the day’s dialogue and consideration of next steps.

Master of Ceremony

Sonya Dyah Kusumadewi

Researcher, CIFOR-ICRAF

Organized by

The European Forest Institute (EFI) is an international organisation created by European states that conducts research and provides policy support for forest-based issues, connecting knowledge to action.

The Finnish Innovation Fund Sitra is a future fund that collaborates with partners from different sectors to research, trial and implement bold new ideas that shape the future. Join us in creating a fair transition to a circular economy and scaling up solutions that are needed to safeguard biodiversity and solve the climate crisis.

The CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) is the world’s largest research for development program to enhance the role of forests, trees and agroforestry in sustainable development and food security and to address climate change. CIFOR leads FTA in partnership with ICRAF, the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT, CATIE, CIRAD, INBAR and TBI.

The Global Landscapes Forum (GLF) is the world’s largest knowledge-based platform on sustainable land use. Through their outreach activities, GLF is bringing people together to address some of the most complex issues facing earth today.

The Sustainable Markets Initiative (SMI) aims to lead and accelerate the world’s transition to a sustainable future by putting Nature, People and Planet at the heart of our global value creation. His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales launched the SMI at the World Economic Forum 2020 Annual Meeting in Davos and has convened global leaders from across public, private and philanthropic sectors, challenging them to identify ways to accelerate and bring economic value int harmony with social and environmental sustainability. Launched earlier this year, the Terra Carta will serve as the guiding mandate for the Sustainable Markets Initiative.

The Center for International Forestry Research and World Agroforestry (CIFOR-ICRAF) is the world’s leading organisation focused on forestry and agroforestry. Together, these joint CGIAR research centers provide the evidence and innovative solutions needed to scale up investment in sustainable development and address the global challenges of our time.