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Biomass in a Low-Carbon Economy: Resource Scarcity, Climate Change, and Business in a Finite World (Policy brief)

This policy brief, based on a report produced through a partnership between the business leaders’ initiative 3C (Combat Climate Change) and the Stockholm Environment Institute, gauges the availability of biomass for low-carbon energy and other uses in the context of sustainability and competing demands.

Sivan Kartha, Eric Kemp-Benedict, Amanda Fencl / Published on 26 March 2012

Kemp-Benedict, E., S. Kartha and A. Fencl (2012). Biomass in a Low-Carbon Economy: Resource Scarcity, Climate Change, and Business in a Finite World (Policy brief). SEI Policy Brief, Stockholm, Sweden.

It starts by acknowledging that biomass production is constrained by land and water availability, by soils’ ability to produce biomass, and by the need to return some biomass to the land to retain nutrients and soil moisture, as well as by competing uses and by the need to reduce emissions from land conversion and agriculture.

The authors then explore four scenarios: a ‘Single Bottom Line’, driven primarily by market forces; ‘Meeting the Climate Challenge’, focused entirely on curbing emissions; ‘Feeding the Planet’, focused on increasing food production; and a ‘Sustainability Transition’ that uses biomass for food, energy, industrial materials, and more.

They find that while all of the scenarios require trade-offs, the latter could yield great benefits, helping address the urgent climate problem while spurring improvements in agriculture to boost food production and result in new agricultural products. The transition could also spur business innovation and economic growth.

The brief ends with a series of considerations for policy-makers and business leaders, including an agenda for further research.

Download the policy brief (PDF, 582kb)

Read the full report»

SEI authors

Profile picture of Sivan Kartha
Sivan Kartha

Equitable Transitions Program Director


Eric Kemp-Benedict
Eric Kemp-Benedict

SEI Affiliated Researcher


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