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Societal Evaluation of Bioeconomy Scenarios for Germany

Transitioning to a bio-based economy is widely perceived as a necessary way to tackle climate change and other key environmental challenges. Given the major socio-economic consequences that such a transition entails for people’s everyday lives, it is crucial to take account of citizens’ perceptions and levels of acceptance of these changes. This study applies a holistic approach to gain an understanding of how citizens in Germany assess possible developments associated with transitioning to a bioeconomy. We developed three future scenarios modelling the impacts on people’s day-to-day lives of adopting different elements of a bioeconomy and of replacing fossil resources with biogenic resources to a lesser or greater extent by 2050. German citizens were asked to evaluate the different scenarios through a quantitative online survey. Although the respondents largely preferred the scenario of “Bioeconomy Change” entailing the most substantial changes in resource use, many also expressed concerns about the possible negative socio-economic effects of this scenario, including fears of increased product prices, declining living standards, and greater social injustice. The results show that younger people and women are more in favour of changes towards a bioeconomy than men and older people. Since the acceptance of bio-technical innovations increases with greater knowledge about such innovations and their usefulness, the transformation process must make use of sound communication strategies that involve all societal groups by engaging them in constructive dialogue.