More than 60% of European soils are unhealthy, and the situation is deteriorating. Poor management, pollution, and climate change are major causes, leading to significant costs in terms of lost services and biodiversity. Degraded soils limit vital services like food production, carbon storage, and water regulation, impacting farmers and food quality. This strains healthy soils and hinders disaster response, climate goals, biodiversity, food security, and public health. Urgent action is needed. Unlike air and water, soils lack equivalent legal protection in the EU. The European Parliament, stakeholders, and citizens urge the Commission to create a legal framework for soil protection. The EU Soil Strategy for 2030 commits to proposing legislation in 2023, aiming to ensure all soil ecosystems are healthy by 2050, aligning with the EU's Zero Pollution goal.
The proposed law establishes a common soil health definition, sets up an all-encompassing monitoring system, and outlines regulations for sustainable soil management and cleaning contaminated sites.
Commission-backed Member States will monitor and assess soil health, enabling actions by authorities and landowners. Data will fuel technological and organizational solutions for soil management, especially in farming (like crop diversity, precision farming, digitized tools, and more). Around 2.8 million potentially polluted sites exist in the EU. The proposal urges Member States to identify, transparently map, investigate, and mitigate risks at these sites, aiming for a pollutant-free environment by 2050. Remediation follows the 'polluter pays' principle, holding responsible parties accountable for contamination costs.
Expanding sustainable soil management in the EU will boost carbon sequestration and water retention, aiding climate change mitigation, adaptation, and the goal of a resilient, carbon-neutral Europe by 2050. Healthy soils holding up to 25% of their mass in water prevent disasters and recharge groundwater.
The proposal outlines principles but not specific practices, leaving adaptation to national contexts, including local conditions, land uses, and existing knowledge, for effective implementation. Also, the proposal minimizes the administrative burden by not mandating new soil plans. Member States integrate soil health assessment into existing policies (climate, agriculture, etc.) to meet targets. The law aligns with current policies, using new data to aid EU objectives effectively.
Source: European Commission