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European Commission publishes roadmap for future EU soil protection strategy, reaffirms the EU’s commitment to reaching land degradation neutrality

The European Commission published, on Thursday 5 November, the roadmap for the new EU strategy to combat soil degradation and preserve land resources.

Scheduled for the second quarter of 2021, this update of the current strategy is part of the EU’s broader biodiversity strategy for 2030. Healthy soils are essential to meet climate and biodiversity goals under the European Green Deal.

Part of the EU biodiversity strategy for 2030, this initiative will update the current strategy to address soil degradation and preserve land resources (‘land degradation neutrality’).

The goals are to:

  • protect soil fertility
  • reduce erosion and sealing
  • increase organic matter
  • identify contaminated sites
  • restore degraded soils
  • define what constitutes ‘good ecological status’ for soils.

The EU has clear international commitments related to soil:

  • Soil and land lie at the core of most of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)2 of the UN Agenda 2030, but particularly SDG 15.3 to "combat desertification, restore degraded land and soil, including land affected by desertification, drought and floods, and strive to achieve a land degradation-neutral world by 2030".
  • In line with the priorities for EU global action and Green Deal diplomacy, there is a call for action related to soil and land at international level under the Convention for Biological Diversity (CBD), the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), the Global Soil Partnership (GSP) and more broadly for EU external action and development cooperation.

There have been as well recent calls from other EU institutions for action on soil:

  • The European Court of Auditors recommended to the Commission to aim at a better understanding of land degradation and desertification in the EU, to assess the need to enhance the EU legal framework for soil, and to step up actions towards delivering EU and international commitments, and particularly land degradation neutrality by 2030.
  • The Council in its Council conclusions on the Biodiversity strategy for 2030 supports the Commission in stepping up efforts to better protect soils and soil biodiversity and reaffirms the EU’s commitment to reaching land degradation neutrality; it also stresses the need to promptly address desertification and land degradation in the EU and reiterates the will to make progress towards the objective of “zero net land take” by 2050.
  • The European Parliament5 called on the EU and the Member States to make strong commitments towards sustainable food systems, agriculture and forestry, including requirements and strategies for the protection of soils.

The new Soil Strategy will provide the overarching framework and the concrete pathway towards achieving the following objectives:

  • Step up efforts to protect soil fertility and reduce soil erosion
  • Increase soil organic matter and restore carbon-rich ecosystems
  • Protect and enhance soil biodiversity  Reduce the rate of land take, urban sprawl and sealing to achieve no net land take by 2050
  • Progress in identifying and remediating contaminated sites and address diffuse contamination
  • Address the growing threat of desertification

Achieve land degradation neutrality by 2030 By:

  • Promoting the adoption of sustainable soil management practices
  • Setting out actions to restore degraded soils and secure sufficient EU funding to this end
  • Improving the monitoring of soil quality
  • Adapting and improving the relevant EU policy framework in line with the European Green Deal objectives on climate neutrality, zero pollution, sustainable food systems and resilient ecosystems
  • Developing knowledge and research
  • Accelerating the transition towards sustainable soil management and the necessary behavioural change

Steering EU global action on soil under the Rio Conventions, EU external action and development cooperation.
The strategy will consolidate, complement and steer action in the different policy areas that affect and depend on soil (such as pollution prevention, agriculture, research) and guide the implementation of sustainable soil and land management practices.

Feedback period 05 November 2020 - 10 December 2020  (midnight Brussels time)

The Commission would like to hear your views.

This roadmap is open for feedback for 5 weeks. Feedback will be taken into account for further development and fine tuning of the initiative. The Commission will summarise the input received in a synopsis report explaining how the input will be taken on board and, if applicable, why certain suggestions can't be taken up. Feedback received will be published on the EC site and therefore must adhere to the feedback rules. Source EC Europe

 Download the  roadmap for New Soil Strategy - healthy soil for a healthy life

Related reading from UNCCD Library:

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