21.04.2017 |

People4Soil calls on Juncker to put soil protection back on EU agenda

Soils need better protection (Photo: CC0)

More than 500 organisations have called on the President of the European Commission to develop a legally binding framework for the protection of soils. Ahead of Earth Day on April 22, People4Soil, a coalition of European NGOs, research institutes, environmental groups and farmers associations, sent an open letter to Jean-Claude Juncker, asking him to put EU legislation for soil preservation back on the agenda. The organisations are worried about the increasing degradation of soils both in the EU and at global level and warn that erosion, sealing, loss of organic matter, compaction, salinisation, landslides and contamination have negative impacts on human health, food security, natural ecosystems, biodiversity and the climate, not to mention the economy. In their letter, they quote scientific research and reports which document the poor state of European soils. According to a UN report released in 2015, the major threats to soils in Europe are soil contamination, soil organic matter decline, soil sealing and land take due to urbanisation processes. The number of sites where potentially polluting activities have taken place in Europe now stands at approximately three million, the report warns, and only around 17,000 sites have already been treated. If current trends continue and no changes in legislation are made, the numbers reported above are expected to increase by 50% by 2025. According to People4Soil, every year 1000 square kilometers of land are sealed by concrete and asphalt surfaces in Europe, the equivalent of approximately 500 football pitches every day. “In this definitely worrying picture, the lack of a dedicated legally binding framework, fixing principles and rules to be complied with by the Member States is unacceptable,” the open letter reads.

In May 2014, the European Commission withdrew proposals for a Soil Framework Directive after an eight-year-long opposition of several EU member states, despite the evident lack of EU policies and national regulations to guarantee an adequate protection for soils. People4Soils says that even where the Member States have their own legislation, as in the case of soil contamination, there is a spread between standards, procedures, reference values used for the assessment of the contamination status, and the remediation obligations. They point to a recent assessment conducted on behalf of the European Commission which criticised the lack of a coherent, strategic policy framework across all EU policy clusters as well as missing common definitions on soil status, resulting in the impossibility of establishing targets and priorities for the conservation of soil and its functions. At international level, the importance of soil protection has been reflected in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), adopted by the 193 UN Member States in 2015. SDG 15 has the target of combatting desertification, restoring degraded land and soil, including land affected by desertification, drought and floods, and striving to achieve a land degradation-neutral world. People4Soils now calls on Juncker to fill the gap at EU level and to locate the road map for a Soil Framework Directive within the priorities of the European Commission. The initiative has also launched a petition via the European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) that can be signed online. (ab)

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Donors of globalagriculture Bread for all biovision Bread for the World Misereor Heidehof Stiftung Hilfswerk der Evangelischen Kirchen Schweiz Rapunzel
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