Mon. Feb 6th, 2023

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Parliament calls on the Commission to design an EU-wide common legal framework for the protection of soil, with full respect of the subsidiarity principle.

With 73 votes in favour, 7 against and no abstentions, members of the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI) Committee adopted Friday a resolution in which they call on the Commission to design an EU-wide common legal framework for the protection and sustainable use of soil, addressing different soil threats and promoting restoration measures.

Contrary to water and air, currently there is no coherent and integrated EU legal framework for protecting Europe’s soil, MEPs say, with measures on soil protection fragmented among many policy instruments that lack coordination and which are often non-binding. Moreover, special attention to soil should be paid in the implementation of EU-related policies and, in particular, those related to agriculture, forestry, water and waste management, industrial emissions and international trade agreements.

Soil protection as integral part of reaching green goals

MEPs stress that healthy soils are essential to achieving the objectives of the European Green Deal, such as climate neutrality, biodiversity restoration, zero pollution ambition for a toxic-free environment, healthy and sustainable food systems and a resilient environment.

Additionally, the resolution highlights that soil is a multifunctional and living ecosystem of crucial importance, which hosts 25% of the world’s biodiversity, provides key ecosystem services such as food, raw materials, carbon capture and storage, water purification, nutrient regulation and pest control. It also serves as a platform for human activity and helps prevent floods and droughts.

Prevention of soil sealing, reduction of synthetic fertilizers

MEPs urge the Commission to include measures on prevention and/or minimisation of soil sealing, with the aim to reach the “no land degradation” objective by 2030 and “no net land take” by 2050 at the latest. The resolution also calls on the Commission and member states to contribute effectively towards the reduction of overuse of synthetic fertilizers, especially nitrogen.

Scaling up soil-specific research, innovation and funding

MEPs welcome the launch of the Horizon Europe mission for “Soil Health and Food”, while insisting that the multifunctional role of soil should be adequately addressed in research and that existing funding programmes should be adjusted in order to reflect this approach.

Next steps

The resolution is expected to be adopted during the April plenary session, alongside a debate on two oral questions to the Council and the Commission, tabled by the ENVI committee.

Background

The resolution represents Parliament’s political message ahead of the adoption by the Commission of the Zero Pollution Action Plan on water, air and soil and of the new EU Strategy on Soil. The Commission currently holds a public consultation on the new EU Strategy on Soil as a part of the EU biodiversity strategy for 2030.

previous proposal to introduce a legal framework for soil protection in the EU was unsuccessful and was withdrawn in May 2014 by the Commission following years of blockage in the Council.

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