Joint statement on the publication of the Commission’s proposal for a Soil Law

As a first reaction on the publication of the Soil Monitoring Law ECN together with 37 other organisations has signed a joint statement organised by the European Environmental Bureau (EEB).

The organisations welcome the European Commission’s proposal for a Directive on Soil Monitoring and Resilience (Soil Monitoring Law). Unfortunately, the proposal falls short of expectations. The change of name of the directive, which was originally to be called ‘Soil Health Law’ is symbolic of its lack of ambition and its shift away from soil health towards mere soil monitoring. With this statement, we would like to express our support for this initiative but also stress how it can be improved in order to achieve the objective of healthy soils by 2050.

The lack of dedicated EU soil legislation has led to very partial protection of soils and highly fragmented governance. A strong Soil Law has the potential to change this. Healthy soil ecosystems connect many of our most important challenges, including tackling the climate, biodiversity and pollution crises, ensuring food security and conserving global water, nutrient and carbon cycles. These challenges are transboundary and a coherent European approach is long overdue.

Overall the Commissions’ proposal includes binding monitoring soil descriptors, including ‘loss of organic carbon’, ‘soil erosion’, ‘subsoil compaction’ and ‘salinization’ with criteria which are a first step for observing the soil health status but it lacks of binding criteria for several aspects like contamination and water holding capacity, and no criteria a set for soil biodiversity or topsoil compaction.  However, the legislative proposal does not include any targets and it is up to the member states, how the so-called ‘soil descriptors’ are monitored and evaluated.

For reaching soil health by 2050 the Commission has laid down sustainable soil management principles’ which have to be respected by Member Stats in the implementation in the different programmes, like the strategic plans under the Common Agricultural Policy.

The Commission’s proposal on a Soil Monitoring Law is a first step forward, but it needs further improvement and overall a supportive implementation on member states level.

Please find the Joint statement on the publication of the Commission’s proposal for a Soil Law here.