After years of silence and waiting, something is moving in relation to the soil at the European level.
Let’s have a look at the reasons for thinking this:
- In its new research and innovation programme Horizon Europe (2021-2027), the European Commission has identified a specific “mission”: Soil health and food, and the Board to supervise it has alread been nominated. https://angelidelsuolo.wordpress.com/2019/09/16/members-of-the-mission-boards-of-horizon-europe/
- The IPCC’s Report of 7 August 2019, deplored the degraded condition of most soils around the world, declaring that the soil is under pressure from human activity and climate change. https://angelidelsuolo.wordpress.com/2019/10/16/the-ipcc-report-on-climate-change-and-land/
- In September 2019 the European Environment Agency published Land and Soil in Europe, a snapshot of the perilous situation for EU soils. It also uses images to explain complex concepts like the sustainable management of land and soil, the relationship with climate change and the role of the soil in capturing and storing carbon and nitrogen. It ends by reminding us of the importance of the soil in the 17 SDGs set out by the UN for 2030. https://www.eea.europa.eu/publications/eea-signals-2019-land
This is why the conference on “Soil and the SDGs: challenges and need for action” held on 25 November was so important. Organized by the Environment DG of the European Commission, it attempted to define the pillars around which to build a political proposal on the soil in the coming months. The reference document (a report that is still provisional but available) – posted to encourage debate – on the one hand emphasizes the importance of the soil for every single SDG, while on the other pointing out that the Land Degradation Neutrality indicators, (i.e. Target 3 of SDG n. 15 ‘Life on Land’) provide a good departure point for measuring progress in relation to the SDGs. Other actions are undoubtedly needed to harmonize member states in order to make them fully operational. This however would require an additional document that continues to “track” the theme of the soil according to angles and perspectives that lead ultimately to the same recommendations.
The positive aspect emerges from the Conference itself. This is not the usual tune played by the usual players representing the European institutions, the UN and the NGOs. This is a new departure by the Environment DG of the European Commission which with this conference can return to a visible political engagement with the soil. Without waiting for the deadlines of 2050 or even 2030 it can immediately attempt to: i) introduce the subject of the soil into the Green European Deal; ii) put a proposal for a soil directive onto the EU table; iii) engage with the other actors that use and manage the soil who did not attend the 25 November conference.