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Sustainable soil management within the European Green Deal

The last few months have seen the accumulation, under the Green New Deal umbrella, of a series of documents directly connected with the soil. Experts in the field have read and analysed various documents on subjects such as farming, climate, biodiversity, forests, research, etc., in the search for parameters, data, indications and objectives that can be regarded as being held in common.  It’s an arduous task, which is why we are pleased to welcome an article written by 2 researchers from the Joint Research Centre (JRC), Luca Montanarella and Panos Panagos, which analyses, compares and describes the implications for the soil of three EU documents: Farm to Fork, Biodiversity, Climate. Our cover summarises their analysis, this is what they have to say:

This opinion paper addresses the importance of soils within the Green Deal and identifies the significance of soils in Biodiversity Strategy, Farm to Fork and Climate Law. In all three policies, soil health will benefit from ambitious objectives to be reached by 2030: 50 % reduction of pesticides, 50 % decrease of nutrients excess, 20 % fertiliser reduction, organic farming at 25 % of agricultural lands, 10 % increase of landscape features, increase of land-protected areas at 30 %, wetlands restoration and halting land degradation.

Soils will therefore play an important role in the future agricultural policy (Farm to Fork strategy), environmental protection (Biodiversity strategy) and climate change (Climate Law).

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The European Green Deal sets out a comprehensive strategy for tackling climate and environmental-related challenges. Soils play a central role in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030 (Bouma et al., 2019). For Europe, this means that soils have to be included as a key element of the proposed European Green Deal (EGD).

Especially soils play a key role in achieving the ambitious European target of a climate neutral EU by 2050. As a major carbon sink, soils play an important role in mitigating greenhouse gas emissions and therefore should be an important element of the new EU Climate Law.

In addition, soils hold a large biodiversity pool (Jeffrey et al., 2010) and therefore are included in the new EU Biodiversity Strategy 2030. As the Biodiversity Strategy has the ambitious objectives to enhance of landscape features, increase of organic farming, commit with plantation of 3 billion trees, reduce of pesticides and halt land degradation, the sustainable soil management is fully addressed. Finally, soils are the foundation of agriculture, and therefore will have to play an important role in the EU Farm to Fork Strategy. Incorporating a coherent sustainable soil management framework within all three strategies will be challenging, given the necessary trade-offs between sometimes contradicting goals and targets. A coherent framework could be a revised EU Soil Thematic Strategy taking into account the goals and ambitions of the European Green Deal.

This article is maintained by: Elsevier

Article Title: The relevance of sustainable soil management within the European Green Deal

Journal Title: Land Use Policy

CrossRef DOI link to publisher maintained version:

https://doi.org/10.1016/J.LANDUSEPOL.2020.104950

Content Type: article

Copyright: © 2020 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd.

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0264837720304257

The writers note that this article is not to be regarded as exhaustive, but it adds a great deal of value by summarising the situation regarding the soil and the policies currently under discussion at EU level. We believe that, taken together with the report from the Board of experts of the European Commission’s JRC, it can provide the necessary leverage to reach a new European Directive on the soil.

The SIP Forum undertakes once again to encourage debate around the analysis and study of this article, this time to be structured and programmed at the level of the European organizations and actors involved with the soil. We shall return to this subject soon.