We are accustomed to reading reports on the soil produced by researchers, experts, organizations. It is much less common to encounter reports produced by parliamentary bodies. One example is the report by the French Senate’s Economic Affairs Committee, published on 12 May: « La lutte contre l’artificialisation à l’épreuve des territoires : territorialiser, articuler, accompagner » (“The fight against soil consumption a challenge for the land: territorialize, articulate, accompany“). It starts with a snapshot: urban areas in France have risen from 7% in 1936 to 22% now, with an estimate that it may rise to 9.5% of the total area (of which 28% infrastructure, 14% economic activities, 42% housing). All this is often at the expense of the most fertile farmland. In the view of the senators, this situation and above all the continuation of this tendency will lead to an inability to ensure secure food supplies for the whole country.
So to reach the target of Zero Net Soil Consumption by 2050, the report regards the existing French policies as important, but insufficient. In particular it stresses the importance of decentralizing competences to a scale that allows better dialogue and better participation by local populations in establishing targets, or in short: “territorializing“.
It is, therefore, collectivities that must arrive at a synthesis between public policies (sometimes conflicting ones). This concept is summed up in the term “articulate” and it is even more important for rural areas affected by profound economic changes, alongside a lack of services and depopulation. Indeed, national policies to safeguard the soil and biodiversity must help local communities to reconcile general principles and the needs of the community itself.
This does not, however, mean leaving rural areas to fend for themselves. On the contrary, in order to achieve the aim of protecting the soil, they must be supported financially and technically. This is the thinking behind the third recommended action “accompany“, in the sense of facilitating contacts between rural areas and public bodies, obtaining financial support and tax breaks, helping in the drawing up of planning documents.
With this document the French senators have reached the same conclusions as those contained in the European Parliament’s resolution of 28/04/2021 on the “Protection of the soil“.
Thus we have the technical, scientific and now the political conditions to obtain a European directive on the soil to place in the hands of member states and their local communities.
Senate of France: http://www.senat.fr/notice-rapport/2020/r20-584-notice.html