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Conference on the Future of Europe

The citizens’ Conference on the Future of Europe is attracting almost no attention. Launched in March 2021 jointly by the Parliament, Council and Commission, its aim is to allow citizens to discuss freely the challenges and priorities of Europe. The result of the Conference should enable the three EU institutions to draw up a list of priorities for future policies. 

The conference was structured into four thematic panels, each consisting of 200 randomly selected citizens from all 27 EU Member States and matching gender, urban/rural context, age, socio-economic background and education level. One third of each panel consists of young people aged between 16 and 25. The working documents are available in all EU languages.

The 4 panels are:

Continua a leggere “Conference on the Future of Europe”
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International Convention for the elimination of the war industry

Let’s return to the Green New Deal for Europe, whose 2nd edition was published in December 2019. We remind readers that the 90+ page document is available in a downloadable PDF. The document recommends a total of 85 political actions, of which we would like to highlight number 52:

“Negotiate a new International Convention for the Elimination of War Industry to free countries around the world to invest in the fight against climate damage.”

What does this aim mean?

“Finally, the largest consumers of oil in the world are military organisations through the vehicles of war in the air, on land and at sea. The EU must use the Open Method of Coordination with member states to stop all unnecessary military equipment movements. The EU must also be aggressive in its Common Foreign and Security Policy in preventing wars and the conditions that give rise to war, by negotiating a new International Convention for the Elimination of War Industry. This will aim to reduce government military budgets in order to fund the humanity’s fight against climate damage”.

Is this utopian? On the contrary, it is what is most needed for the very future of the EU.

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Is the GSE really necessary?

As already announced, the Gruppo Suolo Europa (GSE) will hold its annual meeting online on 18 February between 20:00 and 23:00. The meeting will be held in Italian. The focus of the discussion will be: Is the continued existence of this SIP Forum working group necessary? All those who signed up by 25th January and have received the relevant documentation will be eligible to take part.

The observations that have emerged so far raise questions about the validity of any future action by the GSE. It is questionable whether the GSE responds to the needs of the younger generation. Those who have taken part so far in the GSE’s activities will be able to continue doing so in other ways and using different methods, while a new way of communicating is needed to reach the parts that have so far eluded us: for example, groups on Facebook, Instagram, Linkedin, TikTok, Telegram – perhaps in English – are more likely to engage young people than this Newsletter.

This is why we need people to take on responsibility for the GSE and take up the challenge of drawing up the European law on the soil, which will be the focus of fierce debate among the various lobbies involved. In addition, this subject needs to be dealt with by the SIP Forum as a whole, rather than by a delegated body.

Those who have run the GSE so far must be capable of taking a step back, and leaving space for younger people while still making themselves available when requested.

“New things are done only by the young because they are willing to cooperate enthusiastically and without egoism (La macchina Zero – Ciaj Rocchi, Matteo Demonte)

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Soil monitoring in Europe. Indicators and thresholds for assessing soil quality

Apart from specialists, people don’t bother much about the soil. And yet everyone understands intuitively that there are different soils with their own characteristics and that therefore every type of soil has different qualities and possibilities. The 2021 ETC/ULS Report with the title “Soil monitoring in Europe. Indicators and thresholds for soil quality assessments” deals with precisely these differences, with the aim of setting out the limits of soil quality. The acronym ETC/ULS stands for European Topic Centre on Urban Land and Soil Systems and is part of EIONET (the European Environment Information and Observation Network) which is part of the European Environment Agency (EEA).

We promise not to use any more acronyms!

“The development of adequate and broadly applicable indicators and thresholds is challenged by the great diversity of European soils and climate, as well as different political, economic, and social conditions which lead to different priority settings for targets and indicators. There are 23 main soil types, four prevailing macroclimatic zones, and eight recognised soil threats, which all together form a complex matrix of basic different environmental growing conditions, whereas each of them requires specific responses to optimize and sustainably use the available resources.

This report describes the rationale for a series of common and broadly accepted soil quality indicators. The indicators were selected in view of their appropriateness to assess the condition of soils, its degradation, its resilience, and its valuable services. In particular, the available state-of-the-art knowledge has been compiled to evaluate each indicator using thresholds for the good condition of soils. In this respect, the report provides a framework for the observation of soils, using a broadly accepted indicators. They are specified with the objective to help achieving the best possible degree of harmonization.”

While this report is already available for download on the EIONET website, it has not yet been finalised. It has been published in order to allow different organisations, technical bodies, and above all EU member states to revise it. We recommend reading it and especially reflecting critically on its contents.

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The European Commission’s three initiatives of 17/11/2021

On 17 November 2021, the European Commission published its new EU Soil Strategy for 2030. Two more important documents appeared on the same day: the Proposal for a regulation on deforestation-free products and the Proposal for a new regulation on waste shipments.

The three initiatives were presented by the Commission Vice President and the Environment Commissioner in the following words:

Frans Timmermans – Executive Vice-President for the European Green Deal: “To succeed in the global fight against the climate and biodiversity crises we must take the responsibility to act at home as well as abroad. Our deforestation regulation answers citizens’ calls to minimise the European contribution to deforestation and promote sustainable consumption. Our new rules to govern waste shipments will boost the circular economy and ensure that waste exports do not harm the environment or human health elsewhere. And our soil strategy will allow soil to get healthy, be used sustainably and receive the legal protection it needs.”

Virginijus Sinkevičiu – Commissioner for the Environment, Oceans and Fisheries: “If we expect more ambitious climate and environmental policies from partners, we should stop exporting pollution and supporting deforestation ourselves. The deforestation and waste shipment regulations we are putting on the table are the most ambitious legislative attempts to tackle these issues worldwide ever. With these proposals, we are taking our responsibility and walking the talk by lowering our global impact on pollution and biodiversity loss. We also put forward a ground-breaking EU soil strategy with a strong policy agenda that sets out to grant them the same level of protection as water, marine environment and air.” 

https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/ip_21_5916

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The document that accompanies the EU Soil Strategy

Our eagle-eyed readers keep us on our toes! In November’s article on the EU Soil Strategy for 2030, we failed to mention the document that accompanies the Strategy.

This document, called the Commission Staff Working Document, is a rousing snapshot of the situation from which the Strategy emerged. It covers topics from the European legislative and political context to historical reconstruction, from details of the contributions of the various actors involved with the soil (we appear under the guise of the Gruppo Suolo Europa) to an analysis of the consultations that took place in 2020 and in the spring of 2021. This is a sound and detailed piece of work that needs to be kept updated especially for those who wish to see the Soil Directive come to fruition.

The document highlights the enormous amount of work that has been done by staff at the DG Environment. This is why we regard it as “educational”, capable of providing the elements of the political and technical context and to help people understand how the strategy itself was put together.

We must, however, focus mainly on the Strategy text because that is where the concepts and principles that will serve to put together the draft Directive are to be found.

So we can enjoy reading the attachment, but above all we need to reflect on and analyse the strategic document.

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EEB Report on carbon farming for the climate, nature and farmers         

We remind readers that the European Environmental Bureau (EEB) is Europe’s largest network of environmental citizens’ organisations. Its report Carbon farming for climate, nature, and farmers – Policy Recommendations, published on 21 October, deals with the subject of organic carbon in relation to the climate from the starting position that “Soils are at the heart of the climate and nature crises”.

In our view this document could form an integral part of the GNDE report, in order to complete the environmental aspects which currently receive insufficient coverage. We therefore invite the EEB and the GNDE’s compilers to meet and talk, if they haven’t already, and then to get in touch with the 4per1000 Initiative.

Below are some points from the summary of the EEB’s report that we regard as crucial, but we invite you to read the whole document, at least the version dedicated to the decisions recommended to politicians.

“The new focus on soil carbon in the EU through the “carbon farming” initiative presents opportunities to drive a new positive agenda for soils, with benefits for climate, but also for biodiversity, farm profitability, and resilience, provided the right policy and regulatory framework is in place. This will require, first, to clarify the meaning and scope of carbon farming. The EEB defines carbon farming as land management practices which reduce GHG emissions and increase the sequestration and storage of carbon in soils and vegetation. To do so while also benefitting biodiversity, water, and farmers’ livelihoods, carbon farming must adopt a holistic approach towards healthy soils and healthy ecosystems, grounded in the framework of “nature based solutions”.

That means rewetting and restoring drained organic soils (peatlands); managing grasslands in nature-inclusive ways; massively re-integrating trees in agricultural landscapes; and adopting agroecological, or regenerative, farming practices on arable land. Deploying these win-win-win solutions could turn agricultural land into a large carbon sink by 2050, while also restoring biodiversity and helping farmers adapt to climate change.”

“… we call on the EU to:

1. Ensure carbon delivers nature-based solutions, benefitting climate, biodiversity, and rural communities.

2. Set legally-binding targets on climate, nature, and soils.

3. Establish mandatory baselines, monitoring systems, and safeguards.

4. Develop a coherent policy mix of effective incentives, mobilising private and public funding strategically.

5. Invest in the enabling factors for behavioural change: knowledge, culture, and infrastructure.”

More info here: https://eeb.org/library/105401/ https://eeb.org/library/carbon-farming-policy-recommendations-to-deliver-win-win-wins-for-climate-nature-and-farmers/

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Suggestions for changing behaviour:         How to spend a lot of money

If someone offered you a million euros to spend on helping to save the environment, how would you spend it? on 20 or so small projects, or all on one big project?

This may seem like a silly question, but it reflects what actually happens. Take for example the Italian NRRP (National Recovery and Resilience Plan) and you will see that the choice has been made to give the money immediately to those who can spend it, and that is powerful industrial groups who already receive all kinds of public funds. Many SMEs will remain on the sidelines because they do not have the ability to go through the bureaucratic processes (often designed to be difficult) that are required in order to access small sums of money. Here’s a concrete example: if the Italian energy multinational puts forward a solar panel project costing 100 million euros, it is more likely to be funded than a small municipality asking for 20,000 euros. In bureaucratic terms, the assessment and approval take more or less the same amount of time. So to spend the money more quickly, the big projects are funded and the small ones go without, even though the latter’s impact would be much more concrete and closer to the needs of the people.

Is this situation typical just of Italy? Unfortunately not. Rather, it is policy for programmes and projects at the European level, as well as for member states. It’s not by chance that the Corporate Europe Observatory has denounced in advance the organization of France’s 6 month presidency, which is due to start in January 2022. In brief, the report states that the preparations for the French Presidency reveal a growing confusion between public interest and private interest. This is due especially to the close collaboration with big French companies, through lobbying, public events and requests for contributions from business associations and focus groups (which are closely linked to the big corporations), with precious little transparency… while civil society and the public in general are kept at arm’s length.

The stakes are high, because legislative proposals and policies that are crucial for Europe’s future will be adopted or developed during the French Presidency, in particular the firming up of the Green Deal, the climate package “Fit for 55”, the regulation of digital technology and the future of recovery funds.