SIP Forum: one step at a time

We reported in a previous newsletter how the SIP Forum’s draft law became a proposal in the Chamber of Deputies on 23 March. It did not stop there: in July the text was presented to the Italian Senate. The SIP Forum therefore now bears a growing responsibility. It would be a mistake to think that the “game” is over and that the text will swiftly obtain its final approval. Given that it has not been possible over the past 20 years to get a law passed against soil consumption, it will not be an easy task to gain approval in a short space of time for a law that puts in place solid foundations for the protection of the soil and establishes a radical change in the way building and large construction projects are conceived.

At the same time it would be a mistake to think that this draft law applies only to Italy.  It is worth remembering that a proposal for a European directive on the soil was discussed for no less than 8 years  (2006-2014) – without ever being approved! Although it was far from revolutionary, the proposal set out the path that needs to be followed in order to safeguard the soil for future generations. Since that proposed directive was withdrawn we have been in a vacuum that could allow whatever emerges from the Italian “door” back through the EU’s “window”. This is why we must consider immediately whether the text of the Italian draft law as it stands should be put before EU bodies and institutions in order to extract from it the principles of a new EU directive. Continua a leggere “SIP Forum: one step at a time”

Annunci

The Environmental Implementation Review

There are daily reports in the media on the economic restrictions decided by the European Commission and requested of the member States. We hear about letters, controls, assessments that impose financial restraints, often to the detriment of individuals. These measures are regarded, perhaps justly, as vexatious, but the EU institutions merely put into action the decisions of the member States. It’s like blaming the ordinary soldier for decisions taken by their colonel.

The Commission has taken some other steps that are less discussed in the media. For example, the Environmental Implementation Review (EIR COM (2016) 316 final) is a tool for improving the effective implementation of the EU’s environmental legislation.

We recall that the EU is an area with one of the most advanced sets of environmental legislation in the world. This is not a moral “boast”, but rather it expresses the need to preserve the planet by showing the “virtuous” path to follow. Furthermore, the failure to enact environmental protection policies has high environmental, economic and social costs. We therefore welcome this measure that draws attention to the environment. Continua a leggere “The Environmental Implementation Review”

…. Let’s get started

As we have mentioned in previous newsletters, the SIP Forum Gruppo Suolo Europa (Europe Soil Group) is taking action to achieve two objectives: dialogue between the various actors that use or are involved in the soil; and synergies between the various voluntary associations in civil society whose main focus is not on the soil.

In order to achieve the first objective it is necessary to break down prejudices and fixed positions in order to build mutual respect at least, if not complete trust. The second is frequently blocked by the structures of those voluntary organizations themselves.

Both these objectives are hard to achieve and require time. We are reminded that in order to be sustainable the concept of “time” must be respected and cannot be artificially “compressed”. This is illustrated by the failure of the attempt to collect a million signatures for the people4soil European Citizens’ Initiative, which perhaps failed to take account of this fact.

Continua a leggere “…. Let’s get started”

Implementation of the directive on environmental liability

Policies pursued by the European Union over recent years have led to an increasing disenchantment amongst citizens. They have also led to a growing distrust, to the resurgence of nationalism and archaic tendencies that everyone thought were long buried. It even gave up on promoting and highlighting environmental policies envied by many countries worldwide. Indeed, Europe is one of the few places in the world that still happens to defend the value of nature and the environment.

We would like to draw your attention to the European Parliament resolution of 26 October 2017 on the application of the Directive on environmental liability with regard to the prevention and remedying of environmental damage (also called the “ELD” or “Directive on environmental liability”). Continua a leggere “Implementation of the directive on environmental liability”

LULUCF

International and particularly European institutions are experts in creating incomprehensible acronyms. In the past for instance, the DGs of the European Commission were indicated with Roman numerals (DG XII stood for research, DG VIII for cooperation and development, and so on). This changed to using full names, such as DG Environment, DG Research and Innovation… however the idea has always been to use acronyms which could be understood by insiders: DG ECHO, DG EAS, EEAS…

It therefore should not come as a surprise that LULUCF means “Land use, Land Use Change and Forestry”. This is also the title of an EU proposal for regulation – currently being discussed at Parliament and Council – on the inclusion of greenhouse gas emissions and removals from land use, land use change and forestry into the 2030 climate and energy framework (COM(2016)0479) . Continua a leggere “LULUCF”

Special issue on soil by the National Rural Network

The National Rural Network programme is a tool for development projects of the European Union for the rural world. In Italy it is cofounded by the European Commission, via its European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD), and the Italian Ministry of Agricultural Policies. The national rural network (Rete Rurale Nazionale – RRN in Italian) is present in every Italian region. Its work also involves publishing a magazine that, from 1 September, has a new name and typeset: it is no longer Pianeta PSR (in English: Planet PSR) but RRN Magazine. Published on a quarterly basis, its topics are related to rural development policies.

We are drawing your attention to it because the first number of this new edition is entirely devoted to soil. It analyses many different aspects and different viewpoints, international perspectives, saline soils, etc. It does not aim to point out solutions from an academic point of view: it pragmatically shows reflections and potential aspects to be developed further. It is a tool which deals with issues related to soil and rural development: the magazine is around 60 pages long.

This can be downloaded for free from the link to be found at the bottom of the RRN website .

A time for conferences

a) European Commission – Green Week 2017 and EU Development Days 2017-06-30

The “differently young people” (alias over 60 years old!) will remember how back in the day, in Italy, on urban public transport there used to be signs saying ‘Please do not speak to the driver’.

Those who took part in Green Week 2017 organized by DG ENVI of the EU Commission – from 29 May to 2 June – will confirm that nobody was allowed to “speak to the driver” there either, or better “speak to the representatives from the Commission”. The driver keeps on “driving” whilst passengers must sit on the back and talk amongst themselves, even though they may have interesting news or experiences to share with all and in particular with the “drivers”.

The very platform for Green Week broke apart over the past two years. A place of encounters and discussions, where over 2000 participants were the most important ‘entity’ of the “green” week, has now turned into a meeting with generic, recycled and fruitless statements being uttered and merely listened to. There used to be debates with thousands of people exchanging ideas, proposals and experiences. All spaces of the location, including corridors cafés and refectories, were a whirlwind of discussions and exchanges. Even the various representatives – the Commissioners, and civil servants – were urged to listen to concrete experiences, and “self-celebration” was very rare. Those attending would at the end of the day feel enriched with the ideas and contacts made.

Now all is dispersed all over Europe, and this means the “drivers” are always present – without any real confrontation, but simply issuing the same statements as ten years back, and that will have the same validity in ten years time – to show that European environmental policy and research are responding to the demands of investments and economic productivity.

But should it not be the opposite? Shouldn’t investments and the creation of jobs necessarily have to be compatible with environmental policy choices?

Unfortunately the result of Green Week 2017 was losing credibility on European environmental protection, even though the EU was set as an example worldwide for its environmental policy! As we await for different “drivers” and for the Commission to respond to the all-the-more urgent expectations coming from European and overseas people, it took that alien of a newly elected president of the United States for us to realize how the EU is at the forefront in all aspects of environmental protection. It is thanks to him and his refusal that on 11 and 12 June the Ministries of the Environment of the G7 met in Bologna to renew environmental protection efforts and climate-change combat, confirmed/signed by the other six participants and the European Commissioner for climate change.

The abovementioned is a “cry of pain”, but not of powerlessness. Whenever the Commission is willing, it is able to decently organize events based on real and constructive participation. An example of this is the EDD17 – European Development Days 2017 (7 and 8 June) – entitled Investing in Development: two full days with around 8000 (eight thousand!) participants, over 120 debates and conferences, with a Global Village placed in the middle of the venue. Soil also received a great deal of attention with stands and conferences of the Joint Research Centre, the CIRAD (Agricultural Research for Development), and the 4 per 1000 initiative.

b) The Global Soil Week 2017 and CONSOWA

Global Soil Week (GSW 2017) was held in Berlin from 22 to 24 May 2017. After the ones held in 2012, 2013 and 2015 this was the fourth meeting on soil organised by IASS-Potsdam (Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies) jointly with the IISD (International Institute for Sustainable Development).  This year the event focused on ‘Catalysing SDG[1] Implementation Through a Soil and Land Review’. Around 300 participants attended three thematic workshops to explore the following topics: ‘Sustaining and upscaling achievements of sustainable land management (SLM) initiatives’; ‘Right to (defend) land: strengthening accountability at the local level through thematic reviews’; and ‘Protecting land resources for shared prosperity.’

There are five key messages to work on, and present to the highest political authorities:

1) Increase investments in sustainable land management and responsible governance. It will be critical to design investments and monitor them in line with international human rights-based instruments, such as the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security, and internationally accepted environmental and social safeguards;

2) Make the entire production chain sustainable and change consumption patterns which have an impact on land degradation both locally and in other parts of the world. High-consuming segments of society have a particular responsibility in this regard;

3) Enhance spatial planning and adopt territorial approaches to address the rural-urban continuum in an integrated way that contributes to food security and the sustainable and the integrated management of natural resources, such as the land-water nexus; as well as to improving regional value chains to offer better opportunities for the youth.

4) Improve land rights and land tenure, especially for vulnerable and marginalised groups, and acknowledge that vulnerable populations are rights holders, whose rights need to be upheld. This implies adopting specific measures to protect civil society, since human rights are under pressure from the shrinking space for civil society; and

5) Build a bridge between SDG 2 (Zero hunger) and SDG 15 (Life on land) to ensure food security through avoiding, reducing and reversing soil and land degradation to achieve SDG target 15.3 on land degradation neutrality, and sustainably managing landscapes for people. Entry points for this are community empowerment, and high-quality and accountable extension services that embrace the youth and open data access.

If GSW is able to act as a link between the academic world, civil society and the political world, the conference in Lleida, Spain (12-16 June) allowed for scientific comparisons between water and soil conservation specialists. We cite it because it is the first world conference, which gathered researchers and technicians for both soil and water, entities currently at risk due to climate change difficulties. The main aim of this conference, the acronym for which is CONSOWA (1st World Conference On Soil And Water Conservation Under Global Change), is to create sustainability on earth via soil and water conservation.

[1] SDG: Sustainable Development Goals

European Parliament resolution on land access!

Good news: end of April with a large majority, the European Parliament approved a resolution entitled State of play of farmland concentration in the EU: how to facilitate the access to land for farmers. Resolutions are not legally binding: they are policymaking recommendations for Councils, Commission and EU Member States.

The abovementioned resolution (also attached below) indicates specific measures to undertake in order to facilitate land access for new generations of farmers.

We would like to draw your attention to point J of the resolution:

“Whereas land is an increasingly scarce resource, which is non-renewable, and is the basis of the human right to healthy and sufficient food, and of many ecosystem services vital to survival, and should therefore not be treated as an ordinary item of merchandise; whereas land is, furthermore, doubly threatened, on the one hand by the loss of agricultural land through soil sealing, urban development, tourism, infrastructure projects, changes of use and afforestation and the spread of desertification caused by climate change, and, on the other hand, by the concentration of land in the hands of large-scale agricultural undertakings and investors from outside the farming sector; whereas, at the same time, it is the responsibility of the authorities to control and limit the loss of agriculture land through such activities.” Continua a leggere “European Parliament resolution on land access!”