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Soil is very a complex ecosystem: it hosts several organisms and influences several services and mechanisms, including water quality, food production, and climate regulation. At the same time, soil is a non-renewable resource for humankind and economics (European Commission, 2020). Nevertheless, soils are continuously stressed and challenged by population increase (Playán & Mateos, 2006): current intensive agricultural productions are unsustainable and cause land degradation, nutrients and biodiversity losses, water pollution and scarcity, and ultimately contribute to GHGs and air pollutants’ emissions, which in turn contribute to climate change (UNEP, 2016).

Land degradation represents a serious threat for the Earth and its inhabitants: it affects at least 3.2 billion people and costs about €5.5-10.5 trillion per year and 10% of the annual global gross product in terms of biodiversity and ecosystem services. In addition, land degradation and climate change feed mutually (Keesstra et al., 2018; IPBES, 2018).

As a result, the remaining healthy soils are expected to come even under more pressure in the future, leading to a further reduction in the provision of ecosystem services. Halting and reversing current trends of soil degradation could generate up to EUR 1.2 trillion per year in economic benefits globally. The cost of inaction on soil degradation outweighs the cost of action by a factor of 6 in Europe, so it makes sound economic sense to tackle this problem as soon as possible (European Commission, 2022).

The EU Soil Strategy for 2030 aims to achieve the healthy condition of all EU soils by 2050. In addition to this, the Commission is going to launch a new legislative proposal on soil health in order to provide a comprehensive legal framework for soil protection.

Sustainable soil management and restoration requires the involvement of a wide range of economic and societal actors who are all invited to share their views on this initiative via an online consultation that will be active until October, 24 2022. Consultation activities will be promoted through the ‘Have your say’ website and other relevant channels, and build further on the consultations that already took place to prepare the EU Soil Strategy for 2030.

The aim of this consultation is to ensure that the general public interest across the EU is well reflected in
the proposal for a soil health law by collecting feedback, ideas, information and opinions including policy briefs, studies, data on the drivers and the extent of the problem, costs and impacts, policy objectives and options.

References

European Commission, 2020. EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030. Bringing nature back into our lives. COM (2020) 380 final.

European Commission, 2022. Soil health – protecting, sustainably managing and restoring EU soils.

Keesstra, S., Mol, G., de Leeuw, J., Okx, J., Molenaar, C., de Cleen, M. and Visser, S., 2018. Soil-Related Sustainable Development Goals: Four Concepts to Make Land Degradation Neutrality and Restoration Work. Land, 7(4), p.133.

Iodice F., D’Acunto F, Bigagli L. (2021). Monitoring Land Degradation from Space. GI_Forum 2021, 9, 143-149

IPBES, 2018. Summary for policymakers of the assessment report on land degradation and restoration of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services. (eds.). IPBES secretariat, Bonn, Germany.

Playán, E., & Mateos, L. (2006). Modernization and optimization of irrigation systems to increase water productivity. Agricultural Water Management, 80(1–3 SPEC. ISS.), 100–116. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.agwat.2005.07.007

United Nations Environment Programme (2016). Food Systems and Natural Resources. https://wedocs.unep.org/20.500.11822/7592.

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