The European Commission launched a new EU soil strategy this week. The EU Soil Strategy for 2030: towards healthy soils for people and the planet is part of the European Green Deal and Biodiversity Strategy for 2030 and forms part of the overall plan to tackle climate change and the biodiversity crisis.

The strategy calls for the same level of protection to be given to soil as the protections that are currently in place for water, the marine environment and air in the EU.

The strategy outlines how soil contains more than 25% of all living organisms on the planet and is an essential ecosystem.

The European Commission also stated that soil degradation entails the loss of ecosystem services estimated at around €38bn per year in the EU. It also estimates that soil erosion costs European farmers €1.25bn per year.

Speaking on the strategy, executive vice-president for the European Green Deal Frans Timmermans stated: “The thin layer that lies below our feet is literally the basis for our existence. It is the foundation for 95% of the food we eat. Soil is a living ecosystem that is key for life on the planet and holds our future. It is high time it gets the legal protection it deserves.”

The main actions outlined in the Soil Strategy are:

  • To make sustainable soil management the new normal.
  • To boost the circular economy.
  • To restore degraded soils and remediate contaminated sites.
  • Act to prevent desertification.
  • Increase research, data and monitoring on soil.
  • To mitigate and adapt to climate change.
  • To mobilise the necessary societal engagement and financial resources.
  • Some of the measures outlined to complete these actions include schemes for landowners to get their soil tested for free, to promote sustainable soil management through the CAP and to share best practices.

    Under the action to boost the circular economy, the strategy outlines a proposal to “integrate a land take hierarchy to enhance reuse of land and less use of new land, reaching no net land take by 2050.”

    Another measure is to “consider proposing legally binding objectives to halt the drainage of wetlands and organic soils, and to restore managed and drained peatlands.”