Policies for soil protection and promotion in Europe

This joint Ecologic, IEEP and Milieu report for DG Environment inventoried and assessed a comprehensive set of policy instruments for soil protection across the EU and in each Member State. It aimed to take stock of existing soil protection policies and measures and identify gaps in protection with respect to soil threats and functions.

In total 35 EU level policies and 671 national and regional policies were reviewed; the majority of the latter are regulatory and binding in nature. At the EU level strong policies were identified to help manage and prevent local contamination. Opportunities for promoting better policy tools to protect soil were noted in relation to the 7th Environment Action Plan and other strategic policies, although such actions are non-binding. Both CAP Pillars (with more room for subsidiarity under the Rural Development, Pillar 2) offer funding availability to promote improved management of both agricultural and forest soils. State aid and measures focused at limiting diffuse contamination, as well as upcoming policy dossiers (i.e. Climate and Energy Package for 2030; the proposal for an Effort Sharing Regulation and a Land Use and Land Use Change and Forestry Regulation) offer opportunities for protecting several aspects of soils.

Whether policy opportunities result in benefits for soil depends ultimately on how soil issues are integrated and prioritized in these policy instruments. Although existing EU policies do offer relatively strong protection, the lack of a strategic policy framework dedicated to soil is currently limiting the degree of ambition.

Member States are at different stages in addressing soil threats and emphasizing soil functions. Overall the lack of strategic coordination and integration among the policies in place across Member States is an important theme.

IEEP is planning a number of activities in conjunction with the 2017 World Soil Day. Please keep an eye on our website for further information or contact Catherine Bowyer, Clunie Keenleyside or Silvia Nanni.