200,000 European citizens sign landmark petition calling on the EU to protect soil

Published by Niall Sargent on

September 19th, 2017
The Irish branch of the European-wide People4Soil campaign has smashed its national quota for an official EU petition calling on the European Commission to protect soils across Europe.
The campaign, led by the Environmental Pillar, received over 9,100 signatures in Ireland before last week’s deadline, smashing Ireland’s official target of 8,250. Ireland was also the first country to reach its national quota and achieved the second highest percentage tally behind only Italy.
The campaign made some great strides over the summer with the support of Uplift, Friends of the Earth Ireland, and some of Ireland’s leading organic farmers, chefs, and restaurateurs, including Darina Allen and The Happy Pear twins, Dave and Steve Flynn.

Soil degradation now affects about one-third of the global land area with widespread consequences including soil erosion, desertification, nutrient loss, and pollution. Yet, soil has scarce protection under EU law at present.

Pillar Coordinator, Michael Ewing, said that he is “proud” that Irish people care about the protection of our soil for “generations to come”. “Dedicated citizens across the country have highlighted the support out there to protect our soil and ensure healthy soil for clean water, a safe environment, and quality food for our future,” he said.

Mr Ewing said that healthy soil is essential for clean water, quality food, carbon-storage and flood prevention, an issue he said is “all too close to our hearts” following recent flooding in Donegal.

The Environmental Protection Agency has said that without a Soils Directive it will be extremely challenging to “ensure a consistent approach to protecting and managing our limited soil resource”.
This encouraged the People4Soil network of 550 groups from 26 states, to launch a European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) calling on the Commission to introduce a common framework for soil protection.
An ECI gives European citizens the right to recommend EU legislation to the European Commission. To be successful, an ECI has to be backed by at least one million EU citizens, coming from at least 7 out of the 28 member states, within 12 months of its launch.

The petition closed on 12 September 2017 with more than 212,000 signatures collected from all EU countries. Although the quota was only reached in Ireland and Italy, the People4Soil committee said that the overall number of signatures is “clear evidence that soil conservation is important for an increasing number of Europeans”.

 In a statement, the committee said: “We want Europe to acknowledge soil as its most strategic environmental resource, as it ensures food security, biodiversity conservation, and climate change regulation.

“That is why we’ll deliver the signatures to Vice President Frans Timmermans requesting the Commission to put a roadmap for a Soil Framework Directive among their top priorities.”

Mr Ewing added: “While the People4Soil campaign may not have reached its overall target of 1 million signatures across Europe, we have shown both the EU and our Government that, we, the Irish people, demand action to protect our soils.

“Let’s take this victory as the starting point to push our politicians to change national policy and to encourage our representatives in the European Parliament to advocate for change in Brussels.”

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Niall Sargent

Niall is the Editor of The Green News. He is a multimedia journalist, with an MA in Investigative Journalism from City University, London