Europe’s Environmental Commission voices concern for Europe’s soil in letter to NGOs

Published by David Hayden on

July 25th, 2017

Europe’s Environmental Commissioner has expressed his deep concern with the continued degradation of soil across the EU in a letter to a coalition of 500 European groups.

In the letter, seen by The Green News, Commissioner Karmenu Vella said that soil is a “finite resource” and that “soil-related ecosystems are essential to meet many societal challenges”.

Mr Vella was responding to a letter sent by the People4Soil campaign to the President of the European Commission (EC) Jean-Claude Juncker urging him to enact legislation to protect European soils.

The letter was signed by over 500 NGO’s, research institutes, farmers associations and environmental groups with an interest in protecting soils.

In his reply, Mr Vella outlined his appreciation for the work carried out by People4Soil campaign at the local, national and EU levels through its European Citizen’s Initiative petition launched last September.

Mr Vella’s letter pointed to actions taken at an EU level, including initiatives such as the EU Soil Thematic Strategy that has “significantly contributed to raise awareness and to improve knowledge on soil”.

The Commissioner also emphasised the efforts which have been made to “integrate soil protection into various EU policies” such as the Common Agricultural Policy.

Mr Vella added that legally binding frameworks are currently being considered in line with the EU’s 7th Environmental Action Programme.

He added that the adoption of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) has led to a “new momentum for the protection of this fragile resource at global level [sic]” and provides new opportunities to advance soil protection in the EU.

SDG 15 puts emphasis on delivering “a land degradation neutral world” with around a third of the planet’s soils already degraded.

People4Soil Coordinator Tiziano Cattaneo welcomed the response from Mr Vella, describing it as “positive and encouraging”.

Mr Cattaneo added that it is “entirely positive” to see the European Commission expressing “common cause” with the goals of the People4Soil campaign.

According to Mr Cattaneo, the objective of the open letter was to build upon the progress made during the 2015 International Year of Soils during which the Commissioner took a firm stance on protecting European soils.

The Environmental Pillar – a coalition of 26 national environmental NGOs – is leading the Irish branch of the People4Sopil campaign, with 8,250 signatures needed in Ireland for the petition to pass.

The People4Soil petition is endorsed by the likes of Darina Allen and the Ballymaloe Cookery School, Dee Laffan Chairperson of Slow Food Dublin, The Green Party’s Catherine Martin TD, and Environmentalist and TV presenter, Duncan Stewart.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency,  it will be challenging to ensure a “consistent approach to protecting and managing our limited soil resource” in the absence of an EU Soils Directive.

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David Hayden

David is a contributor to the Green News. He has a Bachelor's Degree in International Business and French from UCD as well as a Master's Degrees in French literature and New Media from the University of California at San Diego and the Johns Hopkins University.