Soils are the foundation of our health and wealth. Supporting our cultural heritage and landscapes, they are the basis of our economy and prosperity. Put simply, life on Earth depends on healthy soils. Yet land and soils are also dramatically degrading in Europe and worldwide.
Soils are a finite and non-renewable natural resource that store, filter and transform many substances including water, nutrients and carbon. They are crucial for climate change mitigation and adaptation, agricultural production and food security, preserving nature and biodiversity, and are vital to achieve key objectives of the European Green Deal
The EU Soil Strategy for 2030 sets the vision to have all soils in healthy condition by 2050 and to make protecting, restoring and sustainably using soils the norm. It also announces that the Commission will table a new Soil Health Law, providing a comprehensive legal framework for soil protection. This will grant it the same level of protection that exists for water, the marine environment and air in the EU.
In the EU
To protect human health and the environment, the EU’s soil policy aims to improve soils by
- taking measures and actions to protect and restore soils, and ensure that they are used sustainably
- putting forward a vision to achieve healthy soils by 2050
- improving the framework for soil monitoring in Europe
- developing the knowledge base and supporting soil research
- raising awareness about the vital importance of soils
Soil sealing is the covering of soil surfaces with materials such as concrete and asphalt, for new buildings, roads, parking places, as well as other public and private spaces. It is one of the main causes of soil degradation in the EU. It affects fertile agricultural land, puts biodiversity at risk, increases the risk of flooding and water scarcity and contributes to global warming.
The Commission has prepared a set of best practice guidelines (to be reviewed by 2024) to limit, mitigate or compensate soil sealing.
At EU level, there is currently no binding overarching framework that strategically defines policy priorities or parameters for soil protection. Soil protection outcomes in the other laws are mostly derived as a consequence of delivering environmental objectives that are not explicitly soil focused, such as reducing contamination, offsetting greenhouse gas emissions, and preventing other environmental threats:
- Nature restoration law
- Environmental Liability Directive
- Industrial Emissions Directive
- Environmental Impact Assessment Directive
- Sewage Sludge Directive
- Regulation on fertilisers
- Mercury Regulation
- Land use, land use change and forestry Regulation
- Common Agriculture Policy
- EU soil strategy for 2030
- EU soil thematic strategy (2006)
- Circular economy action plan
- EU biodiversity strategy for 2030
- Zero pollution action plan
- Farm to fork strategy
- Forest strategy
Related Commission priorities: European Green Deal
For questions about EU environmental policy, please contact Europe Direct.
Healthy soils are essential for achieving climate neutrality, a clean and circular economy, reversing biodiversity loss, providing healthy food, safeguarding human health, and halting desertification and land degradation.
All documents - EU soil strategy for 2030.
Soil is a fundamental natural resource that influences numerous policy areas. It is not only vital for a healthy environment but also essential to agriculture, and indeed the entire food sector.