Council fails to ramp up ambition of first ever EU law on soils

During this Monday’s Environment Council, Environment Ministers reached an agreement [1] on the Soil Monitoring Law. The EEB welcomes the achievement of a compromise, but regrets Member States failure to enhance the much needed ambition of the law. 

Healthy soil ecosystems host more than half of the Earth’s species, regulate water and carbon cycles and provide 95% of the food we eat. And yet, an estimated 60 to 70% of EU soils are in bad health. In July last year, the European Commission proposed a Soil Monitoring Law, Europe’s first ever law on soils. 

However, with the European Commission’s proposal [2] already alarmingly feeble and the European Parliament’s disappointingly weak position [3] in April, the Council missed a crucial opportunity to raise the ambition of the law and develop a legal tool capable of bringing degraded soils back to health by 2050. 

Caroline Heinzel, Associate Policy Officer for Soil, said:  While we congratulate the Belgian presidency for effectively leading negotiations towards an agreement, we are very concerned about the further erosion of an already weak proposal.  

Excessive flexibility should not undermine a unified and harmonised EU approach. Given the dire state of our soils, we cannot afford further delays. Lawmakers must now improve the text based on agreed mandates to raise the bar and create a Soil Law that works and that guarantees healthy soils across Europe by 2050. 

The EEB highlights a few positive elements in the Council position, such as: 

  • the inclusion of additional options for soil biodiversity descriptors; 
  • the maintenance of key obligations relating to sustainable soil management; 
  • and the retention of the article on access to justice, albeit in a weakened form. 

However, campaigners warn that the overall Council position reflects a broad weakening of the text including:  

  • introducing a significant number of additional flexibilities, such as the assessment of whether soil is healthy or unhealthy; 
  • lowering the level of ambition for both public participation and information to the public, which is disappointing as these aspects are crucial for a successful implementation of the Directive;  
  • failure to put soil biodiversity at the core of the law; 
  • failure to include concrete mechanisms for a better implementation of the polluter pays principle; 
  • and a slowing down of the overall timeline for action. 

Next up are the trilogue negotiations, during which the European Commission, European Parliament and Council will endeavour to find common ground. Each position includes some ambitious elements, making it crucial for lawmakers to seize this opportunity and elevate the ambition of the final Soil Monitoring Law, ensuring healthy soils in Europe by the mid-century. 

Notes for editor 

[1] Environment Council’s General approach 

[2] European Commission’s proposal 

[3] European Parliament’s position on the SML 


Council fails to ramp up ambition of first ever EU law on soils
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