4 April 2024

ICLEI calls for strengthened proposed Soil Monitoring & Resilience Directive

When we talk about biodiversity and climate, we often think about the ecosystems we can see, yet soil is home to more than 25% of all biodiversity. What’s more, soil has the potential to mitigate the impacts of climate change by storing water and carbon, decreasing the risk of flooding and drought. Soils will play a key role in the future resilience of cities. Despite the incontrovertible importance of soils, 60-70% of Europe’s soils are currently classified as unhealthy.

To reverse this trend, the European Commission has adopted a proposal for a law to help protect and restore Europe’s soils by 2050: The Soil Monitoring and Resilience Directive. The directive is aligned with the EU Zero Pollution ambition and more broadly with the European Green Deal objectives. The European Parliament is expected to vote on its position on the Commission proposal on 11 April 2024, while Member States are expected to adopt their general approach at the ENVI Council on 17 June 2024.

While a smooth adoption of this key legislation would be necessary to accelerate soil monitoring and protection practices, both the European Parliament and the Council should strengthen the Commission proposal through including intermediary (i.e. 2030, 2040), legally binding soil health targets, and a shift of emphasis from monitoring to ensuring soil health. In this regard, the ICLEI Europe Nature-based Solutions team has identified key shortcomings that must be addressed prior to putting the directive to a final vote. The related position paper asserts that the directive does not meet the level of ambition nor the objectives outlined in the EU Soil Strategy and needs more robust targets and measures to make meaningful progress in improving soil health and meeting global commitments. ICLEI Europe is supporting the European Parliament’s Environment Committee position before the upcoming plenary vote as a first step to improve the Commission proposal. By going further than the European Parliament’s Environment Committee position, ICLEI calls upon the incorporation of the following key recommendations:

  • Integration of a multilevel governance approach and standardised processes that acknowledge the role of local and regional governments as owners, facilitators and regulators of land and soil.
  • Establish stronger integration and coherence with other EU legislation and initiatives such as the Urban Greening Plans, with emphasising an action-oriented approach with concrete targets.
  • Development of specific funding schemes for Member States, local and regional governments to implement monitoring schemes, ensuring adequate technical and financial resources for the transition towards healthy soils.
  • Integration of a systemic approach for potentially contaminated and contaminated sites that recognises the importance of local knowledge and the role of local and regional governments.

Read ICLEI’s position in full here.