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European Parliament votes to protect soil health for the first time

Green Party MEP for Ireland South Grace O’Sullivan has welcomed European Parliament backing for new regulations to monitor and protect soil health, saying that declining soil health will be a defining challenge of the 21st century. 

O’Sullivan authored the European Union’s 8th Environment Action Programme, adopted in 2022, which secured agreement from the European Commission to advance these regulations.

Speaking following the vote in the European Parliament, O’Sullivan said: “Soil hosts more than 25% of all biodiversity on the planet, and is the foundation of our food chains, playing an essential role in supporting our day-to-day lives. This landmark directive will be the first time the EU legislates to protect this precious resource. We have strong protections at EU level for our air and water, and it’s about time we did the same for soil.

 “Up to 70% of soil in the EU is classed as ‘not healthy’, and we need to turn this tide if we are to protect nature and biodiversity, enhance food security, and fight climate change. Soil health is absolutely critical to our society, and protecting it will be one of the defining challenges of the 21st century. This vote is an important step forward for this proposed regulation.”

The Soil Monitoring and Resilience Directive sets strong targets for Member States to bring all soils to healthy status by 2050 and prevent further deterioration, introduces strong soil health monitoring obligations on Member States, and  introduces the ‘polluter pays’ principle to the decontamination of soils.

The Directive will now go to trilogue negotiations between the European Commission, the Council of the European Union, and the European Parliament. The final proposal is expected to be voted on early in the next Parliament mandate.

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