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The Joint Research Centre (JRC) is the European Commission's science and knowledge service which employs scientists to carry out research in order to provide independent scientific advice and support to EU policy.
Speakers at last week's high-level stakeholder consultation conference on the EU’s long-term strategy for reducing greenhouse gas emissions lamented the fact that the importance of soil in climate change, global warming and prosperity is severely underestimated in EU policy.
Andrea Kohl, Programme Director at the World Wide Fund For Nature (WWF) and speaker at the conference, is quoted as saying “Soil is a completely underestimated issue when we talk about climate change”*.
Kohl reminded the audience that “Soil is essential in the debate on how we tackle climate change,” underlining that “the release of just a small fraction of the soil carbon stock can offset savings achieved elsewhere.”
The EU’s vision for a modern, clean and competitive economy - Stakeholder event
Up to 1 000 stakeholders from business, research and civil society attended the conference, which was organised by the European Commission to gather input to a strategy proposal for the EU’s long-term strategy for reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and building a prosperous, modern, clean and competitive economy.
Hosted by Miguel Arias Cañete, Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy, other speakers included Commission Vice- Jyrki Katainen, Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič, Commissioner Elżbieta Bieńkowska as well as ministers and high-level representatives from countries, organisations and stakeholders in and outside Europe.
The Commission aims to put forward its proposal for a long-term strategy for long-term EU GHG emissions reduction ahead of the next UN climate conference (COP24), which takes place in Katowice, Poland in December 2018.
All interested citizens and stakeholders are encouraged to contribute to a public consultation on this, by 9 October 2018.
Soil in EU policies
While the proposal for a Soil Framework Directive was blocked by a minority of EU Member States, and was finally withdrawn in April 2014, soil is increasingly important in a range of EU policy areas.
Through the EU Soil Thematic Strategy and the 7th Environment Action Programme (2014-20), the Commission remains committed to soil protection. In reality, soil is reflected in over thirty policy documents, although many of them lack formal targets or obligations. Until very recently, soils have received comparatively little attention in international climate policy.
However, there has been an increased realisation in recent years of the role of soil in climate regulation through its capacity as a source and a sink of GHGs. This is recognised in the recently published Regulation on Land Use, Land-Use Change and Forestry which covers the use of soils in accounting of emissions and sinks.
JRC soil activities in relation to climate change
The JRC has a long history of promoting the importance of soil through policy documents and awareness-raising initiatives and publications. It has always stressed that soil is a limited and non-renewable (in human life spans) resource that performs a variety of vital social, economic and environmental functions – it provides food and other biomass, and stores, filters and transforms water, carbon, nitrogen and other key nutrients.
The JRC also provides scientific support to current Commission initiatives to simplify and modernise the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and the regulation of Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF). It is an active member of the Global Soil Partnership for Food Security and Global Change, chairing the Intergovernmental Technical Panel on Soils, and regularly publishes scientific articles and publications, including its Soil Atlas series. It monitors and assesses the state of soil biodiversity, carries out LUCAS soil surveys, and manages and maintains the European Soil Bureau Network and the European Soil Data Centre (ESDAC).