Soil degradation has been on the international political agenda for several years. This development is also reflected in the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted in September 2015. In order to achieve these globally, international soil protection law must be further developed. Ecologic Institute will, together with its partners, develop recommendations on the basis of an analysis of existing instruments and institutions within the framework of this project.
The conservation of soils is necessary for sustainable development. They play a central role in food security, provide important ecosystem services and serve as carbon sinks. From a global perspective, the pressure on soils is increasing, for example due to global population growth or the effects of climate change. At the same time, soil is increasingly being degraded through sealing, salinisation, erosion or input of pollutants.
Meanwhile, soil degradation is no longer perceived as a local phenomenon, but has been moving up the international political agenda for years. This is reflected, among other things, in the fact that 2015 was declared the UN Year of Soil. In addition, several soil-relevant goals are included in the SDGs. For example, soil degradation is to be halted and even reversed by 2030. SDG target 15.3 aims to achieve a "land degradation neutral world".
However, this political development is hardly reflected in international law. So far, there are only a few binding regulations that are relevant for soil protection. Most recently, under the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), which applies to arid regions, it was agreed to combat soil degradation more strongly and to promote the implementation of the corresponding UN Sustainable Development Goals in the states.
At the international level, in addition to the Desertification Convention, the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) also deal with aspects of soil protection. International organisations, such as the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), are concerned with the protection and sustainable management of soils as part of their remit. Also, there are few regional agreements, for example for the Alps, Africa and the South Pacific.
Within the framework of the project, Ecologic Institute and its partners are developing proposals for the further development of international soil protection law. To this end, the actual and potential steering effects of existing international and regional instruments are first analysed and evaluated. Based on this, short-, medium- and long-term solutions for strengthening soil protection will be developed, which will be presented and discussed at an international expert workshop.