Europe faces an interconnected biodiversity, climate and soil crisis with debates looming as to how best to reverse worrying land trends. Overall, EU soils are emitting carbon and most of the EU’s land is degraded. The agricultural sector faces both social and economic issues that threaten the survival of smaller farms.
Some stakeholders advocate for more regulation, whereas others vouch for a market-oriented approach. With the upcoming EU elections and ongoing discussions on key legislations such as the Soil Monitoring Law and the Carbon Removal Certification Framework, soil carbon and how it is governed will be brought to the fore.
This report addresses the common concern that policies could enable a “carbon tunnel vision” where soil carbon becomes the end goal at the expense of soil’s many other functions. The EU should not optimise for soil carbon at the expense of other soil services in a way that drives unsustainable social and environmental trends. However, the EU’s soil carbon gap must be bridged for the sake of climate change mitigation and the many co-benefits this effort can bring to biodiversity and farmer prosperity.
In the end, our analysis presents a three-tiered approach to soil carbon governance in the form of a “doughnut economics” model that encourages the EU to set legally binding soil health targets, craft tailored government support for land stewards, and boost private sector efforts to ensure the EU lands are a carbon sink