Environmental Audit Committee Report into Soil Health published 2nd June 2016

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The Environmental Audit Committee published a report into Soil Health on 2nd June 2016

The Government’s ambition to manage the UK’s soil sustainably by 2030 will not be met unless further action is taken, the Environmental Audit Committee has warned in a report published today on the health of UK soil. Failing to prevent soil degradation could lead to increased flood risk, lower food security, and greater carbon emissions. The report includes

Soil degradation and climate change

Soil is a massive carbon sink, storing three times as much carbon as the atmosphere. Soil degradation also leads to increased carbon emissions and could speed up climate change. The UK’s arable soils have seen a worrying decline in carbon levels since 1978, with widespread and ongoing decline in peat soil carbon.

The Government must set out specific, measurable and time-limited plans to increase the amount of carbon retained in soil, to help us meet the plans it signed up to at the Paris climate summit. The Government should also take tough action to tackle land use practices which degrade peat, such as the burning of blanket bogs.

The EAC Chair, Mary Creagh MP said:

“Soil degradation could mean that some of our most productive agricultural land becomes unprofitable within a generation. Every tonne of carbon we can retain in soil will help us meet our carbon budgets and slow climate change. The government wants to see all soils managed sustainably by 2030, but their current actions will not be enough to reach that goal.”

Agricultural soil

The Government relies on rules linked to farm subsidy payments to regulate agricultural soil health. But the MPs warn that these rules are too weak, too loosely enforced, and focus only on preventing further damage to soil rather than encouraging restoration and improvement.

Rules with greater scope, force and ambition are required in order to meet the Government’s stated goal to manage soils sustainably by 2030.

Monitoring soil health

Monitoring changes in soil health over time is key to developing effective policy. Defra’s current ad hoc approach to conducting surveys of soil health is inadequate. The Government should introduce a rolling national-scale monitoring scheme for soil health to ensure that we have adequate information about the state of the nation’s soil.