Soil is life-giving and critical for the survival of all living organisms on Earth. It is responsible for growing our food, gathering resources, storing nutrients, filtering our water, and preventing floods, among others. For this reason, Europe needs to be proactive in keeping our soils healthy and productive.
The Horizon Europe programme is leading this transition to better soil health in the EU with a dedicated EU Mission to provide solutions to this challenge by 2030.
Horizon Europe Missions
The Horizon Europe Missions represent Europe’s greatest challenges needing immediate response. They are a novelty of the Horizon Europe programme for the years 2021-2027, and they are very ambitious.
Essentially, the EU missions are a top priority of European research and innovation. For their effectiveness, the EU is pooling the necessary EU funds, in combination with creating new governance forms and collaborations, and through citizen engagement.
The 5 recognized EU Missions are the following:
- Adaptation to Climate Change
- Restore our Ocean and Waters
- 100 Climate-Neutral and Smart Cities
- A Soil Deal for Europe
The Soil Deal for Europe Mission
A Soil Deal for Europe mission aims to establish 100 living labs and lighthouses through the Horizon Europe programme to improve soil health by 2030. Healthy soils are critical to our food systems, water, biodiversity, and climate resilience. At the same time, our prosperity levels depend on various resources extracted from the soil.
Unfortunately, there is bad news for Europe as about 60-70% of EU soil is considered unhealthy. Soil formation takes hundreds of years to form, while a single rainstorm can easily wipe it out. For this reason, good soil health preservation is of utmost importance for Europe.
8 Mission objectives for soil health
The mission objectives for soil health as it has been described in the Horizon Europe strategic plan seek to:
- reduce desertification
- conserve soil organic carbon stocks
- stop soil sealing and increase re-use of urban soils
- reduce soil pollution and enhance restoration
- prevent erosion
- improve soil structure to enhance soil biodiversity
- reduce the EU global footprint on soils
- improve soil literacy in society
The EU Green Deal
The EU Green Deal is the overarching European priority to transition to a greener future based on sustainability practices. The core aim of the Green Deal is to make the EU the first climate-neutral continent in the world by 2050. However, the road to climate neutrality will not be an easy ride triggering many societal changes along the way. For this reason, for a smoother transition, the EU has set secondary climate targets to reduce emissions by at least 55% by 2030 as a first step.
Soil health is also one of the strategic priorities of the EU Green Deal, for which nature plays a crucial role in the fight against climate change. That is why it seeks to restore nature and enable biodiversity to thrive again as a solution to carbon storage and absorption. For this reason, the commission aims to restore European forests, soils, wetlands, and peatlands.
Soil health is critical not just for the world’s survival but also to transform the future with sustainability. From what it seems, Europe has understood the importance of healthy soils, which can be seen from the initiatives and priorities that it has set. Most importantly, one of the main drivers of change is the dedicated EU Mission for soil health from Horizon Europe for the short term and the EU Green Deal for the long term.
Find all the available calls for soil health on the EUcalls platform.