Global soil protection – What law protects effectively?

asphaltic street and paved footway, in the background new housesClick to enlarge
Fertile soils are being lost across the world, e.g. through sealing, building or overuse.
Source: ThomBal / Fotolia.com

Fertile soils are essential for life. Their preservation is set to become one of the United Nations’ global sustainability goals, under the heading “land degradation neutral world”. A legal study commissioned by UBA looked into how this goal could be implemented at international level.

The study scrutinised the legislation of three countries (Germany, USA and Brazil) for legal instruments that would be suitable for implementing this goal and could also be adopted at international level. It found that many suitable instruments are already in place at national level, which could be turned into international obligations. Examples from German law include the requirement to obtain a permit for activities posing a potential threat to soil, such as the establishment and operation of industrial installations, or to have soil interventions offset through compensatory and substitute remediation measures when drawing up development plans. However, all legal systems analysed lack planning instruments that ensure an even balance between future degradation and compensation.