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Über dieses Buch

The first volume of the International Yearbook of Soil Law and Policy includes an important discussion on the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals that are the basis for the post-2015 development agenda up to the year 2030; the Yearbook focuses in particular on Goal 15, which includes achieving a “land degradation-neutral world.” It also provides a comprehensive and highly informative overview of the latest developments at the international level, important cross-disciplinary issues and different approaches in national legislation.

The book is divided into four sections. Forewords by internationally renowned academics and politicians are followed by an analysis of the content and structure of the Sustainable Development Goals with regard to soil and land as well as the scientific methods for their implementation. In addition, all relevant international regimes are discussed, including the latest developments, such as the decisions made at the 12th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. The next section deals with cross-disciplinary issues relevant to the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals like the right to food, land tenure, migration and the “Economics of Land Degradation” initiative. The last section gathers reports on the development of national legislation from various nations and supra-national entities, including Brazil, China, the European Union, Mongolia, Namibia and the United States. Addressing this broad range of key topics, the book offers an indispensible tool for all academics, legislators and policymakers working in this field.

The “International Yearbook of Soil Law and Policy” is a book series that discusses the central questions of law and politics with regard to the protection and sustainable management of soil and land – at the international, national and regional level.



Words of Welcome from All Continents


Greeting to the Launch of the Yearbook from an African Perspective

The focus of this paper is to serve as a greeting message for the launch of the International Yearbook of Soil Law and Policy which has the overarching context of sustainable development goals focusing in particular on the goal of a “land degradation neutral world”. The paper focuses to a large extent on Africa, her soils and her people and relating that to the impact of people on the soils with relevance globally. It is hoped that the perspective from Africa will be relevant to the perspectives from other continents, acknowledging the fact that the challenges facing Africa and her soils are similar to those being experienced on the other continents, particularly those with developing countries. The paper concludes with a few recommendations for a shift from business as usual by calling for instance for an African Protocol/Convention on Soil, the involvement of local community and the private sector as necessary pre-conditions amongst others if soils in Africa are to be used as a mechanism to unlock “neutrality”.
Sem T. Shikongo

Audit of Soil Governance

The world is awakening to the need to take better care of its natural and finite resources, such as soil, which is fundamental to the life of every living being and deserves special treatment.
Aroldo Cedraz de Oliveira

Soils Need International Governance: A European Perspective for the First Volume of the International Yearbook of Soil Law and Policy

It all started in December 2014 in Berlin at an international workshop organized by the German Environment Agency. A small group of about 25 legal experts from all parts of the world recognized that a platform for discussions on soil governance issues was urgently needed. After further deliberations amongst experts and a lot of preparatory and editorial work we now see the final product: The first volume of the new International Yearbook of Soil Law and Policy, published by Springer, is accessible from a large number of libraries across the world. The German Environment Agency, where I had the honor of being President from 2009 to 2013, has put a great deal of effort into this project. Reason enough to send this message of greeting. Furthermore all the time and personnel required to make this Yearbook happen deserve this to be framed in a wider political context, taking a specific European perspective into account.
Jochen Flasbarth

North American Soils and World Food

It has often been said that the ‘discovery’ and opening up of the New World rescued Europe from early decline. The most obvious basis for this claim is the renewed abundance of resources ranging from gold, silver and other minerals, to timber and guano (natural fertilizer) essential for the growth and maintenance of civilization.
William E. Rees

Soils Governance, an Australian Perspective

It is wonderful to be welcoming the first International Yearbook of Soil Law and Policy with this chapter, which looks at soils governance from the perspective of the people who live in Australia. In this chapter I highlight some aspects of the public policy challenge of soils governance in our country, with an emphasis on systemic issues.
Paul Martin

Striving for Land-Soil Sustainability: Some Legal Reflections

Humankind is facing one of the biggest tests for striking a proper balance between developmental needs and environmental imperatives. However, ironically, much of the development in the world today is not sustainable. Many of our economic, monetary and trade policies in sectors such as energy, agriculture, forestry and human settlements tend to induce and reinforce non-sustainable development patterns and practices. Apart from irreversible squandering of our biological capital, we are confronting a growing problem of environmental refugees-people who are forced to abandon their traditional habitat as the land cannot sustain them. In fact, the human quest to conquer nature through science and technology has brought us on to the present brink.
Bharat H. Desai, Balraj K. Sidhu

Recent Developments of Soil Regulation at International Level


International Soil Protection Law: History, Concepts and Latest Developments

This chapter sets out a short history of the development of soil protection law, focusing on the international legal aspects. It introduces the notion that soil, as a non-renewable natural resource, performs a range of functions, in terms of biodiversity conservation, food security and health. It argues that soil degradation needs to be treated on the same level as the loss of biodiversity and the adverse effects of climate change. It also urges that soil should be regarded as a common concern of humankind, and that over-arching international, regional and national regulation is required. It explores recent developments relevant to soil, including those found in the Outcome Document of the Rio de Janeiro 2012 Conference on Environment and Development ‘The Future We Want’, as well as the Sustainable Development Goals and Targets that were approved by the UN General Assembly in September 2015.
Ben W. Boer, Harald Ginzky, Irene L. Heuser

Chances and Challenges in Using the Sustainable Development Goals as a New Instrument for Global Action Against Soil Degradation

The Sustainable Development Goals represent a set of globally agreed priorities on how the world should develop economically, environmentally and socially within the next 15 years. They do contain targets dealing with soil and land degradation. Eminently important is the phrasing “strive to achieve a land degradation neutral world”. Next to direct references on land and soil in the SDGs, soils do play a crucial role in achieving further SDGs that do not directly mention land and soil issues. Thus, implementation of the soil related SDGs can only be successful if they are understood as interconnected elements of a systems approach which demands a high standards of policy coherence. Soils are multifunctional and provide a range of private, common and public goods at local national and global levels. This poses a challenge as the variety of subjective interests leads to a multitude of views on land and soil degradation issues. A more precise definition of what is to be protected by the soil related SDGs thus has to be developed. Accordingly, developing soil and land related indicators is a crucial step to improve the common understanding of the soil related SDGs. So far the negotiations on SDGs indicators at UN level, however, have not been able to come up with sufficiently clear indicators. For ongoing activities priority should be set on indicators with a cross-cutting character which are apt to integrate the various soil derived ecosystems services and that take into consideration both, local and global concerns. The implementation of the soil related SDGs should furthermore include a special obligation of those countries which are highly dependent on extraterritorial soil use in order to meet their domestic demands.
Knut Ehlers

Land Degradation Neutrality and the UNCCD: From Political Vision to Measurable Targets

Efforts to establish Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) as a global objective in the fight against land degradation culminated in 2015 when LDN became part of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) (target 15.3). Following swiftly, the twelfth session Conference of the Parties (COP 12) to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) decided to integrate LDN into the Convention process and invited countries to set themselves national voluntary targets to achieve LDN. This recognition of LDN at the political stage created the need to further operationalize the concept of LDN and transform it into an implementable approach that helps countries to make progress towards reaching the SDGs and the objectives of the UNCCD. Given that LDN is essentially a “not net loss” approach it requires the quantification of land degradation. As such, a particular challenge lies in identifying and measuring appropriate indicators that allow for monitoring changes and tracking progress.
Against this background, the aim of this article is both to describe the integration of LDN in the UNCCD process and explain how and with which indicators LDN might be monitored. To start with, Sect. 1 illustrates how LDN was established as a political goal and provides an overview of the most important decisions of COP 12 in this regard. Then, Sect. 2 describes the meaning of LDN and presents the basic elements of the LDN conceptual framework that is currently being developed by the UNCCD Science-Policy Interface (SPI). Subsequently, Sect. 3 explores how LDN can be measured, monitored and reported. It starts by giving an overview of the SDG indicator framework and then discusses opportunities and challenges of monitoring LDN. Following sub-sections present the approved indicator for reporting on LDN, the currently discussed sub-indicators and how they are embedded in a broader monitoring approach. Eventually, Sect. 4 provides some preliminary conclusions on the on-going process of transforming the political vision of LDN into measurable targets.
Sara Minelli, Alexander Erlewein, Victor Castillo

The Role of Soils in International Climate Change Policy

Soils have received comparatively little attention in international climate policy. This disregard does not reflect their relevance as a source of emissions and the necessity to take actions to adapt to climate change to ensure food security. Croplands and pastures are the largest sources of global CH4 and N2O, in particular through rice fields, peatland draining and fertilizer application. They are also the planet’s largest storage of carbon after oceans. Nevertheless, challenges related to measuring the climate impact of soil management, concerns about trade implications of agricultural mitigation, and difficulties deploying finance to create climate resilient landscape have long delayed important climate action. The recently adopted Paris Agreement holds the potential for renewed impetus into actions that help landscapes to adapt to climate change while reducing emissions, such as agroforestry, conservation agriculture, pasture and landscape management. The objective of this article is to provide an overview of the consideration of soils in the context of international climate change policy and to discuss how soil protection could be strengthened building on the Paris Agreement as a positive momentum for climate action.
Charlotte Streck, Agustina Gay

The UN Convention on Biological Diversity and Soils: Status and Future Options

How does the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) presently addresses the topic of soils? And what are potential ways of strengthening the integration of soils in the CBD agenda in the future?
The paper at hand reviews these questions. Firstly, we give a brief overview of the international governance of soil sustainability to date, locating the role of the CBD in this context. Secondly, we elaborate on how the CBD addresses soil (biodiversity) issues—e.g., in its Strategic Plan and Aichi Targets, through principles for the sustainable use of biodiversity, the CBD’s Ecosystem Approach as well as the International Soil Biodiversity Initiative. In the discussion, we highlight the value and shortcomings of the soil topic under the CBD. We also develop options for strengthening sustainable soil management both within and through the CBD. We conclude that the CBD can indeed contribute to the political promotion of sustainable soil use but that there are presently few incentives for CBD parties to push the process forward. Also, to be effective, the CBD is dependent on meaningful progress in international politics on the broader topic of sustainable land use.
Franziska Wolff, Timo Kaphengst

The Alpine Convention’s Soil Conservation Protocol: A Model Regime?

This article considers the only binding international convention currently in existence to deal directly with soil conservation: The Alpine Convention Soil Conservation Protocol (SoilProt). In addition to details of the Convention’s socio-economic, ecological and political background, an outline of its structure and content is provided. Furthermore, this article aims to highlight where the added value in terms of soil conservation of the international regulatory approach lies vis-à-vis national conservation efforts. It also examines the extent to which the Protocol could be an expedient model regime for similar problems in other regions. In so doing, this article hopes to make a contribution to the debate on the significance of international soil conservation as well as the quest for the right legal means to realise a land degradation neutral world, as required by the 2015 United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Till Markus

Are Soils Taken into Consideration by the IPBES Assessment on Land Degradation and Restoration?

The Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) is expected to publish an assessment on Land Degradation and Restoration in 2018. Human sciences are represented in this pioneer process, including the law. As soil is a fundamental element of land, we found interesting to demonstrate to what extent soils will be taken into account, and what could be the consequences on soil protection. This article then focuses on the needs to fill knowledge gaps on soils and on the initiatives that already exist. The integration of indigenous and local knowledge in the IPBES assessment will also bring new perspectives for the definition of indicators for soils. Eventually, the IPBES assessment could contribute to a better collaboration between institutions and international conventions, such as the Convention and Biodiversity and the Convention to combat desertification.
Maylis Desrousseaux, Janne S. Kotiaho, Florent Kohler

Cross-Cutting Topics


Soil Degradation and Migrations in the Age of the Global Environmental Crisis: A Policy-Making Perspective

There is a gap between science and policy in assessing the impact of soil degradation on migrations: policy is concluding that there is a cause-to-effect connection, already propelling massive population movements; and that action has to be taken now, even though its analysis is not yet confirmed with quantitative rigor. In the policy perspective, soil acquires a special status as an aggregator of ecosystem services that needs to be protected to prevent socio-economic and political instability which, in turn, are push factors for migrations: a set of relevant interactions between the state of soil, societal cohesion, and migration has been identified, centered on ecosystem services failures. Conversely, soil appears as a “practical object of intervention” because, more than other environmental variables, lands are concrete, localized, and understood as a fundamental value by human communities. Protecting them is likely to start comprehensive cycles of environmental and socio-economic rebalancing, with the potential of moderating population displacements. Land proper management and recovery could cost-effectively produce carbon sinks, hydric balance, biodiversity protection, food security, societal cohesion, gender benefits and more: a trans-sector approach to achieving the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.
Grammenos Mastrojeni

FAO: Voluntary Guidelines on Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Forests and Fisheries—Relevance, Reception and First Experiences in Implementation

The “Voluntary Guidelines for Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Forests and Fisheries in the Context of National Food Security” (VGGT) are a new international legal instrument, which was adopted unanimously in 2012 in the United Nations Committee on World Food Security (CFS). The document is a soft law instrument that does not create new legally binding obligations to states or responsibilities for private actors, but applies existing standards for governance, particularly including human rights standards, to the management of land. The following article describes in the first part the new instruments and its relevance to all actors involved in land governance issues. In the second part the article describes which implementation activities and follow-up actions have been taken by the different stakeholders since its adoption in 2012.
Michael Windfuhr

Evaluating the Role of Private Land Tenure Rights in Sustainable Land Management for Agriculture in Kenya

Kenya continues to face a challenge of declining quality of land, in a situation where agriculture is a major contributor to the national Gross Domestic Product (GDP), and to rural livelihoods. Land is a complex resource composed primarily of soil, water and biodiversity. Thus the management of such a complex resource sustainably is a challenge for a country like Kenya. International law and policy is useful in providing principles on land stewardship, which can be adapted nationally, through law, policy or development plans. These include international approaches include the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), adopted in 2015, and the Rio + 20 Outcome document. These provide normative support for national law and policy tools, to provide solutions that govern prevention and reversal of land degradation. Importantly, the purpose of land tenure rights is critical, as they provide a direct entitlement to land owners to make choices on how they utilize land. As such these can be enhanced with sustainability obligations, and can complement the role played by land use legal provisions, such as agriculture laws. This paper makes the argument that tenure rights can provide a supplemental incentive for the legal system to require stewardship practices by land owners.
Robert Kibugi

The Human Right to Food and Sustainable Soil Management: Linking Voluntary Agricultural Sustainability Standards with Food Security

Land degradation and deforestation worldwide threaten future food and non-food biomass provision. Induced mainly by unsustainable land use and management practices, land degradation may hinder the global shift towards green or bio-economies which requires increasing supplies of biomass. As a strong linkage exists between soil management, biomass production and food security, the need for sustainable land management practices and suitable governance mechanisms emerges. Rising concerns about sustainability have led to the development of voluntary certification standards to ensure that biomass is sustainably produced. So far, these voluntary standards have a strong ecological focus and include only selected social aspects. Food security and the linkage between the Human Right to adequate Food and soil management are hardly addressed though they are a key element of the “2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development” and important for (export) production and processing in low- and middle-income countries. The Sustainable Development Goal 2—to end all forms of hunger by 2030—clearly includes sustainable soil management and agriculture. The unification of these two targets in one goal underlines the dependency of the realization of the Human Right to adequate Food on sustainable land management and land-use patterns.
In this chapter we first discuss how the Human Right to adequate Food, which is applicable in over 100 countries, is linked to sustainable management of soils and the implications of this linkage. Then we show how the Human Right to adequate Food can be ensured in local biomass production and in certification systems in food-insecure regions. We present a conceptual framework to integrate the Human Right to adequate Food in certified biomass production, processing and trade. Then we suggest food security criteria that ensure that this right is not violated by certified biomass operators, and can be easily integrated in existing voluntary sustainability standards for biomass. We develop 45 criteria classified in 17 themes relevant for the fulfilment of the Human Right to adequate Food. The criteria are applicable to all biomass types and uses and serve as a best-practice set to complement sustainability standards.
Tina Beuchelt, Anna Mohr, Rafaël Schneider

Economics of Land Degradation: Achievements and Next Steps

Land degradation and desertification do not only threaten food security and human wellbeing globally but also represent a serious concern for prosperous development. The Economics of Land Degradation Initiative therefore has developed an approach to assess and include the foregone value from losses of natural resources and benefits from more sustainable land management in decision making. Based on the Initiative’s work with multiple stakeholders, this chapter outlines a comprehensive approach to value land related ecosystem services and tools to integrate such values in decision making processes.
Hannes Etter, Tobias Gerhartsreiter, Naomi Stewart

National and Regional Soil Legislation


National Developments in Soil Protection in Mongolia

Mongolia has taken legislative and strategic steps to improve the management of its soil resources. The soils of Mongolia are highly vulnerable to the effects of climate change and anthropogenic impact. Today over half the population lives in urban areas but there is increasing pressure on the soil resources of both urban and rural areas. In 2012 Mongolia introduced the Law for Soil Protection and Prevention of Desertification. This Law along with a number of related laws provides the legal framework to protect Mongolia’s soil resources. It is argued that the introduction of a Pastureland Law is also required to achieve sustainable management of the vast pastoral land resource of Mongolia, which occupies 70 % of the country. Together, these laws provide part of the platform needed by Mongolia to help satisfy Goals 13 and 15 of the Sustainable Development Goals agreed by the countries at the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit in 2015.
Ian Hannam

The Protection of Soil Under Namibian Law

Namibia, one of the driest countries in sub-Saharan Africa, has a generally low vegetation cover and soil degradation is one of the major environmental challenges facing the country. A sound legal and policy framework is essential to preserve and stabilise fragile soils, protect biological diversity and to ensure that socio-economic value of the soil are maintained for the benefit of the people living in Namibia, especially those in rural areas, most of them directly dependent on the soil. This article provides an overview of Namibia’s varied legal and policy framework pertinent to soil protection, which spans various sectors and institutions.
Oliver C. Ruppel, Anielle von Finckenstein

Brazilian Federal Court of Accounts (TCU), Department of Agriculture and Environmental Audit: Soil Governance Audit

This paper examines the conclusions of the performance audit carried out by the Brazilian Federal Court of Accounts (TCU) for assessing non-urban soil governance in Brazil. This TCU study assessed the current situation of public policies dealing with land use and occupation and soil sustainability in Brazil, especially with respect to the institutionalisation of standards for treating soil and the integration, coordination and monitoring of public policies. Soil is a natural resource of extreme importance for the development of agriculture and the economy in Brazil and its degradation results in losses to both society and small farmers. Around 16 % of the soil in Brazil is suffering from some form of degradation, and no comprehensive public policy is available for addressing this issue. This paper describes some of the situations prevailing in Brazil that were found during the audit as a consequence of the failure to apply basic principles of governance in soil-related public policies.
Vinícius Neves dos Santos, Tiago Modesto Carneiro da Costa, Junnius Marques Arifa

Legislative Progress on Soil Contamination Prevention and Control in China

At present, China is plagued by serious soil contamination. Specific legislation to deal with the problem is soon to be promulgated. Although much progress has been made on legislation for contamination prevention and control, there are still many gaps in the legal framework, including a standardized system for supervision and management, soil environment investigation, pollution monitoring, risk assessment, and restoration and control. There are still many disagreements over some of these matters. This article argues that legislators should recognize and attach importance to these matters and disagreements and enact modern legislation that takes the most recent international developments and thinking into account.
Tianbao Qin, Fang Dong

The Protection of Soil: Does the European Union Live Up to Its Own Ambitions?

The European Union boasts a rather comprehensive set of environmental protection rules. However, despite various soil degradation issues in Europe, the environmental acquis does not contain a dedicated legal act on soil protection. The Commission in 2006 published a proposal for a Soil Framework Directive to close this gap, but finally withdrew this proposal in 2014 in the face of a political impasse due to lasting objections of some Member States. In this article, the authors show that, on the one hand, there are quite a few provisions in the current European environmental protection legislation that partially contribute to soil protection. On the other hand, these rules are either not ambitious (e.g. in the environmental aspects of the Common Agricultural Policy and in product standard rules), or cover only certain sectors or activities (e.g. in the industrial emissions or waste management legislation). The failed proposal for a Soil Framework Directive could have provided for a harmonization of standards for the assessment of soil degradation. It envisaged a comprehensive diagnosis of soil degradation and of contaminated sites at Member State level and to set a timetable for appropriate responses. Today, the idea of a common approach to preserve Europe’s soil resources is taken forward on the background of the EU’s 7th Environmental Action Programme and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Markus Raffelsiefen, Thomas Strassburger

United States Soil Degradation

The United States has not directly addressed soil degradation through legislation or litigation in some time. However, three recent developments impact the regulation of soil degradation in the United States, and may impact soil degradation in novel and dramatic ways. This chapter first reviews the structure of the United States governance and regulation, emphasizing soil degradation. The chapter then discusses the three recent impacts on soil degradation. The 2014 Farm Bill builds upon and changes earlier farm bills. Conservation compliance continues under the new Farm Bill, but conservation programs have been consolidated and funding to conservation programs has been cut. Other provisions that may impact soil degradation include biofuels, specialty crops and organic production. The controversy and confusion over the jurisdiction of the federal government over “waters of the United States” continues. The federal agencies adopted a new definition of the term that purportedly “clarifies” the issue, but other stakeholders assert that the rule expands federal jurisdiction. Several lawsuits seek resolution of the dispute, which likely will not occur in the near future. Finally, a lawsuit in Iowa over discharge of pollutants from farmland could dramatically alter regulation of water quality in the United States. Along with water quality, soil quality will be impacted.
Jesse J. Richardson, Elizabeth Dooley
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