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Helsinki-Uusimaa Regional Council driving changes in Soil Monitoring Law

In summer 2023, the European Commission announced its proposal for a Soil Monitoring Law, which aims to improve the sustainable use of soil. The Helsinki-Uusimaa Regional Council supports the main objective but gave its own suggestions for alterations in November 2023. Our Council wishes for the special characteristics in land use and its planning to be taken into consideration in the preparation process.

In line with the earlier soil strategy, the approved directive aims at a good soil quality in the entire EU by 2050. The proposal focuses mainly on creating a framework for the following of the soil health development and assessment, but the article 11 also steers a reduction in land use.

The current view of the European Parliament regarding the land take is tighter than the one in the Commission’s proposal. The Parliament suggests that a so called net zero should be achieved for land take in the member states by 2050.

− This means that land should not be taken into use more than it is possible to restore as land producing ecosystem services. It can prevent taking un-built land into use, for instance to be used by housing or industry, and can therefore have a significant impact on the land use planning in Finland, Ms Ilona Mansikka, Manager of Regional Land Use Planning in Helsinki-Uusimaa, says.

Special characteristics in member states into consideration

The Helsinki-Uusimaa Regional Council is driving changes in both proposals given by the Commission and Parliament and is expressing a wish for the legislators to consider special characteristics in land use and its planning in the member states. Finland strives in its legislation to keep its land use reasonable. The land use procedures also steer current use to existing structures.

The development of sustainable cities and built-up areas is still proceeding and therefore it is in certain cases necessary to take land into use. The prerequisites in Finland for environmentally friendly ways of life are created by land use planning, for example by improving the urban structure, developing station areas and implementing green transition.

− We think the net zero target suggested by the Parliament for land use is unnecessary if the member states ensure that land take is done wisely and in a way that takes the different dimensions of sustainability into account, as we do in Finland. The directive should enable sustainable urban development and green transition projects in the future, Ms Mansikka sums up.

Our Council supports the main target of the soil directive, that is an improved soil health. However, realistic criteria are called for by 2050, and all over EU. Now the criteria are similar for built-up land and forests.

− There should be less stricter criteria for un-built land. It would encourage to actions to improve the status of built-up land, as reaching the targets would be possible – at least theoretically, as stated by Ms Mansikka.

Thoroughness in impact assessment and definitions

The Soil Monitoring Law has been prepared and furthered in a tight schedule and this can be seen especially as failings in the impact assessment and unclear definitions.

− A thoroughly made, comprehensive impact assessment utilising the special competence in land use is needed to get enough information, for instance about the effects and obligations, and their relation to land use plans with legal effects, Ms Mansikka says.

The starting level to which the reduced land use would be compared to, remains unclear with the wordings and definitions in the law proposal. Before the directive is taken further on, the combined effects of the proposal, among others the nature restoration law and taxonomy regulation, should be thoroughly assessed.

The Helsinki-Uusimaa Regional Council have sent its suggestions for proposal alterations – and especially those regarding Article 11 – to the Finnish Members of Parliament. They can then bring forward our Council’s message about the need for alternations as the negotiations proceed.

Our Council follows the situation regarding the discussions and if needed, we aim to make our impact in the future, as well. With the EU Parliament elections approaching, it is assumed that the law will be furthered according to a very quick schedule in the beginning of next year.

EU Soil Monitoring Law

  • The proposal for a Soil Monitoring Law by the European Commission was given in July 2023. It is based on an EU strategy to improve soil health.
  • The European Parliament and the European Council can present their own alterations to the proposal given by the Commission. The ENVI Committee at the Parliament published its own point of view of the directive in November 2023.
  • A plenary vote about the directive is planned to happen this winter, the trilogue discussions early in 2024 and a result is expected before the elections next spring.
  • It is vital to promote interests in this matter, as the directive is significantly impacting the land use of municipalities and regional councils. The Helsinki-Uusimaa Regional Council follows the development of the directive, shares information and is also an active interests’ promoter within the EU in 2024.

For more information, please contact:

Ilona Mansikka

Manager, Regional Planning

+358 40 524 9186

Development of regional land use planning, Helsinki-Uusimaa Regional Land Use Plan 2050. Areas of responsibility in regional land use planning: Espoo, Helsinki, Kaunainen, Vantaa. Stand-in for Director of Regional Land Use Planning, Ms Paula Autioniemi

Maria Sirviö

Adviser, Environment and Climate

+358 40 612 7909

Multiple-purpose forestry and carbon sequestration in connection with natural diversity and climate change