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IEMA | New industry guidance for land and soils

New industry guidance for land and soils. Healthy soil is a critical part of our ecosystem.

Healthy soil is a critical part of our ecosystem. Soil can absorb and hold carbon and is an important stepping stone along the pathway to net zero, but is often overlooked.

Today, IEMA, the Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment, launches new industry guidance for land and soils, in which the report authors highlight the lack of soil specialists to advise on major development projects, not just in the UK but across numerous countries. This shortage of scientific specialists led in part to the publication of a ‘land and soils guidebook’ for EIA practitioners, to better assess and manage the effects of development on land and soils and to ensure sustainable outcomes from development projects.

The authors recommend a new approach to assessing the soil functions, ecosystem services and natural capital provided by land and soils, instead of simply quantifying and financially compensating impacts on agricultural land. IEMA’s guide highlights and reinforces the importance of soil functions and ecosystems services to wider systems, including but not limited to carbon and climate, hydrology, food production, biodiversity and ecology.

The protection of soils and soil health is rising up the political agenda, with the announcement in the Lords last year that a Soil Health Action Plan (SHAPE) for England will be published to restore the health of our soils. Lord Goldsmith confirmed that the proposal will be a crucial part of the UK Government’s plan to halt the decline of species by 2030, as well as meeting long-term legally binding targets on biodiversity.

The Government recognises that well managed soils can lead to increased biodiversity, improved water quality and reduced carbon emissions. The Government is expected to consult on a draft outline of SHAPE in due course.

It is in this context that IEMA are delighted to launch this latest Impact Assessment Guidance, ‘A New Perspective on Land and Soil in Environmental Impact Assessment’. The aims of the new guidance are ambitious, but also necessary and timely according to Impact Assessment Policy Lead, Dr Rufus Howard PEIA, CEnv, FIEMA:

“The importance of protecting land and soils cannot be overestimated. The vital contribution of soil functions, ecosystem services and natural capital provided by land and soils underpins the healthy functioning of our terrestrial ecosystems on which we all depend. I am delighted that IEMA has published the first EIA guidance on this topic to help strengthen the consideration of land and soils in the planning and consenting of development projects.”

Sarah Mukherjee MBE, CEO of IEMA said:

“I welcome this new guidance for our members working in planning and development. For too long, soil and land considerations have been dealt with inadequately in major infrastructure projects because of a lack of knowledge. I am pleased that our experts can help to rectify this and enhance soil health, which is a crucial part of our biodiversity and highlights the need for green skills training in this area.”

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