The European Commission has published its Zero Pollution Action Plan, part of the Green Deal, including proposed actions on nutrient loss reduction, nutrient recycling, sewage reuse, ammonia emissions as well as putting a price to pollution, actioning the polluter-pays principle and incentives for alternatives. The Plan is presented as a ”compass for including pollution prevention in all relevant EU policies”. The Zero Pollution Hierarchy is emphasised: 1) prevent pollution by clean-by-design production and the circular economy, 2) minimise releases and exposure, 3) eliminate and remediate. An emphasis is placed on stricter implementation and enforcement.
The Zero Pollution Targets for 2030 include reducing nutrient losses by 50% (specifying as compared to 2012-2015), as already set in both the Farm-to-Fork and Biodiversity Strategies (see SCOPE Newsletter n°131).
The Plan states that this will be achieved by “implementing and enforcing the relevant environmental and climate legislation in full, identifying with Member States the nutrient load reductions needed to achieve these goals, applying balanced fertilisation and sustainable nutrient management, stimulating the markets for recovered nutrients and by managing nitrogen and phosphorus better throughout their lifecycle”. It will be promoted by the Mission ‘ Soil Health and Food’, and the agricultural European Innovation Partnership (EIP AGRI). The Mission ‘Healthy oceans, seas, coastal and inland waters’ will also address nutrients.
In order to make livestock farming more sustainable, the Commission will “facilitate the placing on the market of alternative feed materials and innovative feed additives”.
The need to further reduce ammonia emissions will be assessed, in particular from intensive livestock, possibly by actions under the Common Agricultural Policy or by “making manure handling blinding”
The already engaged reviews of the Urban Waste Water Treatment and Sewage Sludge Directives will “increase the ambition level to remove nutrients from wastewater and make treated water and sludge ready for reuse, supporting more circular, less polluting farming. It will also address emerging pollutants such as microplastics and micropollutants, including pharmaceuticals”.
The announced Integrated Nutrient Management Action Plan (consultation expected later in 2021 see www.phosphorusplatform.eu/regulatory) will maximise synergies between policies and use “the green architecture of the new common agricultural policy, especially via conditionality and eco-schemes”.
The annexed list of actions includes, for 2023, to “Compile and make accessible in a digital format all main obligations on nutrient management stemming from EU law to limit the environmental footprint of farming activities”.
European Commission “Pathway to a Healthy Planet for All. EU Action Plan: 'Towards Zero Pollution for Air, Water and Soil”, SWD(2021)140 - SWD(2021)141, 12th May 2021 https://ec.europa.eu/environment/strategy/zero-pollution-action-plan_fr