Nutrients – action plan for better management

Nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus are essential elements for life and an important natural resource. Human activities have significantly altered natural cycles of nutrients, which continue to be lost along the entire food chain, negatively impacting human health, the environment and the economy.

In Europe, surplus nitrogen and phosphorus in the environment is reportedly exceeding safe planetary boundaries. This represents a severe threat to nature and to the Earth’s climate. The overall environmental costs of all nutrient pollution in Europe are estimated at €70– €320 billion per year.

Long-standing EU legislation has sought to tackle nutrient pollution in water, air and industrial emissions. However, harmful pollution levels for human health and the environment still exist due notably to shortcomings in specific legislation and to significant issues in implementing the legislation. It may also be due to the lack of an integrated approach on nutrient pollution encompassing air, water, soil and climate.

The European Commission has therefore launched a public consultation on an Integrated Nutrient Management Action Plan. This is an opportunity to consider nutrient cycles globally and provide a holistic and sustainable approach to nutrient management.

The initiative will develop a framework for action needed at all levels (EU, national, regional) in order to achieve the objectives set in the EU Biodiversity Strategy and Farm to Fork Strategy. It is also aimed at achieving the European Green Deal‘s 2030 target of reducing nutrient losses by 50%, which will entail reducing the use of fertilisers by at least 20%.

The Plan will look at the entire nitrogen and phosphorus cycles. It will cover all environmental media (air, water, marine and soil) and all relevant sources of pollution (e.g. agriculture, industry, urban, waste, energy, transport). It will identify policy gaps for a more coherent and integrated approach to reducing pollution throughout the nutrient cycles.

This public consultation will help the Commission draw on the experience of farmers, industries, civil society organisations, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and citizens how to identify the main drivers of nutrient pollution and ways to address it as well as stimulate markets for recovered nutrients.

All relevant stakeholders, are invited to partake in this online consultation and provide their input by August 26, 2022.