Switzerland

   

Environmental Policies

#2
Key Findings
With a historically clean industrial sector and a slow phase-out of nuclear energy underway, Switzerland falls into the top ranks internationally (rank 2) with regard to environmental policy. Its score on this measure is unchanged relative to its 2014 level.

Under an energy strategy passed in 2016, no new nuclear-power stations will be built, but existing stations may operate as long as they are deemed safe. The strategy aims to increase energy efficiency significantly, while developing water power and other renewables.

A more radical strategy that would have led to the near-term shutdown of existing nuclear-power plants was rejected in a popular referendum in 2017.

Additional strategies have recently focused on sustainability, biodiversity, climate change and forest management. Control of water pollution and waste management are particular strengths. Protection of biodiversity is a concern.

Environment

#3

How effectively does environmental policy protect and preserve the sustainability of natural resources and quality of the environment?

10
 9

Environmental policy effectively protects, preserves and enhances the sustainability of natural resources and quality of the environment.
 8
 7
 6


Environmental policy largely protects and preserves the sustainability of natural resources and quality of the environment.
 5
 4
 3


Environmental policy insufficiently protects and preserves the sustainability of natural resources and quality of the environment.
 2
 1

Environmental policy has largely failed to protect and preserve the sustainability of natural resources and quality of the environment.
Environmental Policy
9
In this area, the most remarkable developments in recent years have been made through the integration of environmental protection and sustainability issues into a wide range of areas that both directly and indirectly concern environmental policy per se. Following the OECD’s strategy of green growth, Switzerland has launched several studies aimed at reconciling the goals of sustainability and economic development. Furthermore, Switzerland has in recent years developed a number of cross-sectoral strategies focusing on issues including sustainability, biodiversity, climate-change adaptation and forest management. New guidelines for integrated water management were published in 2011, taking into consideration the use and protection of natural water sources.

In 2011, the federal government decided to phase out the use of nuclear power over the course of the next several decades. In 2016, the “Energy Strategy 2050” was adopted by parliament and won a majority in a popular vote in May 2017. It aims to significantly develop energy efficiency and exploit the potential of water power as well as other renewable energies (e.g., solar, wind, geothermal and biomass). There will be no permits for the construction of new nuclear power stations or any fundamental changes to existing nuclear power stations. However, existing nuclear power stations may stay in operation for as long as they are deemed safe. A more radical initiative was rejected in a popular vote on 27 November 2016. It would have led to the shutdown of existing nuclear power plants in the near future. Three out of the five nuclear power plants would have been closed down by 2017.

Switzerland invests considerable sums in the area of environmental protection. For example, there are about 8,000 jobs related to protection of the environment at the federal level (500), the cantons (1,500) and the municipalities (6,000) combined. Public spending on environmental protection totaled 2.5% of total public expenditure in 2012. A new article (Article 84.2) was added to the constitution in 1994, stating: “Transalpine freight in border-to-border transit shall be transported by rail. The federal government shall take the necessary measures. Exceptions shall be permitted only if they are inevitable. They shall be specified by statute.” This article has not yet been effectively implemented, but the country has made enormous investments in improved railway infrastructure, particularly with regard to transalpine freight.

In certain regards, the ecological challenges facing Swiss policymakers have been much less demanding than in other countries. Switzerland never developed significant smokestack industries, and industrialization took place as a decentralized process. Thus, Switzerland has no regions with large concentrations of industries with significant emissions. Nonetheless, the country’s record is mixed in terms of environmental policy overall, as demonstrated by the following factors:

• Switzerland is ranked very highly internationally in terms of controlling water pollution and has implemented significant environmental-protection measures as a part of its water-infrastructure planning.

• Air quality has improved over the past 25 years, but ozone and other threshold values are frequently exceeded, and legislation for more ambitious norms on CO2 reduction has suffered setbacks.

• Switzerland recently updated its national climate-change mitigation policy. A broad mix of voluntary, regulatory and market-based instruments are expected to produce a reduction in emissions through 2020.

• Considerable success has been achieved in the area of waste-management policy, especially with respect to hazardous waste. Furthermore, Switzerland’s recycling rate is one of the highest worldwide.

• Little progress has been made with respect to controlling noise pollution, as 25% to 30% of the population remains exposed to high levels of noise from road and rail traffic.

• Soil protection has improved.

• Average to high levels of success have been achieved in the area of chemical-management policy.

• Policies seeking to prevent the release of hazardous materials into the environment have been very successful.

• There has been little success in terms of nature conservation and protection. The number of animal and plant species that have become extinct or are at the risk of extinction continues to rise.

• In Europe, Switzerland has the lowest share of conservation areas for sustaining bio-diversity.


The 2015 national election led to a loss of power for the green-left parties in parliament, weakening those actors who most fervently have supported environmental protection. In recent referenda, voters have preferred excellent motorways, such as an additional tunnel in the Gotthard-region, over environmental preservation. A major challenge for environmental policies in Switzerland remains the adequate and bona fide implementation of federal rules by cantonal and municipal institutions.

Global Environmental Protection

#3

To what extent does the government actively contribute to the design and advancement of global environmental protection regimes?

10
 9

The government actively contributes to international efforts to design and advance global environmental protection regimes. In most cases, it demonstrates commitment to existing regimes, fosters their advancement and initiates appropriate reforms.
 8
 7
 6


The government contributes to international efforts to strengthen global environmental protection regimes. It demonstrates commitment to existing regimes and occasionally fosters their advancement or initiates appropriate reforms.
 5
 4
 3


The government demonstrates commitment to existing regimes, but neither fosters their advancement nor initiates appropriate reforms.
 2
 1

The government does not contribute to international efforts to strengthen global environmental protection regimes.
Global Environmental Policy
9
Global environmental policy is high among Switzerland’s foreign-policy priorities, and the country has played a significant role in designing and advancing global environmental-protection regimes. However, as a small country, Switzerland has limited independent influence. The European Union has taken a leading role in this area. Thus, Switzerland’s impact depends in large part upon efficient collaboration with the European Union.
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