Swiss sustainability strategy released

Environment ministry sets out measures for long-term achievement of sustainable development

The Swiss environment ministry has launched a strategy on long-term sustainable development, targeting the environment, transport, energy and communications. Published earlier this month, the strategy is based on an April 1997 commitment by the government to incorporate sustainable development principles into policy making.

Described as a "management instrument," the document is designed to inform policy decisions at every level. It is also intended to inform the ministry's own decisions when balancing conflicting interests represented by business, the environment and the public.

The "absolute priority" for energy, according to the strategy, is to improve efficiency and increase the use of renewables while breaking the link between energy consumption and economic growth. From this year, it targets a cut in the consumption of fossil fuels and a stabilisation of electricity use. This would help the country meet its target for reducing carbon dioxide emissions 10% from 1990 levels by 2010.

Among other goals are a raft of air pollution reductions. From 1995, the strategy targets reductions in emissions of sulphur dioxide by 25%, fine particulates (PM10) by 50% and carcinogenic substances by as far as technically possible. The strategy also calls for methane emissions to be reduced by 20% and a commitment to only limited use of the ozone-depleting CFC substitutes HFCs and PFCs, both of which are greenhouse gases.

For public transport, the strategy includes plans to integrate systems so that journeys of less than four hours (for a business trip) and longer than eight hours (for leisure and overnight travel), should be transferred to the railways in the medium term. Also included in the strategy are energy tax measures due to be subjected to a public referendum in September (ENDS Daily 8 October 1999), and liberalisation of the electricity and gas markets.

Follow Up:
Swiss environment ministry, tel: +41 31 322 5511. See also the full report, which is clickable from the ministry's press release.

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