Swiss give push to environmental integration

Major air quality report shows goals unattainable without changing energy, transport, agriculture

Environmental concerns will take a greater role in the formulation of sectoral policies over the next four years, the Swiss government has declared. The statement is the first explicit government commitment to greater environmental integration, according to national environment agency officials, and comes in a major report on air quality which concludes that emission reduction goals cannot be met without greater efforts to green transport and other sectors.

A press release accompanying the report says the government has decided that "from now on, decisions relevant to energy, agricultural, financial and transport policy will take greater account of environmental interests." In particular, it says, economic instruments to benefit the environment should be "considerably reinforced".

Currently, the document says, there are few financial incentives in place to encourage more environmentally friendly behaviour. In the transport sector, for example, there are "no economic reasons encouraging individuals to restrict their mobility and energy consumption." The alternative of imposing the lowest reasonable limit values for nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions in exhaust fumes, will not be enough to reach air quality goals, it says.

Among measures suggested for debate when a new parliament is elected later this year are distance-based taxes for road and air travel. But the report warns that a change to the constitution would be necessary to introduce such schemes. The government has already taken steps promote rail rather than road travel for trans-Alpine freight traffic. Other suggested measures include taxes on nitrogenous fertilisers to reduce ammonia emissions and land-use planning instruments to "avoid the tendency to separate residential, working and leisure areas."

The report, approved by the parliament and published on Tuesday, is the most detailed survey on the state of the Swiss atmosphere for over a decade. Although it stresses the need for further actions, it claims that measures introduced so far to combat air pollution have been "crowned with success".

The most impressive results, according to Richard Ballaman of the Swiss environment agency, are a 70% reduction in sulphur dioxide emissions since the mid-1980s due in part to taxes on heating fuels, a 25% reduction in nitrogen oxide emissions and a 35% fall in emissions of volatile organic compounds.

However, the report indicates that levels of the latter two pollutants need to be reduced by at least a further 60%, to ease a serious ground-level ozone problem, while levels of fine particles (PM10) exceed standards over almost the entire country and need to be reduced by half.

Follow Up:
Swiss environment agency, tel: +41 31 322 9311.

Please sign in to access this article. To subscribe, view our subscription options, or take out a free trial.

Please enter your details

Forgotten password?

Having trouble signing in?

Contact Customer Support at
or call 020 8267 8120

Not a subscriber?

Take a free trial now to discover the critical insights and updates our coverage offers subscribers.