04.12.2019 – Despite considerable progress, Europe continues to face great environmental challenges. This is the conclusion reached in the new Environment Report from the European Environment Agency (EEA). Compared with its neighbouring countries, Switzerland received mixed scores depending on the environmental sector concerned.
Switzerland has been a full member of the European Environment Agency (EEA) and the European Environment Information and Observation Network (Eionet) since 2006. The EEA compiles and analyses data on the state of the environment in Europe. It ensures that the data meets common criteria and is therefore comparable.
Every five years the EEA publishes a report on the state of the environment in Europe (The Environment in Europe – State and Outlook, SOER). The report also describes the upcoming challenges in European environmental and climate policy.
The SOER Report 2020 evaluates data from 39 countries in relation to important environmental issues such as climate, biodiversity, air, water and soil. Pollution due to human activity is also recorded, by sectors such as energy use, mobility, housing, production, agriculture and consumption.
EEA Director Hans Bruyninckx emphasises the urgency: “We are facing urgent challenges in relation to sustainability which demand resolute systemic solutions. This is the unequivocal message to political decision makers in Europe and worldwide.”
The overriding challenge for the coming decades is to achieve global development that aligns social, economic and environmental aspects. Europe is facing sustained problems such as loss of biodiversity, resource use, the effects of climate change and the environmental risks to health and well-being.
Environmental trends are analysed alongside the current situation. Transnational comparisons indicate among other things how Switzerland is performing compared with other countries.
Variable performance of Switzerland:
Overall, Switzerland’s environmental pollution has fallen in the last 20 years. Switzerland is characterised by high resource productivity, which means low consumption of national resources relative to a high gross domestic product. Switzerland’s greenhouse gas emissions per head are among the lowest in Europe.
Legal requirements and technological advances in the country have ensured cleaner air and water. Most of the forests are now healthy. The number of contaminated sites continues to fall thanks to comprehensive remediation measures. Switzerland has also succeeded in separating energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions from economic growth (see Environment Switzerland 2018).
Despite this progress, natural resources continue to be under pressure. Switzerland’s worst result is obtained on biodiversity: It has the lowest proportion of protected areas as a percentage of land area of any European country. Plant protection products in soil and water are also causing loss of biodiversity. Switzerland also generates high levels of municipal waste. Its consumption and production behaviours mean the country is more than three times above the environmentally compatible level. Three quarters of Switzerland’s total environmental pollution is now generated in foreign countries and affects their climate, biodiversity and the availability of water. This pollution has a harmful effect on the health and well-being of the local populations and their natural habitats and on species diversity.
FOEN Director Marc Chardonnens is clear: “The focus now has to be on extending, expediting and implementing the many solutions and innovations that already exist. At the same time, there is a need for further research and development on environmental issues and we need to adapt our consumption and production patterns. Citizens need to feel that they are involved and being listened to if they are to support this transformation.”
The EEA compiles and analyses data on the state of the environment in the 33 Member States (EU 28, EFTA 4 plus Turkey) and the 6 Western Balkan countries which cooperate with the EEA.
Although Switzerland only has an advisory vote on the EEA Management Board, it can use the information collected by the EEA and its knowhow, and the data relevant to it appears in the Agency’s publications.
However, Switzerland has made no commitment to adopt material rules on environmental policy or to harmonise its regulations on this subject.
Last modification 04.12.2019