Biodiversity policy

Rich biodiversity and its ecosystem services benefit not only society, but also the economy. This is why the Federal Constitution obliges the Confederation and the cantons to work together to safeguard the natural foundations of life for the long-term. The FOEN supports the Confederation in implementing a coherent biodiversity policy and in continuing to develop it further.

Rich biodiversity is not a luxury, but is the basis of all life – including for human beings. By acceding to the international Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) back in 1992, Switzerland committed itself to the long-term conservation and promotion of biodiversity. At national level, the Swiss Biodiversity Strategy (2012) defines the Federal Council's biodiversity goals. These are:

  • Biodiversity is rich and responsive to change
  • Biodiversity and its ecosystem services are to be preserved for the long term

Swiss Biodiversity Strategy Action Plan

The Swiss Biodiversity Strategy Action Plan (2017) supports the implementation of the strategy with pilot projects, immediate measures and synergy measures. The updated Swiss Landscape Concept (2020) specifies for the authorities the goals concerning spatial planning.

The Federal Council's strategy on adapting to climate change also gives due consideration to the effects of the changing climate on biodiversity by outlining measures across various sectors.

Legal basis

The Federal Constitution stipulates that Switzerland must strive for the long-term conservation of the natural foundations of life and must not place greater demands on nature than nature is able to renew. Various legislation applies with regard to the protection and conservation of biodiversity, in particular the Nature and Cultural Heritage Act, the Hunting Act, the Federal Act on Fish, the Spatial Planning Act, the National Park Act, the Agriculture Act, the Waters Protection Act, and the Forest Act.

Programme agreements in the environmental sector

The key instrument for implementing biodiversity policy collaboratively is the programme agreements in the environmental sector between the Confederation and the cantons. The Confederation formulates the strategic objectives; every four years, the Confederation and cantons then work closely together to determine which measures the cantons should use to achieve the goals and what subsidies they should receive to implement them. The FOEN supports the cantons with practical guides.

Building an ecological infrastructure

Biodiversity needs space, which is why the Confederation can designate biotopes of national importance. It has also committed to further developing an ecological infrastructure in order to provide nature with a network of core areas (areas of ecological value), which are functionally linked to each other with connectivity areas. An ecological infrastructure is necessary for species' survival and takes into account the development and mobility requirements of species in their natural habitats, even under changing conditions such as climate change.

Other enforcement tasks

For every project that the Confederation plans, builds and finances, it is obliged under the Nature and Cultural Heritage Act (NCHA) to check whether the aspects of nature and the countryside have been sufficiently taken into account.

International cooperation

Protecting species and habitats and using natural resources sustainably is a worldwide responsibility. However, the patterns of production and consumption of the Swiss economy and society mean that Switzerland regularly exceeds nature's limits of what is sustainable. Switzerland therefore also has an international obligation in this regard, which is why it is a member of various global and regional agreements.

Further information

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Last modification 12.10.2022

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