Enforcement is the practical implementation of environmental legislation. The cantons are primarily responsible for enforcing federal legislation. In areas such as gene technology or waste import and export, the federal authorities are directly responsible for enforcing the law, as is the case with other federal laws (railways, national roads, aerodromes etc.).

Having a comprehensive body of environmental legislation does not in itself guarantee that the environment is effectively protected. Legislation must be applied and enforced if the written law is to have an effect. Enforcement therefore involves the practical application of instruments for implementing the law.

The cantons are responsible for enforcing environmental legislation in the majority of cases - they therefore play a key role in protecting the environment. The individual cantons organise the way they enforce the law very differently, especially in terms of the tasks they assign to the communes or assume themselves. In recent years, environment agencies have started to work more closely together, and are increasingly harmonising enforcement efforts by introducing joint instruments (factsheets, recommendations, measurement agencies etc.). The cantons also outsource some tasks to private companies and business or environmental organisations.

In some areas, the Confederation assumes responsibility for enforcement. A distinction should be made between direct federal enforcement of federal law (e.g. implementation of the Gene Technology Act, handling of organisms, import and export of waste) and enforcement by the federal offices (e.g. national roads, railways, aerodromes, military installations).

Improving enforcement

In cooperation with the cantonal enforcement authorities and selected federal offices, the FOEN commissioned an analysis of the way in which environmental legislation is enforced. The survey results show variations in how well the law is applied throughout Switzerland and reveal that a majority of enforcement agencies see a need to improve enforcement in a range of areas, including landscape, soil, biodiversity, biotopes, the prevention of major accidents and water protection.

As part of the study, a series of measures for improving enforcement were drawn up on the basis of the survey results.

Stärkung des Vollzugs im Umweltbereich (PDF, 1 MB, 30.07.2013)Studie von Interface/kpm im Auftrag des BAFU

The FOEN, cantonal enforcement agencies and other federal offices identified five priority measures: comparison and assessment, improving controls, improving cooperation, horizontal and vertical networking in environmental policy, and the review of sanction mechanisms.

For each of the first four of these measures, up to three thematic areas were identified in which the measures are to be launched, based on the deficits reported by the cantonal enforcement agencies, a FOEN-internal evaluation and discussions with representatives of the heads of cantonal environment agencies.

Further information

Last modification 30.03.2015

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