First steps towards a green economy

One step forward
© Alba Campus: "One step forward....". (CC BY-NC 2.0).

Measures adopted by the Federal Council for a resource-conserving future-proof Switzerland

The Federal Council adopted measures for the establishment of a green economy (including the Cleantech Master Plan) for the first time in 2010. In 2013, it extended the associated field of activity through the formulation of an Action Plan. In April 2016, the Federal Council reported on the implementation of the Action Plan and decided on further measures in the context of the report “Grüne Wirtschaft - Massnahmen des Bundes für eine ressourcenschonende, zukunftsfähige Schweiz” (“Green Economy – Federal measures for a resource-conserving future-proof Switzerland”).

The important milestones reached in the period 2013 to 2015 included an exhibition on food waste. In relation to raw materials management, together with the actors involved, the federal authorities identified the raw materials, for which considerable economic action requirement exists and which should be made the target of voluntary measures. These include soya, palm oil, cocoa, coffee, fish and cotton textiles. It was also possible to achieve further reductions in the consumption of peat.

The important milestones also included the establishment of a national network for the promotion of resource efficiency in companies. Reffnet
succeeded in initiating over 100 analyses of potential in the area of resource efficiency and progress has also been made in the closure of material cycles in Switzerland. For example, progress was made in relation to the development and implementation of optimal use and waste routes for incineration residues from waste incineration plants. In addition, the major retailers Migros and Coop voluntarily developed a return system for certain plastic moulds at the end of 2015.

Switzerland also intensified its commitments at international level. In the context of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), it successfully supported the initiation of a programme for sustainable public procurement and another programme for the reduction of food waste.

The green economy report also defines the priority areas for the years 2016 to 2019. The federal authorities aim to contribute to making consumer behaviour more ecological through awareness-raising measures. The focus here includes the establishment of a resource-conserving food supply. In relation to the use of ecologically important raw materials and products, the federal authorities are focusing on transparency and international standards. It is intended to reduce the environmental impact of the relevant raw materials and products through voluntary measures. In addition, the federal authorities will develop a strategy for the assessment of environmental technologies.

The federal authorities plan to increase the focus on waste in the years to come. At 700 kilograms per capita and year, Switzerland generates a very high volume of municipal solid waste. For this reason, it is planned to develop the basis for a waste avoidance strategy. It is intended to guarantee the supply of non-energy mineral raw materials like cement and sand through the adoption of a special strategy. The recycling of metals will also be optimised.

The involvement of the raw materials sector and financial market shall be intensified with a view to improving resource efficiency. Switzerland is in a position to contribute expert knowledge to the development of international ecological guidelines. Together with the State Secretariat for International Financial matters, the Federal Office for the Environment has initiated a dialogue on sustainable financial markets with the sector.

It is also planned to intensify Switzerland’s commitment at international level in the future. The possibility of intensifying cooperation with foreign governments in relation to governance for the promotion of the green economy and Cleantech applications is being examined. In relation to this, the federal authorities are examining how existing export promotion programmes could be availed of for the promotion of clean technology.

It is also planned to improve the knowledge basis for a transition to an environmentally-friendly economy. The Federal Council approved the implementation of a National Research Project “Sustainable Economy” in March 2016. The question as to whether resource efficiency and cleantech should be more strongly integrated into higher vocational education and training is also being examined.

The Federal Council will also continue to monitor the progress made in the implementation of the Action Plan – the next review will take place in 2019.

Engaging in dialogue

The overuse of natural resources is a challenge for all of society and across several generations. The way in which Switzerland reacts to this challenge will have a perceptible influence on the economy and consumption. For this reason, a broad dialogue is needed with all stakeholders so that the best possible solutions for the country can be found. In the Green Economy Action Plan of 8 March 2013, the Federal Council mandates the Federal Office for the Environment to seek and implement solutions for approaches to economic activity and consumption that are more sparing on resources through dialogue with the cantons, business and society.

The dialogue with the actors should make it possible to formulate the best possible responses to this shared challenge for Switzerland. It should strengthen the cooperation between the existing platforms, initiatives, sectors and companies in the area of the green economy. It should highlight the potential offered by the green economy through concrete examples and can give rise to voluntary agreements for sustainable production. Finally, dialogue should take place on the conditions necessary for a resource-conserving economy.

The dialogue topics are based on environmental relevance and the needs of the participants. These include companies and associations and also cantons and communes, universities, and national and international organisations. This portal is an initial step towards a more comprehensive dialogue about the green economy.

FOEN: Dialogue (in German, French and Italian)

Last modification 19.07.2016

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FOEN: Green Economy Action Plan 2013 (available in German, French and Italian)
FOEN: More infomration about cleantech
Masterplan Cleantech (german)