Popular initiative for a green economy
The ‘Green Economy’ national popular initiative aims to create a sustainable and resource-efficient economy, promote closed material cycles and ensure that economic activities do not impair the potential of natural resources through the addition of a new Article 94a to the Swiss Federal Constitution. As a long-term aim for 2050, the initiative’s transitional provision requires that Switzerland attain an ‘ecological footprint’ that does not exceed one Earth when extrapolated to the global population. The referendum on the initiative will take place in 2016.
Through the revision of the Environmental Protection Act (EPA), the Federal Council aimed to improve the conditions for reducing Switzerland’s resource consumption in the long term. Although it supported the general thrust of the popular initiative, it supports the gradual conversion of the Swiss economy. For this reason, the Federal Council proposed the revision of the EPA as an indirect counter-proposal to the Green Economy popular initiative.
Parliament rejected the revision of the EPA. The Council of States and National Council deliberated on the indirect counter-proposal between September 2014 and December 2015. As the first chamber of the Swiss parliament, the Council of States distilled the content of the draft over the course of its debates. Following a controversial debate, the National Council narrowly decided against the revision of the EPA. On 3 December, the Council of States decided not to follow up on the draft submission or support the inclusion of the green economy into the EPA at this point in time. The debate
and decisions on this matter can be followed (in German, French and Italian) on the Swiss parliament website.
The green economy is embedded in the Federal Council’s comprehensive policy approach. With the Federal Council’s Green Economy Action Plan, the work on improving resource efficiency is being advanced on the basis of the existing legislative provisions. The measures focus on groundwork and the creation of favourable conditions for the economy, science and society to intensify voluntary commitment. Various other policy fields also make important contributions to reducing the environmental impacts generated by the economy and consumption in Switzerland and abroad. In the context of climate policy, CO2 emissions shall be reduced by 20 percent compared with 1990 levels and by 50 percent by 2030; 30 percent of these reductions shall be achieved within Switzerland. In relation to energy policy, the Federal Council and parliament decided on a gradual withdrawal from nuclear power in 2011. With the Energy Strategy for 2020, the Federal Council aims to increase energy efficiency and develop renewable energies. In agricultural policy there is an increasing focus on greater resource and raw material efficiency, and on sustainable forest management in forest policy. The Swiss Biodiversity Strategy aims to conserve species diversity and guarantee the provision of ecosystem services. Spatial development policy aims to achieve greater efficiency in the management of the scarce resource land. Switzerland’s foreign and development policy is also committed to the more sustainable use of resources. In the report on economic growth of 21 January 2015, the Federal Council also refers to the side effects of economic growth and aims to alleviate them. Finally, the Green Economy is also part of the Sustainable Development Strategy.