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> Swiss Environmental Law

A brief guide

> Swiss Environmental Law

> Contents
Publisher
Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN)
The FOEN is an office of the Federal Department of
Environment, Transport, Energy and Communications (DETEC).
Idea, concept, production
Urs Steiger, steiger texte konzepte beratung, Lucerne
In-house consultant
Marco Zaugg, Legal Affairs Division
Suggested form of citation
Swiss Environmental Law
A brief guide
Federal Office for the Environment, Bern: 36 pp.

Foreword

An Overview of Environmental Law

Reflecting environmental awareness

Making and Enforcing Environmental Law

Fundamentals of environmental protection


Environmental protection a shared task
No authorisation without considering
environmental impact
Various ways of protecting the environment

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Translation
Philippa Hurni and Kenneth MacKenzie
Design
Kurt Brunner, Martin Brunner Associs
Pictures
Cover, p. 7 right: Keystone/Lukas Lehmann
p. 3: BAFU
p. 4: AWEL, Zurich
p. 5: Sammlung Verkehrshaus Luzern
p. 6: Keystone/Michael Kupferschmidt
p. 7 left: CamCopter/Rolf Widmer
p. 8: Keystone/Francesca Agosta
p. 9 left, p. 13, p. 18 bottom, p. 20 top right:
BAFU/AURA/Emanuel Ammon
p. 9 right: Keystone/Sandro Campardo
p. 11: Jakob Studnar, Dsseldorf
p. 15: Keystone/Thedi Suter
p. 16, p. 24-25, p. 27 left: Priska Ketterer, Lucerne
p. 18 top: Ren Maier, Brienz
p. 20 left, p. 32 bottom right: Keystone/Martin Ruetschi
p. 20 bottom right: Stadtwerke Schweinfurt GmbH
p. 22: Roche/Christopher Gmuender, Muttenz
p. 27 right: BAFU/Markus Senn, Winterthur
p. 28: ALN, Fachstelle Naturschutz
p. 30: Albert Marty, Rothenthurm
p. 32 top: Keystone/Gatan Bally
p. 32 bottom left: Landbote/Marc Dahinden
p. 35 top: Keystone/Regina Kuehne
p. 35 bottom lef: Keystone/Craig Ruttle
p. 35 bottom right: Keystone/Jean-Christophe Bott
Ordering address for the print version and link to PDF file
FOBL, Distribution of Publications, CH-3003 Bern
Tel. +41 (0)31 325 50 50, fax +41 (0)31 325 50 58
verkauf.zivil@bbl.admin.ch
Order number: 810.400.082engl
www.bafu.admin.ch/ud-1072-e
This publication is also available in German, French and Italian.
FOEN 2013

Aspects of Environmental Law

The Environmental Protection Act


Control of ambient pollution
Waste and soil
Handling chemicals with care
The Forest Act
The Waters Protection Act
Protecting biodiversity and landscape
Controlled handling of organisms
Protection against natural hazards
The challenge of climate protection

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> Swiss Environmental Law

> Foreword
The World Congress on Justice, Governance and Law for Environmental Sustainability, which was held by the United Nations Environment Programme
(UNEP) from 17 to 20 June 2012 in Rio de Janeiro, calls on all countries to apply
environmental legislation effectively and efficiently in order to achieve sustainability goals. Ecological sustainability can only be achieved if environmental
legislation is fair, clear, and implementable.
Swiss environmental law, which has reached a very high standard in recent decades,
strives to achieve this. Over the coming years Switzerland will develop and adapt
environmental legislation to new challenges, thereby filling in gaps in the law.
The present brochure gives you an overview of the wide range of Swiss environmental legislation which has been developed over the decades. A comprehensive
view of national and relevant international legislation and the interdependencies
between the two is presented. Innovative graphics help to explain the abstract
world of the law in visual form.

Dr. iur. Florian Wild


Head of Legal Affairs
Member of the Executive Board
Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN)

For links to further information relating to this brochure, see:


www.bafu.admin.ch/environmental-law-brief

An Overview of Environmental Law

> Reflecting environmental awareness


The first serious environmental problems came to light with the economic boom of the 1950s and 1960s
and the associated growing pressure on the environment. In reaction to this and as the understanding
of ecological questions grew, a steadily more sophisticated and comprehensive system of environmental
legislation was developed.
Even in the 1950s and 1960s, waste water from Switzerlands
factories, businesses and households flowed practically untreated back into the countrys streams, lakes and rivers.
It was common for streams to be covered in scum or have a
strange colour. Stocks of fish regularly died. A construction
boom and a rapid increase in the number of cars and other
vehicles brought ever more noise, air pollution and the
progressive expansion of built-up areas at the expense of
the countryside.

Clean lakes and rivers, respect for nature

Voters, Parliament and the Federal Council reacted to growing environmental problems by bringing in new legislation
that has gradually expanded environmental law since then and
adapted it to the latest requirements. In 1953, for example,
the duty to protect lakes and rivers was enshrined in the Constitution and four years later a corresponding act of Parliament (the Waters Protection Act) came into force. Its main
goal was to expand the sewage disposal networks and improve

> Swiss Environmental Law

connections to sewage treatment plants. Concerns about the


rapid changes to the landscape led to an article on the protection of nature and cultural heritage being added to the Federal
Constitution following a popular vote in 1962. This amendment to the Constitution resulted in the enactment of the Nature and Cultural Heritage Act (NCHA) in 1966, which for the
first time regulated at federal level the protection of indigenous animal and plant life and the preservation of the landscape and monuments. This formed the basis for the Federal
Inventory of Landscapes of National Importance.
The battle over the Environmental Protection Act

In 1965, a parliamentary request called for statutory regulations in the environment sector. The related article on environmental protection in the Constitution was approved in a popular vote in 1970 with over 90 per cent of the Swiss electorate
in favour. The oil crisis of the 1970s, along with the Club of
Rome report on The Limits to Growth, the Global 2000
report and a report by the US government on the global environmental situation, had in the meantime intensified the public debate on environmental problems. Nevertheless, it took
fifteen years before the Environmental Protection Act (EPA)
finally came into force in 1985.

Forest protection
The Forests Inspectorate Act of 1876 placed Swiss forests under
strict protection and laid down the principles of sustainable management for the first time. The Act was a reaction to various flooding

Forestation in the Reuss Valley, Canton Uri, during construction


of the Gotthard railway line

In 1983, the phenomenon of dying forests suddenly brought


air pollution into the public eye. It also helped to ensure
that the EPA was quickly implemented in specific terms
in this area, in the form of the Air Pollution Control Ordinance (OAPC).

disasters in the 19th century, including probably the worst ever flood
in the Alps, which occurred in 1868. Its scale was in part due to
massive over-exploitation of the forests. A year after the Forests
Inspectorate Act, the Hydraulic Engineering Act was passed, which in
subsequent decades led to the widespread damming and channelling of Swiss lakes and rivers.

At an international level, the discovery of a massive hole in


the ozone layer over the Antarctic in 1985 brought an astonishingly rapid reaction: in 1987 the Montreal Protocol, also
ratified by Switzerland, introduced a global ban on the substances most harmful to the ozone layer.
Waste disposal without environmental damage

Chronology of the most important pieces of environmental


legislation
1875 Hunting Act (completely revised 1904, 1925 and 1986, HuntA)
1875 Fishing Act (completely revised 1888, 1973 and 1991, FishA)
1876 Forests Inspectorate Act (completely revised 1991 Forest Act,
ForA)
1877 Hydraulic Engineering Inspectorate Act (completely revised
1991 Hydraulic Engineering Act)
1955 Waters Protection Act (completely revised 1971 and 1991, WPA)
1966 Nature and Cultural Heritage Act (NCHA)
1983 Environmental Protection Act (EPA)
1999 CO2 Act (completely revised 2012)
2003 Gene Technology Act (GTA)

By the 1980s, it was clear that the dumping of waste was in


many places leading to pollution of water bodies and unpleasant odours. A federal waste disposal strategy was developed
in response to this, and led to comprehensive waste regulations in the revised EPA and in the Technical Ordinance on
Waste (TOW), according to which waste must be recycled
after treatment or deposited in suitable landfill sites in an
environmentally sound way. At the same time, sites contaminated by waste should be quickly remediated. By introducing
a landfill ban for combustible waste in the year 2000, Switzerland reached a further milestone in waste disposal. The ban
resulted in unexploited waste being thermally processed or
even recycled.

> Swiss Environmental Law

Clearing up operations after the chemical accident at Schweizerhalle, Muttenz BL


Encouraging risk awareness

People have always been aware of substances that are poisonous or at least of those that are poisonous to human beings.
The 1969 Toxic Substances Act (TSA) created a framework
for dealing with toxic substances in order to protect the health
of humans and animals. The Environmental Protection Act
expanded the statutory framework to include the protection of
the environment.
On 1 November 1986, a fire at a chemicals warehouse at Schweizerhalle near Basel resulted in pollutants entering the River
Rhine and causing serious damage. Suddenly everyone was
aware that storing and handling chemical substances carried
serious environmental risks. The Major Accident Ordinance
(MAO) introduced shortly thereafter helped to increase risk
awareness and substantially reduce the risks. The Chemicals
Act (ChemA) of 2000 introduced comprehensive new regulations for the entire chemicals industry; 2005 saw further important environmental legislation in the form of the Chemicals
Risk Reduction Ordinance (ORRChem).
Tackling the risks of the chemicals industry in such detail led
to attention being focused on other technologies that carry environmental risks, such as biotechnology. This has been regulated in the EPA and in the Gene Technology Act (GTA) as
well as in the related ordinances. The appearance of mobile

phones saw the rapid development of another technological


field that not only brought advantages for society, but also
risks. As a precautionary measure, legislation reacted to this
by imposing clear technical requirements.
Space for animals, plants, rivers and lakes

In the 1970s and 1980s, the awareness grew that more comprehensive measures were required in order to counter an insidious
loss of animal and plant species. The approval of the Rothenthurm Initiative in 1987 marked a decisive step towards stricter protection of habitats. It led to the protection of mire biotopes and moorlands being enshrined in the Constitution.
Subsequently, protection for other threatened habitats such as
floodplains, amphibian spawning grounds or dry grasslands
and pastures was increased. Since 2007 legislation in this field
has also taken account of demands for sustainable development by making it possible to call for the creation of parks of
national importance in regions of especially high natural
and scenic value. Following a popular initiative, in 1991 regulations on residual flow in rivers were incorporated in the
new Waters Protection Act, which constituted a further step
towards comprehensive nature conservation. This means that
the law no longer focuses simply on keeping water clean, but
recognises that rivers and lakes can only fulfil their function as
a habitat for animals and plants if they receive sufficient water
and have the space required for their natural development.

> Swiss Environmental Law

This was anchored in the law in 2011 in a further revision of


waters protection legislation. This also meets the demand for
improved flood protection, the basic concepts of which had
been reconsidered following the disastrous storms of 1987.
Protection against natural hazards should no longer be
achieved simply by means of bigger and stronger protective
structures. The new approach accepts that complete protection is not possible everywhere. It combines structural safety
measures with spatial planning and water retention measures.
In addition, a degree of controllable damage is tolerated.
Integrated environmental protection and sustainable
development

A clear breakthrough in the holistic approach to the environment was achieved at the first World Environment Conference
in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, known as Rio92. The concept
of sustainable development launched at the time demanded
not only that the world should adopt a holistic approach to
environmental issues, but also that economic and social concerns be taken into account. At Rio, two crucial international agreements were also adopted: the Biodiversity Convention and the Climate Change Convention. Building on the
Climate Change Convention, the Kyoto Protocol on reducing
greenhouse gases was approved in 1998. In order to implement this Protocol, Switzerland introduced the CO2 Act in

The Huli combined landfill site in Lufingen ZH during


the construction phase

1999. Rio 92 also saw the start of international efforts to


reduce the effects of chemicals production and use; in 2002
the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants
(POPs Convention) was adopted (on the global dimension of
environmental protection, see box p. 11).
Driven by extensive scientific advances on the one hand and
appalling real-life experiences and disasters on the other,
Swiss environmental legislation has developed in the past 50
years into a comprehensive and integrated legal system. New
technologies, findings and developments will continue to result in amendments to this legal system. In the near future,
loopholes also have to be closed, such as those relating to biodiversity and probably nanotechnology. There is also a need
for action in relation to the efficient use of natural resources.

Assorted metal removed from the slag following


waste incineration

Making and Enforcing Environmental Law

> Fundamentals of environmental protection


Environmental law is based on a series of basic principles which, irrespective of particular statutory provisions, influence the nature of legislative acts and ordinances. They also play a role in
the practical implementation of legal provisions.

The precautionary principle

The polluter pays principle

The saying prevention is better than cure is not only conventional wisdom, it is also the primary concept of Swiss environmental law; forward-looking, environmentally sound planning
and action is more cost-effective in the long-term and impacts
the environment to a lesser extent than improvements carried
out at a later time or attempts to rectify environmental damage. The precautionary principle can be effectively applied in
environmental impact assessments, in commitments to limit
emissions and in the general duty of care in water protection.

Costs incurred in rectifying environmental pollution or damage should not be borne by the general public but rather by
those who are directly responsible for them. Public acceptance
of charges for waste disposal and waste water disposal show
that the polluter pays principle is now part of everyday life.
But the principle also applies in other areas, for example when
landfills and other polluted sites require decontamination.

> Swiss Environmental Law

Addressing the root cause

If possible, our activities should not have any negative environmental impact at all. The Environmental Protection Act
(EPA) and its Ordinances therefore establish emission limits
in order to restrict the amount of pollution that an installation produces. When environmental measures are applied,
attention should initially be paid to the source of pollution.
For example, in order to reduce noise emissions from railways, quieter carriages should first be put into use before
noise barriers are erected to keep out already existing noise.

various partners. Political parties, cantons, the private sector,


environmental organisations and individual industries are all
involved in the drafting of ordinances and implementation
guides, and this ensures that practicable and efficient solutions are found. Cooperation with the private sector also
means that environmental measures can be introduced at an
early stage, and possibly on a voluntary basis. Individual enforcement duties such as inspections and monitoring can be
delegated to companies or organisations, as has happened in
the waste sector (recycling) or in the implementation of the
Air Pollution Control Ordinance.

Holistic approach

The aim of environmental law is to reduce overall environmental pollution. The various environmental aspects should
therefore always be given equal consideration. Measures
should not be unilaterally applied in one area, only for them to
lead to excessive negative effects in another. Noise protection
measures, for example, should not hinder nature and landscape protection to any significant degree.
The cooperation principle

Swiss environmental law is not simply ordained; it is developed in a broad-based decision-making process involving

Construction machinery with particle filter

Empty PET bottles ready for recycling

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> Swiss Environmental Law

> Environmental protection a shared task


In its various federal acts and their ordinances, the Confederation sets out both the goals of environmental protection and the instruments and measures that are used to achieve these goals. The cantons
essentially have the task of making these goals reality. The Confederation is responsible for implementing legislation in specialised sectors. In addition, it supervises whether the cantons are carrying
out their tasks in accordance with the law. Both at the lawmaking stage and during implementation,
the Confederation and the cantons work closely with the private sector.

In federally organised Switzerland, wherever possible state


tasks are carried out at one of the three levels of the state, i.e.
by the Confederation, or by the relevant canton or commune.
What is known as the principle of subsidiarity applies,
according to which these tasks should be carried out at the
lowest level of state possible.

Environmental groups serving the environment


The environment cannot defend its own rights. Environmental law passes
this duty on to environmental groups under an instrument known as the
organisations right of appeal, which gives national environmental groups
recognised by the Federal Council the right to object to or file appeals against
specific projects. In this way, the groups act as natures advocates and can

Acts and ordinances

demand a court decision on whether such plans comply with the law.

The legal principles of environmental protection are laid


down in acts of Parliament. In addition, the Federal Council
issues ordinances, which add detail to the provisions contained in the acts. The preparatory work for acts and ordinances is carried out by the Federal Administration. In this it
works closely with the cantons, political parties and business
and environmental groups. In Switzerland, a well established
system of consultation procedures and hearings allows the
knowledge and experience of experts and the views of the

Key role of the cantons in implementation

Written law becomes effective when it is applied at a practical


level. The responsibility for this is first and foremost that of

<

Decision

Parliament

Federal Council

Confederation

Preparation

Federal Council
Administration

Private sector

Administration

Consultation

Cantons
Political parties
Private sector
Environmental Organisations

Cantons
Political parties
Private sector
Environmental Organisations

Legislative process and implementing environmental law in Switzerland

Cantons

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Ordinance

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Act

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Implementation

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Legislation

implementing authorities and political decision-makers to be


exploited in the lawmaking process.

Communes
Private sector
Households

Federal Supervision

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> Swiss Environmental Law

Environmental protection a global task too


Many environmental problems, such as excessive noise
or damage to biotopes, are evident in the immediate vicinity of the
source of the problem. Others manifest themselves a long distance
away and thus occasionally take on a global dimension whether as
a result of the underlying chemical and physical processes or economic globalisation. The use of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) in
cooling systems and aerosol cans, for example, caused the hole
in the ozone layer far away over the Antarctic. A similar situation
is that of global climate change, caused by greenhouse gas emissions all around the world. Hazardous waste, which can be very
expensive and difficult to dispose of in an environmentally acceptable way, is moved around the world in the search for cheap disposal opportunities.
Environmental problems with a global dimension cannot be overcome
solely by enacting environmental legislation in individual countries.
It requires joint and globally coordinated action by the entire international community. In view of the potentially disastrous effects of
these problems, international efforts to protect the environment

Ship breaking in Bangladesh

have become markedly more important in recent years. In framework


conventions such as the Climate Change Convention or the

the cantons, which thus play a crucial role in environmental


protection. Individual cantons organise the implementation of
the law in different ways, in particular in the extent to which
they delegate tasks to the communes or take care of those
tasks themselves. Specific duties may also be entrusted to
private companies or business or more rarely environmental groups. In some clearly specified cases for example
in the case of forest clearance projects involving more than
5000 m2, large installations for the thermal production of
energy and major hydro-electric power plants the cantons
are required to canvass the opinions of the specialist federal
environment authority before reaching a decision. In certain
sectors, the Confederation itself is responsible for implementing legislation, in particular concerning the import or export
of goods and waste and the issuing of certain licences, for example for railways, motorways, cableways and other infrastructure facilities.

Biodiversity Convention the international community has agreed


on general goals in these fields. Agreements known as protocols,
issued on the basis of the framework conventions, such as the Kyoto
Protocol in the climate sector, regulate how these goals are to
be achieved in practice. After acceding to (ratifying) an international environment convention, individual countries must normally
adapt their national legislation to the international requirements.
This happened in Switzerland in the climate sector with the
enactment of the CO 2 Act.
International environment policy is one of the priorities of Swiss
foreign policy. In its efforts to achieve an effective system of
international environmental law, Switzerland is making a major
contribution to protecting the global environment. This also serves
to protect Switzerland itself, because in this way it can prevent
damage caused by cross-border environmental pollution. Improved
international environmental standards also protect Switzerland
from cheap imports from countries that have not introduced or fail
to enforce effective environmental regulations.

Under the watchful eye of the Confederation

The Confederation supervises the cantons implementation of


environmental law and thus ensures that environmental legislation is applied equitably throughout Switzerland. As far as
possible, this task is achieved in partnership with the cantons.
If, however, the Confederation is of the view that cantonal
authorities are not complying with environmental law, for example by granting licences unlawfully, it may exercise its
right of appeal as a public authority so that the case in question is then assessed by the competent court.

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> Swiss Environmental Law

> No authorisation without considering


environmental impact
An authority that is called upon to authorise a project that could have environmental repercussions must
assess the likely environmental impact in addition to all the other legal aspects. In major projects that could
have a considerable impact on the environment, this assessment is based on an environmental impact report.
Spatial planning also takes account of environmental aspects in order to avoid subsequent disputes.

The authority that grants authorisation for a construction project, whether it is the local council or a cantonal or federal
office, checks whether the project meets the statutory requirements. In addition to planning law and building regulations,
consideration must be given to the environmental impact of
the project. However, the need for coordination not only arises in relation to buildings and other structures, but also in relation to chemicals, where the protection of health, the environment and workers must often all be considered.

Assessing environmental impact


Large projects such as power plants, motorways and railways,
industrial plants or shopping centres can have a considerable effect
on the environment. A list has been drawn up of specific types of
structures for which a planning permission applicant is legally required to investigate the environmental impact of the project before
a decision is reached, and to present the results in an environmental
impact report. This must also indicate what measures are planned
to reduce the effects on the environment. On the basis of this report,

A single project generally requires several authorisations


from several authorities. To ensure that they do not reach contradictory decisions, the authorities are required to coordinate
their decisions. At federal level, the lead authority issues
all the required authorisations. It takes an overall decision
based on reports from the other responsible offices. In cantons that do not organise their procedures in this way, the authorities must ensure that decisions are coordinated in some
other way.

and as part of its environmental impact assessment, the lead authority considers whether the planned project complies with environmental regulations.
An environmental impact assessment was also required for the
depot built by a construction waste company in the Canton of Zurich.
The company planned to make regular use of what was formerly
an open yard and to cover the area over for this purpose. The property was adjacent to a protected raised bog of national importance
and served as a buffer zone. The bog was also bordered by the

For the construction of a new gas pipeline, for example,


14,000 m2 of forest had to be cleared and vegetation removed
from the banks of a river. The authorisation for the new gas
pipeline was granted by the Swiss Federal Office of Energy
(SFOE). At the same time, the SFOE also authorised the
forest clearance operation and the removal of the riverside
vegetation, having already obtained a report on this from
the FOEN.
Spatial planning prevents mistakes

Spatial planning also has an important preliminary coordinating function: it regulates how specific zones, in particular
building zones, can be used. Here it must ensure that when
land is used for shopping centres or sports and event centres,
for example, which are associated with increased traffic and
therefore with noise and air pollution, the quality of the environment in residential and recreational areas does not suffer.

motorway and the main road. As the main road had recently been
equipped with a drainage system, the bog was suffering from a
shortage of water. The environmental impact report indicated that
the bog could benefit from the construction of the new depot:
clean rainwater would be collected on the roof and channelled onto
the bog. In addition, the ground connecting the new building with
the bog could be planted with suitable vegetation.

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> Swiss Environmental Law

> Various ways of protecting the environment


Legal systems contain various instruments designed to protect the environment, from imposing bans
to introducing rules and incentives. The wide range of instruments makes it possible to implement statutory regulations effectively, with as little administrative involvement as possible and at minimum economic cost.
The provisions of environmental legislation find specific expression in different forms. Broad indications of desired behaviour are formulated in general regulations; for example,
bodies of water may not be polluted, and waste should be
separated before collection and recycled as far as possible.
There are also very specific provisions expressing exact requirements, often in figures; for example, upper limits for air
pollutants or noise pollution.
Clear terms of reference, tough consequences

Rules and prohibitions are no doubt the most well known type
of law. An infringement of the most important prohibitive
laws results in prosecution. Environmental law clearly establishes what kind of behaviour is prohibited by setting, for example, upper limits to be respected. It clearly states the maximum volume of pollutants that a car exhaust may emit and
how much noise a vehicle may produce. Pollutant emissions
must be measured every two years to show that the permit-

Using recycled concrete

ted limit is not exceeded. Heating systems in buildings must


also meet set pollutant levels. The use of certain heating fuels,
in particular high-polluting fuel oil or heating oil with high
sulphur content is also prohibited. Nature reserves are protected by regulations on use. For example, in areas where
agricultural use is still permitted, there are clear regulations
regarding the time of year at which grass may be mown.
Rules and prohibitions have led to a considerable improvement in the quality of the environment. Regulations prohibiting forest clearance has meant that the area under forest has
been maintained and may even increase in the long-term.
Upper pollutant limits for heating systems and vehicles have
led to technological developments such as new furnaces, catalytic converters and particle filters. There has been an improvement in the ozone layer thanks to the ban on chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs).

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> Swiss Environmental Law

Affecting peoples wallets

The idea of market-based instruments is to apply the mechanisms of the free market economy to create financial incentives which encourage environmentally friendly behaviour.
People who do not consider the environment in their actions
should be required to pay more than those who do. This can
be achieved by means of incentive taxes or levies. The incentive tax on solvents, for example, was designed in such a way
so as to increase step by step over its introductory phase.
This created an incentive for the industries affected to reduce
their use of solvents to an ever greater extent. The incentive
tax has also meant that in some production processes in the
chemical industry, solvents are now completely recycled or
are no longer required at all.
Environment management systems should encourage businesses to protect the environment not only in specific areas,
but also to consider environmental issues in everything they
do and to make constant improvements. Businesses which introduce an environment management system use this to their
competitive advantage. Their environmental performance is
regularly monitored.
Market-based instruments are considered when it is not necessary to prescribe certain practices but incentives alone
should be sufficient to encourage people to act in a particular
way. The aim of these incentives is to increase self-interest
in protecting the environment. This may take the form of
charges or levies to pay for necessary measures such as waste
recycling, or schemes whereby the money is returned to
the public and businesses via the state pension system (OASI)
or medical insurers, as is to some extent the case with the
CO2 levy.
Commitment from individual industries

In order to take account of the special conditions in individual


sectors of the economy, environmental law allows industries
to define their own environmental measures in agreements.
The industries undertake to introduce improvements according to a particular time schedule and to a specified extent.
In return, they are not subjected to other regulations. For example, agreements of this kind have been made with owners
of filling stations to improve air quality on their premises.
The energy-intensive cement industry, where the nature of
production processes means that the scope for saving energy is limited, can also enter into agreements of this kind.
The CO2 Act also allows for specific solutions to be drawn up
for individual plants. Some businesses are exempt from the
CO2 levy if they agree to introduce measures to limit their
carbon emissions.

Environmental agreements mean that special requirements


can be taken into account. They open up opportunities for
businesses to introduce improvements, yet at the same time
require from them greater independent responsibility.
Clear-sighted environmental planning

The diverse nature of most environmental problems requires


that the state is not solely reactive. A key role is also assigned
to proactive environmental design and thus to environmental
planning. The term planning involves a variety of instruments which can be categorised according to their effect as
informative, influential and mandatory planning measures.
The latter are usually of a protective nature. They allow us to
determine which activities can be pursued in a particular area
or to what degree an area may be affected, for example by
noise or air pollutants. For protection against noise, building
areas are allocated so-called sensitivity levels within the
communal land use plans. These set out how much noise may
affect these areas. The purpose of water protection areas is to
protect groundwater wells from fertilisers, pesticides, etc.
Nature conservation areas are designed to protect vulnerable
habitats such as bogs, dry meadows or floodplains.
Action based on information

Information plays a crucial role in environmental protection:


for example, access to information on the state of the environment must be guaranteed.
At the same time, the active dissemination of information on
how the environment can be protected and depolluted helps
the authorities to implement environmental measures. It also
allows companies and individuals to be aware of the impact of
their actions on the environment and to act responsibly both at
work and at home. In large and small campaigns, the federal
government has increased environmental awareness and indicated ways in which each of us can be environmentally friendly, in particular in terms of waste, air and noise. This active
spread of information has thus helped towards the level of
environmental progress attained so far.

Aspects of Environmental Law

> The Environmental Protection Act


The Environmental Protection Act (EPA) is the cornerstone of Swiss environmental law. It regulates
several key areas of environmental protection and contains general provisions that apply to all
aspects of environmental protection. The detailed provisions are contained in the various ordinances
to the EPA.
The EPA regulates several environmental sectors in general
terms. It also sets out the basic instruments used in environmental protection and lays down the fundamental legal principles that bring about a comprehensive awareness of environmental protection.
Ordinances and other environmental legislation

The EPA deals with a key area of environmental protection,


the issues of protection against emissions, substances hazard-

ous to the environment, organisms, waste (including the


remediation of contaminated sites) and the soil. The EPA contains general regulations on all of these areas, such as
provisions on what instruments may be used. The detailed
provisions, for example limit values, are set out in the relevant
ordinances. Other areas of environmental protection, such as
waters protection, climate protection, forests, nature and landscape protection, etc. are dealt with in their own specific acts
of Parliament.

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> Swiss Environmental Law

General provisions and instruments

In addition, the EPA lays down the basic legal principles of


Swiss environmental law (cf. p. 8) and sets out the general instruments of environmental law such as environmental impact
assessments, environmental information, incentive taxes and
the organisations right of appeal. But it does not confine itself
solely to precautionary protective measures. In its provisions
on remediation and improvements, the EPA also stipulates
what is to be done if the regulations are not complied with.

Checking the water quality in streams and rivers

Regulatory fields covered by the EPA

t of

Superordinate regulations
Civ

il l
i ab
Or
i
g
a
I ni
m
s

p a
D S u pe l e
r
e

Ambient
Sp l e g
poll
ec
uti
on
co

oil

Implementation guarantees

ll u

ted

c ti o

ic als
In f o
R e r m a tio n
po
ev rtin g a n d
P u alu atio n
b li c re
latio ns

/ Po

rote

Che m

Wa st e

Disaster p

Environmental Protection Act


(EPA)

sit

in

m
rce t
nfo mpac
e
d
i
n t e e tal
nt
G uara on men
me
r
t
i
v
e
n
n
E

p
ag
sme
Ex
a s s e s tio ns l m an
c
a
e
t
p
Ins onmen
r
E nvi

O rg a nis m s

/I m p

ro v e m

ent

io n

tio n

iat

dia

pr

im

pr

me

ro

Cr
al

es

Re

en

R i gh

p r i nc i p l e s
B as ic u te r pa y s p r i n c i p l e
l
Po l au t i o na r y pr i nc
c
P r e s t i c a pp r o ach i pl e
Ho l i

a pp

an

i t i es

l
ro
nt

ea l
fo r
or g
Fin
a nc
an
Fe es
is
e
Fin s
su b a nc i a
sid l a
i es i d

on

ho r

rs
li ty
we
o
n gp
ti o n ti n n
s
m e v i s i o n ge n ci e
o
a t i l is t a
ia

ati

n
sa

ut
da

ov

isio

ns

17

> Swiss Environmental Law

Preventing environmental impact


(control of ambient pollution)

Limiting impact

Under the Environmental Protection Act (EPA), the aim of


ambient pollution control is to protect the environment from
harmful effects or nuisances. Whilst the EPA establishes general conditions, the various ordinances specify targets in detail, in particular by setting limit values.
There is a two-sided approach to protecting against harmful
effects: on the one hand air pollutants, noise, non-ionising radiation and vibrations (emissions) are kept to a minimum at
their source, and on the other, pollution (the ambient load) is
contained at the place where its effects are felt.

As a preventive measure, the EPA requires that the spread of


air pollutants, noise, non-ionising radiation and vibrations
should be prevented as far as possible and prevented where
they occur. This can take the form of precautionary emission
limits and planning measures which ensure that buildings are
not constructed in places where levels of pollution are already
high. These are measures that reduce emissions directly at
their source or prevent them from spreading. Heating systems
and engines, for example, should be designed to release as
few noxious exhaust fumes as possible into the air and to be
as quiet as possible. The ordinances establish the maximum
permitted emissions for a range of installations and devices.
Technology provides many opportunities for reducing emissions, such as very efficient engines or fuels with low levels of
pollutants. Well insulated houses require less fuel for heating

OA

PC 4

NIR*

e
N ois

ti

NIR O 5

O 9
6 SL
O
NA O 8 MaN
O
A
RN

e
pe chn
a s r ati i c ally
l ly i b l e o n a l &
s u , e c ly
sta on
ina o m
ble i-

A i r ll u t
po

SO 2
PD OO
EL H O C3
OV

io

ib
o n ra s

A
po m b ie n t
ll u t
ro
io n c o nt

eg

1) PDSO: Ordinance on the Incentive Tax on Petrol and


Diesel with a Sulphur Content of more than 0.001 per cent
2) ELHOO: Ordinance on the Incentive Tax on Extra-Light
Heating Oil with a Sulphur Content of more than 0.1 per cent

3) OVOC: Ordinance on the Incentive Tax on Volatile Organic


Compounds
4) OAPC: Air Pollution Control Ordinance

5) NIRO: Ordinance on Protection against Non-Ionising


Radiation
6) NAO: Noise Abatement Ordinance
7) SLO: Sound Levels and Laser Ordinance

c
v e t io n
me
nt

ns

es

tio

t ax

ul a

tive

h
a a rm
am nce ful
bie s in effe
nt e x c ts
li m c e s o r
it v s o
alu f
e

rr

ce n

the

In

Fur

Pr
ec
au
T
tio
T o
e
nar
op ch n
y
fe
e m is
fe a e r a t i c a ll y
sio n li mits
ca
i
&
s
o
c
&
n
i
y
M al l b l e a ll
c a ll l y
i
y
y
n
,

h
T
c
e
s
e c h n i c a ll y &
Te tional omi
va axim usta cono
lu
o p er atio n
m
in
u
St
o p er a e, e c o n le
a
l
l
y
ric es m em able ib
i bl
f
e
es
a
s
i
b
t er
issi
l e, e c o n o m i- fe a s s u st ain a e s
F
alu
or
v
o
c
y
l
n
u
a
l
l
l
a
e
n
l
y
c
a
s u s t a in a b le
mi
F nuis
g v i s si o
n

nu or ha
i
n
M
s
n
a
m
a
l
sio
xi m u
e
P
the
n li
C a m b isanc rm fu
values m installation Maximum
m
l
e
i
its
on en s eff
tin t li in e e c ts
r
g e m it x c e o r
s o he
n
f ect s of t
I
cy valu ss o
f
e
l
s
f the
pla e
F or
ns
ar mfu xc e
ns
harm ful e
R Imp pect
For h nces in e alue
ff e c t s o r
n
u
r
i
i
a
v
s
s
o
an
o
t
nui
ma equir vem n
t li mi
a m bie ces in excess of the
nt li mit v alu e
a m bien
c h e m en t
in e e n
s a ts f
n d or p
dev lac
ice ing f
I ns p
s o urn
ion
s in
n th ace
Imp ection
I n s p e ct m e n t
sure
e m s,

nd
a
e
r
e
a r ke
es a cted
Req ovement
Improv roofing m gs
n

o
t
z
e
f
ui
-p
f
in
g
buildinrements for defining
Sound se of build buildin reas a
g zo n e s
the ca ments for ons in a
re
si
Requi ng permis
planni
e
by nois

pe
ns ro
I Imp

8) RNAO: Railway Noise Abatement Ordinance


9) MaNO: Machine Noise Ordinance
* NIR: non-ionising radiation

18

> Swiss Environmental Law

and sound absorbers reduce noise from machines. The establishment of limit values has driven technological progress to a
large degree, with the introduction of innovations such as the
catalytic converter in petrol engines, the particle filter in diesel engines and the development of quieter railway carriages
and wagons. Furthermore, when land is designated for building and development, the communes must take account of
noise pollution and non-ionising radiation levels.

specify the degree of pollution which is permitted in a particular place. If a set ambient limit value is exceeded, further
measures must be applied. These may involve additional precautions such as noise barriers. In areas with excessive air
pollution, it is the cantons task to implement contingency
plans to coordinate these additional measures.

Stricter regulations

Even if precautionary emission limits are set, this is not always


a guarantee that the impact on people and the environment will
remain at an acceptable level. For example, noise pollution
along roads and rail lines with high traffic levels is considerable. The ambient limit values set by the ordinances therefore

Areas affected by control


Air Pollution
The Air Pollution Control Ordinance (OAPC) regulates in particular
the precautionary emission limits of installations and the procedure
in the case of excessive ambient air pollution. The Ordinances on
the Incentive Tax on Volatile Organic Compounds (OVOC), on Extra
Light Fuel Oil (ELHOO) and on Petrol and Diesel with high sulphur
content (PDSO) create economic incentives to reduce volatile
organic compounds and sulphur.
Noise
The Noise Abatement Ordinance (NAO) regulates limits on outdoor
noise emissions from installations and sets requirements for the
zoning and development of building land and for the granting of
planning permission in areas with high levels of noise pollution.

Basels industrial district

The Ordinance on Railway Noise Abatement Measures (RNAO) contains specific requirements for improving existing railway infrastructure. The Sound Levels and Laser Ordinance (SLO) regulates
the use of laser devices and indoor noise levels, for example at
concerts. The Machine Noise Ordinance (MaNO) regulates precautionary noise emission limits for new machines and equipment.
Vibrations
In the case of vibrations, the EPA is applied directly. A more detailed
ordinance has not yet been issued by the Federal Council.
Non-ionising radiation (NIR)
The Ordinance on Protection against Non-Ionising Radiation (NIRO)
contains provisions on the impact of electrical and magnetic fields,
such as those emitted by mobile telephony antennae and electricity works.

Antennae transmitting mobile telephone signals

> Swiss Environmental Law

Waste and soil

Strict requirements for landfill sites

ste

ed
Pollut
s
sit e
O
O RRC
BC RDEE 3he m 2
TOW 5
O4

So

OIS
6

CSO 7
OCRCS

-te
n g il f e i o
o
S
L of so e nt si
ep
rev ero s
E w ast aratio
d
e
n of
ll u t
P and sure
n vi e
o
p
f
sou ron
Avoi
ea
t er o
nd men
di
R e g is
ni - n
M
dis tally Enviro ng waste
o
m
s
e
o
t
,
pos
n
si
n d iati
al
sound mentally
i g a ti o
d
Inv e s t a n d re m e
rge
(recycli isposal
c ha
t o ri n g n
e
Poll ng, landfilling)
h
t
o
i
t
u
o b li g a n t o p a y
Obli ter pays financing
io
g a tio n t o s
O bl ig a t s

o
r
t
w
a st e at
ie
d
O
i
s
so u r c e
Sub
Wa s
O b lig
t
e
d
i
s
p
a
o

s
al planning
b li ti o
Inform
ation /Ad vic e
O bli gatio n to
P Rec y gatio n to ret u r n
M rep clin g n to ta k e b
lue s ies
an aid d q uo dis p o a ck
Treat
on va s ubsid
i
t
a
dat isp tas s e
m
r
t
e
n
R eq n t
or y o sa
C o n c e m e nt s for
uir
e
dep l fee
tr e a t m e m e n t s f o r w a s t e
Re q uir re
o sit
Req ent facilities
cedu
o
r
P

Mix uirements for the


disposal of waste
Rec ing ban
In ci y cli n g o b li g a ti o
Sup neration ob lig a n
tio
er visi o
n of w a s t n
e d is p o s a l f a c il it ie s

1) OMW: Ordinance on Movements of Waste


2) ORRChem: Chemical Risk Reduction Ordinance

3) ORDEE: Ordinance on the Return, the Taking Back


and Disposal of Electrical and Electronic Equipment
4) BCO: Ordinance on Beverage Containers

5) TOW: Technical Ordinance on Waste


6) CSO: Contaminated Sites Ordinance

er
igg n va
r
t
e, tio e
ui d di a us av
G re m e ts on ex c
i
g n n
im lin tio mo
L Hand edia tion,
Rem rva n
Obse atio
evalu

ds
oil
ito
rin
g,

Wa

s
i on n t n t
e
l at
gu
me m
c u ire
l re
do requ
c ia
nt
Spe
m e io n ort
ov e is at mp
M u th or ort/i
A r exp
fo

ns

Places where waste has not been treated properly in environmental terms, such as old landfills, former industrial estates or
sites of environmental accidents, are designated polluted sites.

W
sit a s t e / P o ll u t e d
es/
S o il

W
OM
la
gu
l re n t a l l l
er a
m e o s a ll
Gen
ron sp dfi
n v i d i lan
E o u n d li n g ,
s cyc
(re
tio

Remediation of polluted sites

ate

The EPA lays down principles on how to handle waste.


We should avoid creating waste if at all possible. If we do
produce waste, then if possible it should be reused to produce
new materials, i.e. recycled. Recyclable waste which accounts
for around half of all domestic waste should therefore be
collected separately from other forms of waste. The Ordinance on Beverage Containers (BCO) lays down recycling
levels for drinks packaging. Consumers are required to return
electrical and electronic waste and used batteries, while retailers are obliged to accept them.

a
lu e n d
s

Avoiding waste and recycling

Waste that cannot be recycled and therefore has to be deposited in landfills must not pose a risk to the environment.
In practice this means that waste should no longer be able to
react harmfully with the environment and must be as insoluble in water as possible. Depending on its properties, waste
must therefore be physically or chemically treated before being deposited in a landfill. Domestic waste for example is
burned in waste incineration plants before its residues may
be deposited. These may only be placed in licensed landfills.
Depending on the condition of the waste that they store, landfills must meet predetermined requirements relating to technical equipment and after-care.

rm
rti p r
l
i
n ty ese r
on of
vat
co
ion
fo r
mp
po
act
llu
ion
ted
soi
l

Mishandling waste can seriously damage the environment in


various ways. This is why waste disposal is one of the key issues in the Environmental Protection Act (EPA). Two closely
related issues are polluted sites and soil protection.

19

7) OCRCS: Ordinance on the Charge for the Remediation of Contaminated Sites


8) OIS: Ordinance relating to impacts on the soil

20

> Swiss Environmental Law

Where there is a specific risk to the environment, for example


to groundwater, the cantons must arrange for the site to be
remediated or at least to be monitored. The investigation,
monitoring and remediation of polluted sites can be very expensive. In some cases, the Confederation will also make a
contribution, for example if it is not possible to identify the
person responsible or the polluter does not have enough money to pay the costs. The Confederation finances its share of the
costs from the Contaminated Sites Fund. This is financed by
means of a levy charged for depositing waste and exporting
waste to be deposited abroad.

International control of the trade in waste


the Basel Convention
In 1976, during clear-up operations following a chemical
accident at a subsidiary of Hoffmann-La Roche in Seveso in Italy,
41 barrels containing waste contaminated with dioxins vanished
without trace. Months later they were discovered in Northern France.
Two and a half years passed before the hazardous waste was finally
incinerated in Basel in a high-temperature furnace. The events surrounding the Seveso waste made it perfectly clear that international
regulations on dealing with waste were essential. Regulations were
finally enacted in 1989 in the Basel Convention, which aims to create

Ensuring the soil remains fertile

a global system for environmentally sound waste management and

The aim of soil protection is to maintain the long-term fertility of the soil. Soil fertility can be adversely affected by not
inherent degradable or persistent chemical substances, by genetically modified or pathogenic organisms, or by physical
changes such as soil erosion and soil compaction. Measures to
protect the soil from chemical and biological pollution are
largely regulated by various acts and ordinances such as the
Waters Protection Act and the Air Pollution Control Ordinance. Standard, trigger and remediation values have been

control the transborder transport of hazardous waste.

laid down for assessing soil pollution and deciding whether


and if so which measures are required.

Loading the furnace at a waste incineration plant

Recycling electronic equipment

Excavating ground material at a polluted site

> Swiss Environmental Law

The Environmental Protection Act (EPA) requires us to handle chemical substances in an environmentally sound manner.
Substances can be hazardous to people and the environment
in a variety of ways: some pose a health risk because they are
poisonous, corrosive or carcinogenic, while others jeopardise
the ecological balance. Substances that are not readily biode-

Che

RC

ns

S
u
ins per v
p e c isi o n
ti on /

R
es
S exce trictio
pe ptio ns /
S A uth c ia l li n al li c b a n s /
R p e c o ri s a c e n c e n c e
s
ep ial l tio n e
ort ab
i n g e l li n f o r u s
e
obl g
iga
tio n
s

1) ChemO: Chemicals Ordinance


2) ORRChem: Chemical Risk Reduction Ordinance

The principle of self-regulation requires chemical manufacturers and importers to assess whether the substances they
manufacture or import may endanger the environment or public health. To make this assessment, they must obtain as much
information as is available. If they are dealing with a new substance, it must be tested and registered. A technical dossier
must provide information on the properties of the substance.
In certain cases, a chemical safety report must be prepared.
This procedure largely corresponds to that in the EU Chemicals Regulation (REACH).
Manufacturers and importers of chemicals must also inform their customers people using chemicals in industry,

m ic als

EP
)
Ag A/Ch
mA
ric e m i c a l s A c t ( C h e
u lt u
r e A ct ( A g ri c A )

mO
Che
la
gu
l re
re
er a
ca on
Gen
of a ti /
l
n
ut y g u tio
D e lf -r e oris a
ns
S ate g g /
tio
C b e llin a ti o n bliga
la m o
for ng
In o rti ion
s
re p r vis
t
ion m e n
upe
S
l at
e
gu
ui r e
eq dg
l re
n r le
cia
Spe
atio o w n s
str k n tio
e g i list ric
R p ecia rest
S up ply
S
tio

OR

Self-regulation and duty to provide information

hem 2

OP

GLPO

OBP 3

D uty of c are
D uty to provide
in for m a tio n
S up e r visio n /
i n s pe ctio n s

u
D Du
inf

f
s o ry
i ple orato
c
n
i
r
P od lab
s
g o ic e audit
t
p ra c c ti o n s /
pe
Ins

u
S ins

or
n it i s a ti
at io o n
a ion n , reg
ing ck to r
ist
rat
etu
ion
rn
,
an
d

Chemicals are used day-in, day-out all around the world


in industry, in agriculture and in the household. There are immense numbers of them; around 100,000 chemical substances
are manufactured industrially, and while we currently know
of more than 40 million chemical compounds, every year we
discover 400,000 new ones. Self-regulation by manufacturers
and importers should prevent chemicals from causing environmental problems and problems on public health. The Confederation also has the power to prohibit especially problematic chemicals.

gradable can accumulate in the environment and thus cause special problems. Handling chemicals is not only regulated in the
EPA, but in a range of environmental legislation, in particular
the Chemicals Act (ChemA) and the Agriculture Act (AgricA).

ty
t o
or y to f ca r
p m pr e
pe e r vis a tio n o vi d e
cti io
on n/
s

Handling chemicals with care

PP 5

21

s
an h
B Aut og
rec lig
b b
O t a ke e ll
ab
L

Bans
A uth oris
atio n , re gi stra ti o n,
recogniti
O bl i g a t i o n
o
k e bac k
L a b e l l i n n t o r e t ur n a n d t a
g

3) OBP: Ordinance on Biocidal Products

4) OGLP: Ordinance on Good Laboratory Practice

5) OPPP: Plant Protection Products Ordinance

22

> Swiss Environmental Law

A packaging plant in the pharmaceutical industry

commerce, agriculture and households about the environmental relevance of their products and the correct way to handle them. For this purpose, they must issue safety data sheets
and use labels with danger symbols, danger warnings and
safety advice.

from the air. Persons who use certain substances at work,


such as wood preservatives, disinfectants in swimming pools
or refrigerants, must also obtain a special licence and pass a
professional examination beforehand.
Bans on special substances

Environmentally sound handling as a guideline

Anyone who uses chemicals must follow these instructions


and generally act to ensure that neither people nor the environment are put at risk. Certain substances require special
authorisation before they can be used. Examples include
plant protection products that are to be sprayed in forests or

Healthy lakes thanks to a ban on phosphates


Phosphates are salts from phosphoric acid which occur in many

The Federal Council may however issue even stricter regulations on substances that are hazardous to the environment or
human beings. In particular it can ban the use of specific substances. This type of ban applies for example to non-degradable brominated flame retardants that accumulate in the environment. Highly durable chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) were
widely used until the mid-1980s as refrigerants and as propellants in aerosol cans. As CFCs and a range of other substances
played a crucial role in depleting the ozone layer, most of
these were banned in 1989, and a blanket ban on all such substances has been in force since 2005.

parts of the world as a natural product, albeit in limited quantities.


Phosphates are important nutrients, especially for plants. They there-

Environmental protection in the home and garden

fore play an important role in agriculture as fertilisers. Phosphates

Professional users in industry and agriculture are now well


aware that the use of certain substances is restricted or even
prohibited on environmental grounds. In the home or in private
gardens this is not always the case. For example, it is prohibited to use herbicides on roofs, patios, roads and paths.
In practice, though, amateur gardeners and caretakers can often
be seen spraying these substances around. Here there is still a
need to improve the way in which regulations are enforced.

also help to soften water by removing lime. Because of this, phosphates were widely used until the mid-1980s as additives to laundry
detergents. However, phosphate residues in waste water, thanks to
their excellent fertilising effect, caused the growth of algae in rivers,
lakes and seas. Switzerlands lakes, particularly those in the Central
Plateau, were badly affected by over-fertilisation, with farmers also
making a contribution. The use of phosphates as an additive in
laundry detergents has therefore been banned since 1986 and has
been limited in dishwasher detergents. Since then the condition
of Switzerlands lakes, thanks to this and other measures, has improved considerably.

23

> Swiss Environmental Law

> The Forest Act


In the 19th century, the decision to introduce sustainable management practices to protect forests was
a milestone in the use of natural resources. Today, Swiss forest legislation is internationally recognised
and also regulates in a comprehensive manner the various functions of the forest both for people and
as a habitat for animals and plants. By encouraging natural and sustainable forest management, it also
ensures that wood, a local natural resource, can be used on a permanent basis. Furthermore, the Forest
Act addresses the key role of forests in protecting against natural hazards. (see p. 33).

The Forest Act (ForA) accords forest a unique position in land


use: it protects it both in terms of its spread and its spatial
distribution. The main instrument is the general prohibition of
deforestation. Only in exceptional cases is it permitted to remove areas of forest permanently. Forest in particular may

only be cleared if a particular project cannot be realised in a


different location and there is an interest which outweighs that
of preserving the forest. This may, for example, be a drinking
water reservoir which is of considerable public benefit and
for technical reasons cannot be placed simply anywhere. If a

Regulatory fields covered by the ForA


a r e a s Au t ho r i s a t i o n o f d
es t e d t
D i s t an c e f ro m e t r i m
r
o
f
o f s f o r es
v
Coordination the fore ental
n
o
o
r
u
with
c t i t ion a n perm i t
e
la p
t
spa st edg ses
ro c lar a ta ti o
tial e
P
s
pla
De o re
nn
a t i on
Def
ing
an is
r

O r g s p o n s i b i l i t y f o e n f o r c e me n t
a
t
s
i
e s t o r g an i o n
R
o re
F upervision
S
est conservation
For

at i

on

in g

ap p

R
nts
F e g ula
pla
d
t
n
o
i
la
R re st o n s o n r
e p r o d u c t i v e m a t e ri a
e m re s e r
edia
ves
tio n o
f fore st d a
mage

Pr
of ot e ctio n
hab
it a t s

ainable
Sust gem
ent
mana

pri

t of

A c c e s s i b i lit y
Fin

eal

an

fo r

l ai

org

st
ore

pla

nn

Curved lines:
Non-field-dependent regulations
Straight lines:
Field-dependent regulations

is

on

sa

nd

aut

hor

it i e s

Ac
B a c e s s re q u ir e m e n t
b lic
A u n o n v e hi c ul a r a c c e s s f o r p u
t h o ri s a
tio n fo r e v e nts

ili t

an

cia

Implementation guarantees

p
ro

Forest Act (ForA)1

Ex

d v ic e , i s i t i o n
n, a
u
a t io d ac q
rm h an al data
n f o a r c m en t
I r e s e fu n d a
of

Rig h

a ti

Superordinate regulations

Prevention o
f
cu t t ing
Authorisatio damage
clear res
f
o
n for
Cr
on l measu
i
woo by wild
t
i
im
d ha an
hib ltura ning
in
o
r
u
n
r
i
P
c
m
v
a
i
l
e
Silv st p
stin als
Training and
Fore
g
qua l

ifica
t i on

n
i si o

li
ub

cl

ia b

1) without natural hazards (see p. 33)

24

> Swiss Environmental Law

special permit is issued for deforestation, trees must be replanted as a substitute in the same region and cover the same
area. In special cases, other measures to benefit nature and the
landscape may be taken as a substitute.
The forest as a living community

The forest consists of more than just trees. Animals, other


plants and fungi live in and on the forest floor, in the undergrowth and in the treetops. Depending on the subsoil,
climate and type of use communities of all kinds can develop.
The protection of these natural communities is a second important goal of the ForA. The use of forests, which is regulated by cantonal planning and management regulations,
has to take the biodiversity of the forests into account.
Forested areas may therefore be used only in part or not at
all. The cantons may designate some areas as forest reserves.
In this way natural processes can develop undisturbed and
ecologically valuable structures, such as underbrush and dead
trees, or deadwood, are left untouched. Woodpeckers, for
example, find shelter in deadwood and feed on the insects living in it.

For the good of humankind


Forests are of enormous importance not just in Switzerland but also throughout the world. The worlds forests are a haven
for biodiversity and fulfil an important function in the CO 2 balance
and in terms of climate change by absorbing CO 2, capturing carbon
and thus removing it from the atmosphere. Widespread deforestation
around the world accounts for about one sixth of global CO 2 emissions. Forests also play a vital role in local and regional economic
and social development for example as a source of raw materials
and energy, or in conserving water. So far, however, no international
agreement exists on the protection of forests. Indirectly, they are
covered by the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Convention
on Climate Change. Both of these international agreements assign an
important role to forests.

and for recreation

Whether hiking, biking or mushroom picking in the Alps or


walking, jogging or riding in urban areas many people spend
their recreation time in the forest. This is made possible in
part by the Forest Act, which assigns the cantons the task of
making the forest accessible to the general public an achievement of a type seldom seen in other countries. However,
access to the forest can also be restricted if important public
interests require it, such as when the conservation of the forest
is at risk or to protect plants and animals. Moreover, the forest
is only accessible to those who are travelling on foot. Only the
Forest Service and forest managers are permitted to drive a car
or other motorised vehicles in the forests. Riding and cycling
is only permitted on forest roads, surfaced forest paths or specially marked trails. Mountain bike trails along unsurfaced
tracks through the forest can be damaging and require special
authorisation from the respective canton. This is only issued
subject to certain strict conditions.
Sustainable use of forests

Besides protecting the forest and the various functions of the


forest, the ForA also has the goal of managing the forest with
respect to nature and of encouraging the sustainable use of
wood as a natural resource. A significant amount of timber is
available for sustainable use: not only is wood a renewable resource, the forest already contains a significant supply of timber which has not been exploited in recent decades. The Confederation and the cantons are responsible for training the
necessary personnel and advising forest owners. In addition,

In a forest of beech trees near St. Aubin NE

the Confederation supports measures that increase economic


viability. These include issuing planning requirements that
apply to all companies or the improvement of management
practices in the form of management communities.

25

> Swiss Environmental Law

> The Waters Protection Act


The Waters Protection Act (WPA) protects water and our lakes and rivers against harmful effects. It ensures,
among other things, that good quality drinking and process water is available to households, industry,
commerce and agriculture. It also ensures that the natural habitats of animals and plants in and around
water bodies are preserved. Rivers and lakes should also provide recreation opportunities and continue
to be part of a diverse landscape.
Keeping water clean

Clean uncontaminated water is vital for people, animals and


plants. But we should not take access to clean water for
granted. As recently as the 1960s, Swiss streams, rivers and
lakes were polluted, sometimes drastically. The WPA requires everyone to take the care needed to avoid harming our
water bodies. In particular it prohibits the introduction of potential pollutants into water bodies. Polluted waste water produced by households, businesses or industry must therefore
be treated before it can enter a water body. Waste water
should be discharged into the public sewers if this is possible
at reasonable expense. Waste water from businesses or industry such as from car garages, fruit processing and the chemicals industry must in some cases be specially treated before it is discharged into the sewer system.
Farms may not spread more fertiliser (nitrogen, phosphorus)
on their land than is required by the crops. Farmers must

A rehabilitated section of the River Reppisch ZH

therefore ensure there is a balance between their livestock,


the additional fertilisers used and the land under cultivation.
They also need to have large enough areas for storing liquid
and solid manure so that they do not have to spread manure
on the fields during the dormant season in winter.
Switzerland gets 80 per cent of its drinking water from groundwater (wells and springs). To ensure that this groundwater
does not become contaminated, the cantons have to designate
groundwater protection zones. In these zones there are restrictions on constructing buildings and other installations as
well as on commercial, industrial and agricultural activities.
Construction, for example, is prohibited in the groundwater
wellhead protection zone and in the inner protection zone.
In the outer protection zone, only installations that cannot
affect the groundwater may be erected.

26

> Swiss Environmental Law

Sufficient water in rivers and streams

The availability of clean, uncontaminated water is not enough


for animals and plants to be able to live in and around water.
Animals and plants require their habitats to be intact, both in
terms of water flow, the water regime, as well as the structure of the water body. Due to damming at hydroelectric
power plants, earlier flood protection measures and the channelling of rivers, water habitats in many places are severely
affected. In some places, too little or no water flows, and there
are no natural streambeds, riverbeds and banks.

A sufficient level of water needs to flow if fish and small


organisms are to survive in it. So if any more than negligible
amounts of water are used from a water body for instance
for a hydroelectric power plant or for agriculture authorisation is required. Authorisation can be given if it can be guaranteed that there will always be sufficient residual flow in the
stream or river. Hydroelectric power plant operations lead to
a rapid rise and fall in the water level, a phenomenon known
as hydropeaking, caused by switching installations on and
off. Plant operators are therefore required to minimise harmful effects on water habitats by taking structural measures.

Regulatory fields covered by the WPA


Criminal provisions

R Org a
es nis a tio n
S e nf o p o n s i b ilit y f o r
up rce m
S D ele er visio e n t
p e g a ti o n
od
cia
lis t n
ys
agenc
tru
ies
i
ab
ctu
ec
ha a l
r
s p d fo
es 1
b il a n
c
it a c e d
a ti id e
e
tio
a q u pr ov
n o bed
f
d p spa
o
ns
l
e
s
f w oad
tio
itat s p ac
ri o c e p
ater
b
b
n
a
u
h
d
get
riti r o v
s
ve
the
ng the
s at i d e
ter
S e c u P r o t e c ti iv e u s e o f
to
l in fish
ion d fo
ri n g a n d e x te n s
a
c
fa
i
n
of r r wa
f
pp
te c h e o
eha te rs
ea
bilita
n for passag
o
i
t
l fo
a
s
i
r
tio n m
e
Autho
ro
in g th
e as ure s
rga
Guarantee
ni s a
tio n
s an
d aut
h or iti e s

B
P a si c
r ot
h
D arm e
P ut
o
p ri l

ce
ta n r y
sis sato
n

flo
al p
e
du ro
egim
e si hy d
r
Wa t e r r
y
iate b
f
ro pr sed
lo
a
g app cau
m
r
S e curin
raw
g
d
us ha
at
ith in
N o s eri o
lid
f w eak
so
e o op
on
cas y dr
th e or h
dc
tio n in in g f
lan
A uthorisa
lann
nd
tio n p
na
Re m edia
a ti o
o p ri
Expr
ter

ion

io n the
I n f o r m a t n for
nta
I n f o r m a ti o li c
b
me
g e n eral p u funda
Pro visio n of

Water pro
A rr a n g em t ec t i o n a
r
D u t y t o c e n t o f wa e a s , gr
o nn e c s t e o un
w
t to
se w a t er dwa t
e rs di s er p
Ba n on p
ch r o
ar g t e
Du t y t o o l l ut i on
d i sp o
e/i ct
se o
nfi
fw
as t
Water q
e
ual i
wa
ty
te r

wa t e r ) b y a r e a p l a n
ning
( gr o und
a t e r s wh i c h m ay p o l l u t e w a t e r
w
f
s
o
d
i
u
i on l i q
ec t of
r o t d l in g
P
Han

Fin
s e r s a ga i n s t
Ch a n c i n
e
l
t
p
i
a
F i n a r ge s g
in c f w
a
p r io n o f fe c t s
and ncial
c t u l e ar e
pay comp as
f f c ay s
me e
y o te r p l e
nts
lu cip
n

w
ea
k in

wa

Implementation guarantees

nd

es
rw
ate
r

a
es
on n
z
i on t r a ti o
l

ea
ar

Superordinate regulations

t ion for ins ta lla tio ns and a cti


v ities
thor is a
A u i n ag e p l a n ni ng
Dr a

Waters Protection Act


(WPA)

ls

R e m e d ia ti o n

t
Wa

g Ma
in ta
in in
g the
gro u

ndw ater reso urces

er

g
rin e
c u to r
e
S D u ty
th

ing g an
n
efi in
D lan n
P

Rig

Curved lines:
Non-field-dependent regulations

1) also regulated by the Fishing act (FishA)

Straight lines:
Field-dependent regulations

27

> Swiss Environmental Law

Living watercourses

The former practice of reinforcing and correcting the course


of streams and rivers is now only allowed in exceptional
cases. Covering or culverting watercourses is prohibited.
The WPA in fact requires that reinforced, corrected, covered
and culverted waters should be rehabilitated. When this happens, the landscape and recreational aspects of the body of
water must be taken into account, but the costs and benefits
are also to be weighed up against each other. The cantons are
obliged to plan for the rehabilitation of water bodies.

Rhine again home to salmon


In the Convention on the Protection of the Rhine, the five
adjoining states of Switzerland, France, Germany, Luxembourg and
the Netherlands along with the European Community undertake to
protect the Rhine as a habitat. It is thus a thematic extension of
previous conventions dealing with the improvement of water quality.
The Treaty aims to protect the individual character of the Rhine,
its banks and flood plains. To protect the animals and plants that live
in the river and on the banks, the natural habitats and the original
river course should be maintained and restored as far as possible.

In many places, there is too little space available for bodies of


water because of existing buildings and facilities, or due to
intensived farming. Since 2011, the WPA therefore requires
the cantons to define the amount of space needed by surface
waters so that they once again have enough room to fulfil
their natural functions, while at the same time ensuring flood
protection and the use of water.

A barrage on the Limmat by the power station at Dietikon ZH

The Rhine Protection Convention also envisages ecologically sustainable flood prevention. A secondary but very attractive aim of
the Convention is to reintroduce salmon into the Rhine.

In the floodplain forest of the Old Aare river

28

> Swiss Environmental Law

> Protecting biodiversity and landscape


The Swiss landscape has changed radically over the past hundred years due to the spread of residential
housing and to the construction of infrastructure, in particular for transport and energy production
and transmission, and as a result of developments in agriculture including the intensification and
abandonment of cultivation. Not only has the appearance of the landscape changed, there are now
fewer habitats for plants and animals and those remaining are reduced in quality. Both in the Federal
Act on the Protection of Nature and Cultural Heritage (NCHA) and in the Federal Acts on Hunting
(HuntA) and on Fishing (FishA), the protection and preservation of these habitats are central issues.

Over the past century, numerous animal and plant species


have become extinct or much rarer, and this is also the case in
Switzerland. Experience has shown that we can only protect
and preserve species if the habitats which provide their food
and reproduction sites continue to exist. The NCHA therefore
requires that we try to prevent the extinction of indigenous
animal and plant species by maintaining adequately large and
connected habitats (biotopes). Riversides, reedbeds and marshlands, hedges, copses, rare forest communities and dried
grasslands which provide particularly favourable conditions
for animal and plant communities are of particular interest.
No-hunting zones, water and migratory bird reservations, waterside vegetation and forest reserves are further habitats
which enjoy special conservation status, as do the so-called
Emerald sites (cf. box on right).

International responsibility for biological diversity


The term biodiversity relates to all aspects of diversity
in the living world and includes the diversity of ecosystems, the diversity of species and genetic diversity, as well as their interaction.
The use of biodiversity must be sustainable so that ecosystems are
preserved and they can continue to provide services, and so that
species and genetic diversity are maintained. Local, regional and
global dimensions play a role in this. What we do in Switzerland has
an effect not only on indigenous biodiversity, but also on global
biodiversity whether it is the consumption of commodities or
the consumption of agricultural goods such as meat, exotic fruits,
cut flowers or above all feedstuffs for farm animals. Preserving biodiversity therefore requires us to act on an international level.
This is the goal of the Biodiversity Convention, approved in 1992 at
the World Summit for Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro.
More than 190 countries have ratified the Convention in the meantime.
Nature conservation Europe-wide
With the Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and
Natural Habitats, the countries in Europe hope to protect valuable
habitats and endangered animal and plant species throughout the
continent. In 1979 the Bern Convention was signed in Bern City Hall
and it has been ratified by 44 countries, as well as the EU. It protects
around 600 plant species, 111 mammals, 363 birds and numerous
other animal species. The aim of Emerald sites is to provide a
network of valuable habitats for endangered species in Europe.
In Switzerland 37 such sites have been proposed. At a regional
level, the Bern Convention implements many of the goals which
were adopted at a global level in the Biodiversity Convention of 1992.

The Common Blue butterfly, an inhabitant of low-nutrient meadows

29

> Swiss Environmental Law

Habitats of national importance

The Confederation has the task of designating habitats of national importance. Sites such as raised bogs and fenland,
floodplains, amphibian breeding grounds and dry grasslands
and meadows are listed in federal inventories. The cantons are
responsible for protecting and maintaining these inventoried
sites. They are also responsible for protecting and maintaining
biotopes of regional and local importance. Furthermore they
must ensure that an ecological balance is maintained both inside and outside of residential areas, for example by establishing copses, hedges and other forms of natural vegetation.
Valuable dry grasslands

The Federal Inventory of Dry Grasslands and Meadows of


National Importance aims to protect nutrient-poor habitats in

which, for example, rare orchids thrive and a wide range of


insects such as butterflies and grasshoppers live. The inventory lists around 3000 sites with a total area of around 21,400
hectares. There are wide swathes of dry grasslands near Sent
in the Lower Engadin, for example, where valuable habitats
stretch over hundreds of hectares along the southern side of
the valley.
Protecting ibex, lynx, wolf & co.

Wild animals and plants are best protected by protecting their


habitats. However, the NCHA, Hunting Act (HuntA) and
Fishing Act (FishA) also include specific regulations for protecting individual animal and plant species, such as the
possibility of introducing bans on picking rare plants or catching certain species of fish. The HuntA places under general

Regulatory fields covered by the


FishA, the HuntA and the NCHA
Superordinate regulations
Implementation guarantees

l fo
ro
nis a

ti on

rg a

eta

tio n
s and

a uth o r i

,a

ial
nc nsa
a
in
F o mpe
c

ing

P Hu nta
W rotec ble s p e
a te ted m cies a n d
clos e s ea s o ns
r an
d m a m m als an d bi
rds
ig ra to
r y b ird r e se tio ns
r va

E x p r o p ri a t i o n

s
or ures
isa to
tio p r
n f ote
or ct r
est are
a bli p l a nt
s
shin
g pla and anim als
nts and
a ni m als

t ie s

on

train

a
tor ssis
y p ta nc
aym e a
ent nd
s

Cr i m

ea

eg

a ti

an d

pp

nv

f or m

ic e

are t
d c en
a n l f i lm
on h e f u
t

tem

Fis hin g A ct
(Fis h A)

In

f
eo
d us
s
Provi
n an
ean
sio n o n t h e pr o t e c ti o
tac
if sh a
crus
P rote n d c r u st a c e a n s of fis h a nd
ction f or ha bitats

Species/Ecosystems/
Landschaften

Hu
(H u n ti n g A c t
ntA)
dv

fa

r ia

in a
l pr
Fe
ovi
d er
sio
a
na ti l i n
ns
Pa o na l ven
r ks i m t o r
o f n po r y o
Org
a ti t an f l a
on ce
R e an i s a
al
sp o t i o n
im
A d n si
b
v
i
i
s
l
o
i
Sp
t
r
y
y
e
Su ci a l i s c omm f or e
pe r t a i t
v i si ge t e
on n c
i
L an
ds c
ap
e
Nat
u
(NC re
HA

to

p es
nd sca
i mp o r t a n c e
i r e l a e s o f na ti on a l
M
iotop
eg i on a l a n d l o c al i mp o r t a
M
r
f
o
B
s
nce
ire
i o t o pe
Ri g
f
o
sa
B
h

es
nd
p
B
a
a
sic pr
ri p
sc
i
n
c
a

d
e
R
i ple
equi r
n
nc
Sp e c i e me nt o s
rta
al c o
po
o f f e d e n s i d f pr es
nt
r a l t era er v
me
e
a sk t i o a t
c
s
ni i
fn or
n
s
e
S p e c i es
es
and
e co
sys
ral Heritage A
u
t
l
u
c
C
t
d
an
)

ea h
M Aut

es
zon
in g ce
t
n
u
n
h
N o - in g li c e
t
Hun

Curved lines:
Non-field-dependent regulations
Straight lines:
Field-dependent regulations

30

> Swiss Environmental Law

The mire landscape at Rothenturm SZ

protection all birds, predators and some other animal groups


which may not explicitly be hunted, in particular larger predators such as the lynx, bear and wolf.

Landscape is all
The Council of Europes Landscape Convention aims to
encourage authorities to actively and consciously manage the land-

Protecting Swiss landscapes

scape, from conservation through protection and improvement to

Landscapes are of immense value in many respects ecologically as a place where natural resources and habitats can regenerate, economically for tourism and in attracting business,
and geographically as an expression of our versatile cultural
heritage or as an important element in our identity. Care of the
landscape is a key objective of the Spatial Planning Act (SPA).
The NCHA requires the Confederation to take account of the
specific nature of different landscapes in fulfilling its duties.
Landscapes of national importance such as the Lavaux vineyards on Lake Geneva are listed in a federal inventory.
The landscapes listed in this inventory are to be kept intact or
conserved as far as possible. Almost absolute protection is enjoyed by 89 wetlands of outstanding beauty and national importance.

sustainable use. The Convention understands landscape to be our

Finally, the Parks of National Importance also serve to preserve areas and landscapes of particular natural value. Whereas the main aim of a national park is to provide unspoiled
habitats for flora and fauna, regional nature parks also serve to
strengthen a sustainable regional economy whilst nature discovery parks - near to urban areas - provide an opportunity for
people to experience nature and learn about the environment.

spatial environment as perceived by residents and visitors. It is


the result of the effects of nature and humans and changes over
time. The Convention therefore applies not only to exceptional,
wild or unspoiled landscapes, but also to those which are everyday,
urban or spoilt. The Convention came into force on 1 March 2004.
Switzerland is the thirtieth state to ratify the Convention, it having
been approved by the Swiss Parliament in autumn 2012.

31

> Swiss Environmental Law

> Controlled handling of organisms


Biotechnology is increasingly being employed worldwide in areas such as agriculture, medicine or
the food industry. However, if genetically modifi ed, pathogenic or alien organisms enter the environment unchecked, they may endanger people, animals, plants or other organisms. The Environmental Protection Act (EPA) and the Gene Technology Act (GTA) provide for the safe handling of
these organisms.
in enclosed spaces or laboratories. A licence from the federal
government must be obtained before field trials with such organisms can take place or before such organisms can be
placed on the market for the first time. It must be demonstrated that no harm will be done to humans or the environment before a licence can be granted. Since 2005 there has
been a moratorium on the cultivation of genetically modified
plants in agriculture.

Safety in contained systems

Organisms are characterised by the fact that they are able to


reproduce and pass on genetic material. This is true both of
naturally occurring organisms and genetically modified ones.
When dealing with organisms, the principle applies that people and the environment may not be endangered and biodiversity may not be compromised. People who work with pathogenic or genetically modified organisms must therefore work

Regulatory fields covered by the


EPA and the GTA

me

l i ng o

rg an i s m s

Han

, i n pa r t icul ar pa

n c o nt a in e d s ys t e
d l i ng i

tho g e

nic

a nd

Superordinate regulations
al i e

no

ms

r ga

Implementation guarantees

e
uir

o
ts f

nd
r ha

i sm

C r imi nal p ro vi s i on s

Curved lines:
Non-field-dependent regulations
Straight lines:
Field-dependent regulations

nt
eme
fo rc
en 2
ing
or es onitor
it te d m
an
A)
(EP
ct

Ba
Se sic pr
Du lf-regu incip
Po ty of c lat
llut ar
er
Envi
ron

Or ga
Re sp n i s a t i o
E x p e o ns i b n
il
r
l es n

e
l
Supe t com ity f
io
inci p
rvis m
r
p
e ys
ion
pa
al Protection
t
n
A
me

gan

ty

t)

ility

rk e

lia b

ma

blic

r or

P R

isa
tio

al fo

r
ic s fo
n oce
E t h p e ct ein
sin and dure
b
s
g r ass
R e livi n g
e qu e s s m
f
o
irem ent
th e
nt
ents
en
go
n
i
viro
c
nme
pla
ro
er
nt (Ex
and
eq tec
s
e
s
p
a
t
e
e
um
ri m e n t al r e l
uir ion
s
em of
con
en O G
au
for
ts f M -f
e
tho
c
i
o
or h ree p
riti
of c h
ro
and
es
li n g g d u c ti o n a n d f r e e d o m a ni s m s
g
enetically modified or

Pu

(G

he

appe

t
n olo g y A c

ig ni

Te c
h

r
gs the d

n
Ge
s
ion p
aut p
P r e c -ste tio
-by ina n
m
r
ice
Step
dete and l
n
Risk
gi
rting
R e po
dlin
Han

Ri g h t of

TA
)

Organisms1

ns

an

1) Not including forests and protected species


(cf. p. 23 and 28)
2) Federal Ethics Committee on Non-Human
Biotechnology (ECNH),
Swiss Expert Committee for Biosafety (SECB)

32

> Swiss Environmental Law

Measures against harmful organisms

Damage to the environment, particularly to biodiversity,


can also be caused by alien plant and animal species that are
either brought in or legally imported and do not come into
contact with natural enemies in their host country. The Himalayan Balsam, for example, was originally imported as an ornamental and fodder plant. It is now increasingly suppressing
native species and increasing erosion, especially on the banks
of rivers. Environmental and genetic engineering legislation
gives the federal and cantonal authorities the opportunity to
take special action against harmful organisms that spread in
the environment.

Safe use worldwide


The Cartagena Protocol is designed to ensure the safe
transport and use of living organisms modified with the aid of
modern biotechnology.

Research laboratory in the pharmaceutical industry

The Asian Long-horned Beetle a threat to Swiss forests

Genetically engineered wheat in a greenhouse

33

> Swiss Environmental Law

> Protection against natural hazards


Floods, avalanches, landslides and rockfalls frequently occur in Switzerland, and they are often of considerable magnitude. The Hydraulic Engineering Act (HEA) and the Forest Act (ForA) regulate how
to organise protection against these natural hazards.
Recognising hazards

If we want to protect ourselves from natural hazards or prevent


them completely, we need to identify them early on. It is therefore the task of the cantons to draw up natural hazard maps
which show the areas most at threat from certain natural hazards. The information in the natural hazard maps is used in further planning instruments, in the cantons structure plans and in
the communes land use planning. Early warning systems developed and operated by the cantons alert the public to the
threat of natural hazards such as avalanches, landslides and
flooding. The public can then be evacuated from the hazard area
in time and if necessary precautionary measures can be taken.
Preventing disaster

Protecting against natural hazards is the task of the cantons.


In constructing protective structures and drawing up natural

Regulatory fields covered by the


HEA and the ForA
al c

ou r

i on

bo

nts

e
uc asur
tur es:
es

me

For
est A ct (F or A)
m
Sp
al r
t u r e st
c
m e a ti a l p
u
v
r
S t e cti
as u la n n in g
res
Prot

M ain

te na nc

e of p ro t e c tiv e f

E x p r op ria ti o n

ores

ts

Implementation guarantees
t er

Pr
an d o t e c t
va i
l

Superordinate regulations
of

s, including:
ciple ard maps
Prin tural haz ing servic
es
a
arn
N Early w

A)

C o m p e nsator y pay

Protection against
natural hazards

se

wa

s er

Or ga ni s a t

of

C on

a pa ci t y a nd o f t he n a t u r

E n f o r c em
le
e
eo p r t y
Supervis nt pow
f p p r o pe
i on
o
er s
e
n
l
o ab
u
ngineering Ac
lic E
t (H
au
r
E
yd

va

no

fw

at e

in g c

ie s

tio

E xp r o pr i a t i o n
rr y
r-ca

hazard maps, they can call on expert and financial support


from the Confederation. The various measures are designed to
protect people and valuable property. The best way to do this
is to use space appropriately. Spatial planning has therefore to
ensure that no buildings or infrastructure are constructed in
areas which are prone to natural hazards. However, in Switzerland a large number of such areas are already built over, so
constructions such as embankments, levees and watercourse
corrections are necessary. These must meet certain ecological
requirements and any negative effects on the environment
must be kept to a minimum. Protective forests are also a
means of protection against avalanches, rockfalls and landslides. Protective structures and protective forests must be
well maintained at all times so that they can fulfil their protective function.

Curved lines:
Non-field-dependent regulations
Straight lines:
Field-dependent regulations

34

> Swiss Environmental Law

> The challenge of climate protection


Over the past 100 years the average global surface air temperature has increased by 0.74 C. By joining
forces we can successfully limit a further rise in temperature. In Switzerland the CO2 Act is a key instrument in a sustainable climate policy.

Man-made climate change is due to various greenhouse gases


which intensify the atmospheres natural greenhouse effect.
Under the revised CO2 Act, which was passed by the Swiss
parliament in December 2011, Switzerlands domestic CO2
emissions must be at least 20 per cent lower than 1990 levels
by 2020. They can be reduced mainly in the areas of traffic,
buildings and industry, for which specific reduction targets
are set out in the implementing provisions.

A d mi n i s t r a

anc
t ion
sa
evy on fossil combust
l
e
v
i
nd
t
n
.
e
f
c
u
n
I
e
b
u
:
cri
e
i
l
d
u
ing reno
ls
e of reven
mi
v
a
s
t

i
U
o
e
t
c
,
h
s
na
n
e
n
o
E

m
l
o
g
m
y
a
x
em
l
progr ution to the pub fund,
u
p
n
b
l
i
i
c
t
r
d
t
i
a
s
i
o
e
n
d
d
g
r
n
t
r
y
r
een ake
indust
ho
u
y
ev
CO 2 l
Tax
ex
e
et

nt

fo

C b

res ec
M e a s u h e r s ntar
t
fr o m o v olu
d
tors an s
e
m easur

o
r mp
ow fos e n s a t
er sil- t h i o n
pla e r m a l
Ob
nts
sa lig
a
t
o m e fo tio n
to
e p r
pe tw ee en s all C O c o m p e n rat n a tio 2 e m
or stat n a g is s i o n s
e a ree m e
nd p
n
ower p t
Co
lant
ntr
a ct
ua l
pen
alties

Em

Climate
(CO2 Act)

is sio
n s tr a din g
C
apw it a n d
-tra
h
M tr a d a b l i m i t e d a d e - s y s t e m
le e m m o u n t o f
a
n
vol dato
iss io n s
u nt
ces
ary ry for major allowan
f or m
emitters,
o d e r at e
emitters

t io n

n
ductio target
Re

n
C o m p e n s a ti o s
l
for m otor fu e

o
te f
ensa
O bli g ati o n t o c o m p sio ns
is
p art of the C O 2 e m

E mi s
f or c s i on t
ar s a r

t iv e s

mp

Tar
g
on a e t : 13
0
v
l i c e n er a ge g C O
sed fo 2 /
c ar r al k m
s ln

20
by ly
ew

One of the most important measures is the CO2 levy charged


on fossil fuels. This amounts to CHF 36 per tonne of CO2 and
will be increased incrementally up to CHF 120, in as far as
this is necessary in order to reach the targets set. Most of the
revenue from this levy is redistributed to the public and industry. Some of the revenue is used to renovate buildings to meet
new energy standards and some feeds a technology fund.

hat
es t
ani
l aw
ns
mp
co uce issio
for ed em
r
to gas
se

15

CO 2 incentive levy on fossil fuels

e
ort,
n s p lic y
a
r
t
,
y
o
E n e rg ncial p
and fina

ro
n vi

nm

Regulatory fields covered by


the CO2 Act
Superordinate regulations
Implementation guarantees

35

> Swiss Environmental Law

International challenge
The Climate Convention was approved in 1992 at the
Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. Since then it has been ratified by
165 states. The Convention aims to prevent dangerous disruption
to the climate system and to stabilise at a safe level greenhouse
gases emissions produced by human activity. The 1997 Kyoto Protocol delineated global climate policy and set reduction targets for
industrial countries for the period 20082012. The global community
is currently negotiating over a second commitment period.

Measures of the industry

Companies whose industrial processes require large amounts


of energy can gain exemption from the CO2 levy by committing
to reduce their emissions or by taking part in the emissions
trading scheme. Companies which produce large amounts of
greenhouse gases must trade in emissions allowances. In return, they are automatically exempt from the CO2 levy.
Each year, companies which engage in emissions trading
must submit emissions allowances according to the amount of
greenhouse gases they produce. They receive some of these
allowances free of charge; if a company does not have enough
allowances to cover its emissions, it must buy more at auction
or acquire them from other companies.

Low water levels on Lake Constance during the 2003


summer drought

offset in full the greenhouse gas emissions they generate.


At least fifty per cent must be compensated in schemes in
Switzerland.
Target values for cars

Operators of oil- or gas-fired power plants are also automatically exempt from the CO2 levy. They are required by law to

In the transport sector, the car industry is required to reduce


the CO2 emissions of newly licensed cars to an average of
130 g CO2 per kilometre by 2015. In addition, importers
of fossil motor fuels must offset a part of the CO2 emissions
generated.

Damage caused by Hurricane Sandy in November 2012

Monitoring fire sources in a forest fire area near Visp in 2011

For links to further information relating to this brochure, see:


www.bafu.admin.ch/environmental-law-brief