Environment ministers from eight Alpine countries and the European Union have agreed to increase coordination on energy issues. The decision came at the end of a week-long meeting in south-eastern Switzerland.
The government representatives from France, Italy, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Slovenia, Liechtenstein, Monaco as well as the EU came out in favour of the so-called Alpine energy platform, according to the environment ministry.
The platform is aimed at setting up “a forum for exchange on the challenges and opportunities posed by energy and climate issues, as well as specific projects,” a statement said on Friday. Details of the remit still have to be defined.
“The key question will be how nature and landscape conservation interests can be balanced out against energy generation, storage and efficiency needs,” the statement added.
Switzerland is interested in issues of energy generation from renewable sources – water, wind and the sun.
The meeting in the town of Poschiavo was chaired by Swiss environment minister Doris Leuthard, who has served as president of the Convention since March 2011. It marked the end of the Swiss presidency.
However, critics do not spare the Swiss government and the Alpine Convention.
The non-governmental pressure group Cipra has warned of damage to the environment by the construction of wind and solar power installations in the Alps.
Nature must not be exploited to the last drop as a “battery for Europe”, the organisation said.
It called for renewed efforts to reduce energy consumption, including improved high-efficiency building standards.
The Alpine Initiative group for its part is calling on the environment ministers to focus their efforts on problems caused by freight lorries transiting through the Alps.
The Alpine Convention is the world’s first binding treaty under international law designed to protect mountain regions. The agreement came into force in 1995, and was ratified by Switzerland four years later.
The aim is to promote sustainable development in the Alpine area, and the interests of the about 14 million people living within it.