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Environment report draws mixed balance

Urbanisation, traffic and the large-scale consumption of resources are lessening the effectiveness of environmental measures in Switzerland.

This content was published on June 2, 2009 - 15:58

Environment Switzerland 2009, a report by the Federal Environment Office and the Federal Statistics Office, says that although progress has been made in many sectors, improvement has slowed since the turn of the millennium.

Urban sprawl continues, albeit at a noticeably slower pace, said the report which was published on Tuesday. This mainly occurs to the detriment of soil quality.

The consumption of resources rose by 17 per cent between 1990 and 2006, triggering an increase in freight transport. The corollary of this rise in consumption is the steady growth in the volume of urban waste. Although more than 50 per cent of the waste is recycled, the quantity incinerated has remained stable over the past decade.

In addition, energy consumption rose by eight per cent between 1990 and 2007, while the share of renewable energies stagnated at around 18 per cent.

Mobility is also steadily increasing. The distance people travelled annually rose by seven per cent between 2000 and 2005, with public transport accounting for only 18 per cent. The development of infrastructure to meet growing needs results in urban sprawl, landscape fragmentation and soil sealing, all of which affect the habitats of various species as well as biodiversity.

Not all bad

Better knews in the report was that the quality of the water in lakes and rivers had markedly improved in recent decades. That of groundwater, from which 80 per cent of Swiss drinking water is derived, is generally good, but some micropollutants still pose problems.

Air quality has also shown noticeable improvement over the past 25 years. Nevertheless, progress has now slowed and emission limit values for nitrogen dioxide, ozone and particles are still being exceeded, sometimes by wide margins.

Switzerland reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by 2.7 per cent between 1990 and 2007. However, merely lowering emissions in Switzerland will not suffice to meet the target of the Kyoto Protocol, - a reduction of eight per cent.

To do this, the report said it would be necessary to offset emissions by purchasing certificates abroad and by taking into account the absorption of CO2 by forests.

swissinfo.ch with agencies

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