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Swiss must fight to keep green image

Switzerland is a leading green industrial country but it still has work to do if it is to maintain this reputation, an international report warned on Friday.

The news comes at a time when the country has been debating a raft of environmental measures, including a proposal to slash CO2 levels.

Reacting to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) study, Swiss environment minister Moritz Leuenberger said Switzerland needed to ensure the sustainable use of natural resources and promote biodiversity.

Lorents Lorentsen, the head of the OECD’s environment directorate, told a news conference in the capital, Bern, that Switzerland’s image was “clean and green”.

He particularly praised the high drinking water quality and the advanced noise protection and recycling policies.

However, these efforts could be in vain if Switzerland did not succeed in improving the efficiency of its natural resources use, according to the OECD environmental performance review.

It was particularly worried about the smog and ozone levels and the way that the water system was being managed. OECD experts were also concerned about biodiversity and changes to the landscape.

The OECD therefore put forward 46 suggestions for improvement. Among these were encouraging less polluting technologies, such as promoting the use of wood as a building material and renewable energies.

Advances in these areas would bring economic benefits for the country, added the report.

The authors also observed that Swiss environmental policy should be developed on an international level, as only global measures could prevent the exploitation of natural resources.

Leuenberger reacts

Leuenberger welcomed the report’s conclusions. “We have achieved something,” he told reporters, referring to the overall good mark obtained by the country.

However, he went on to outline four areas where the country should focus its efforts. This included reviewing the need for a biodiversity strategy.

He also recommended that water management be improved and consideration be given to reconciling the drinking water requirements of the population with hydro-electric power generation and moves to return rivers and streams to their natural courses.

In terms of sustainable consumption, Leuenberger said the current energy rating for cars would be replaced by an environment label, so buyers could make decisions based on a vehicle’s green credentials.

He added that the polluter-pays principle had been applied in some areas but that polluters were not always made to cover the environmental costs, which went into billions of francs.

The minister would therefore like to see more initiatives such as the CO2 tax on fuels which has just been approved by parliament.

For their part, Swiss environmental groups said the results of the report proved that Switzerland did too little to protect its biodiversity and that a national strategy was therefore very necessary.

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The OECD report examines Switzerland’s progress since the previous Environmental Performance Review by the OECD in 1998.

It also looks at the extent to which the country has met national objectives and honoured international commitments regarding environment and sustainable development.

The report is part of the OECD Environmental Performance Reviews Programme which conducts peer reviews of environmental conditions and progress in each member country. The analyses are supported by economic and environmental data and result in recommendations.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR