Swiss accused of squandering resources

Carbon dioxide emissions have stabilised in Switzerland Keystone

Switzerland has successfully adopted sustainable development practices, but the country faces problems over transport, land use and poverty.

This content was published on November 10, 2003 - 14:19

The findings of a government study also indicate that future resources are being squandered in order to meet the needs of today's population.

The Monet monitoring programme used more than 100 different indicators to assess for the first time the current state of sustainable development in Switzerland.

It identified 26 areas that were seen as crucial to measuring sustainable development, including social security, health, living conditions and work.

Three government agencies were behind the development of the monitoring instrument: the Federal Statistics Office, the Environment Agency and the Spatial Development Office.

The report concluded that Switzerland was strong on potential for sustainable development but weak on delivery.

Success stories

It said productivity and the average household income were both on the rise, and that industry was more energy efficient.

The study found there had also been advances in areas classified as “subjective living conditions”, such as in producing and consuming organic goods, research, technology and maintaining air quality.

The Swiss also have a high level of job satisfaction and are happy with their quality of life, according to Monet.

Bad news

However, the findings also showed that women still face discrimination in the job market, and there are more working poor than a decade ago.

More than 20 per cent of young people have poor reading skills.

Energy use is also far greater than before because of an explosion in mobility, rising by over 40 per cent between 1980 and 2001.

And while water and air quality has improved across the country, carbon dioxide emissions, which affect global warming, have only just stabilised.

The report also stated that Switzerland had an ambivalent attitude towards sustainable development, measured by its lack of interest in what goes on beyond its borders.

swissinfo, Faryal Mirza

Key facts

Sustainable development is a policy that tries to meet the needs of the present population, with the needs of future generations in mind.
Switzerland recognised the importance of sustainable development in 1992 with “Agenda 21” and the Rio Declaration on Sustainable Development.
The country’s constitution was amended in 1999 to include this concept.
In 2002 the Swiss government presented a strategy, defining its policies in this area.
The monitoring system, Monet, was part of this package.

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