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Swiss environment not getting better

Increased mobility has been detrimental to the environment imagepoint

The general state of the environment in Switzerland has not improved since 2002, despite better water quality and treatment of waste as well as fewer pollutants.

This content was published on June 1, 2007 - 15:39

But the latest national report from the Federal Environment Office, published on Friday, shows that people's lifestyle and consumer habits still cancel out any gains made.

Generally speaking, good results have been reached in limiting air, water and soil pollution. Waste management and protection of the ozone layer have also benefited from government policy.

But the picture remains far from rosy. Urbanisation, which is using up open spaces, and increased mobility are on the rise, putting more pressure on the environment.

Swiss consumer habits are not proving to be environmentally friendly, and the amount of waste being produced continues to increase.

Greenhouse gas emissions, the main driving force behind climate change, are also still too high. In Switzerland, the average temperature rose by 1.5 degrees Celsius between 1970 and 2005.

As an alpine nation, the country is particularly threatened by global warming, warns the report. Melting glaciers and permafrost, changes to vegetation and variations in rainfall are just some of the problems Switzerland could be facing in the future.

Industry accounted for 21 per cent of carbon dioxide emissions in 2004, a level that has not changed since 1990. This figure reached 34 per cent for transport, stable since the turn of the century thanks to technical progress, said the report's authors.

Amounts of ozone precursors and fine particles responsible for smog in summer and winter also remain above acceptable levels and constitute a serious health risk.

Potential risk factors

The report also warns that the effects of many chemical products are still unknown, and along with noise, extreme weather and certain types of radiation, present potential risk factors.

Biodiversity remains under threat, with between 30 and 50 per cent of the country's indigenous species facing possible extinction.

The environment office suggests that Switzerland's flora and fauna be monitored more closely to detect any evolution that would require state intervention, such as the creation of protected green zones.

The report also recommends that the government introduce measures to cut down greenhouse gas emissions and develop new strategies to deal with climate change.

It says that environmental concerns should be integrated as well into policies concerning other sectors, such as transport and agriculture.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

80% of Switzerland's energy needs are covered by imports, much of them by fossil fuels.
Individual motorised transport has doubled since 1970 and truck transport has tripled.
In 2003, Swiss industry spent SFr1.28 billion ($1.04 billion) on environmental measures, or 0.3% of GDP – the same as the European average.
Each Swiss consumes 223 litres of water per day and generates 660 kilograms of waste per year.

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Some key points

Air pollution threatens ecosystems and generates costs worth billions of Swiss francs each year.

The arrival of alien species could increase and seriously threaten biodiversity.

The amount of chemicals that could damage the ozone layer used in Switzerland fell by 99 per cent between 1986 and 2004.

Atmospheric pollutants could damage the long-term health of Swiss forests.

Urbanisation and intensive use of agricultural land could damage ecosystems and reduce diversity of plants and animals.

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