Switzerland’s international environmental performance review: mixed results

Bern, 27.11.2017 - The OECD’s 3rd Environmental Performance Review of Switzerland shows that despite progress, Switzerland still has a very high environmental impact. Further efforts are required particularly in protecting biodiversity and water quality. FOEN Director Marc Chardonnens and OECD Deputy Secretary-General Masamichi Kono presented the review to the media on 27 November 2017 in Bern.


For the third time since 1998, the OECD examined Switzerland’s environmental performance (see boxes). The review focused on biodiversity, water, and green growth and contains 42 recommendations for Switzerland.

Switzerland received good marks for its economy’s relatively low energy consumption in OECD comparison and its improved domestic resource efficiency. Switzerland also received positive ratings for its participation in numerous international environmental bodies and initiatives as well as for its commitment to a more sustainable financial world.
Further progress required
However, in its review, the OECD clearly mentions continuing environmental impacts and points out gaps in Switzerland’s environmental policy. Switzerland has not yet fully decoupled its economic growth from its total environmental impacts. For instance, the Swiss population’s consumption patterns continue to impact the global environment, while Switzerland is nearly the top municipal solid waste producer in Europe, at 742 kg per capita and year. To reposition Switzerland as a pioneer of eco-innovation, the OECD believes that it needs an additional impulse. Furthermore, due to intensive watercraft use, pesticides from agriculture, and micropollutants from households and industry, Switzerland’s bodies of water are still exposed to high pollution levels.
Biodiversity under pressure
Switzerland lags behind other OECD countries in biodiversity conservation. Size, quality and connectivity of protected areas fall short in international comparison. Species diversity is still under heavy pressure from such factors as urban sprawl over the landscape and its fragmentation by infrastructures or heavy ammonia and pesticide pollution from agriculture. For instance, one-third of Switzerland’s species and nearly half of its most important habitats are threatened. The OECD recognises Switzerland’s efforts to entrench biodiversity in different policy areas. It notes that the Biodiversity Action Plan needs to be implemented immediately and provided with sufficient funding. The planned measures may still not be enough to conserve biodiversity.

Follow-up by the FOEN

The FOEN welcomes the 2017 OECD Environmental Performance Review. "We will analyse the results and recommendations and, together with the cantons and other interest groups, use them as the basis for reducing our environmental impact", said FOEN Director Marc Chardonnens.

The OECD’s recommendations on reducing nutrient and pesticide levels in agriculture should be implemented under the Agriculture Policy 2022 and the Plant Protection Products Action Plan passed by the Federal Council. The Biodiversity Action Plan is already up and running and not only aims to improve the quality and connectivity of protected areas, but also strengthen biodiversity in other policy areas and eliminate disincentives in public funding. In the transition toward a resource-conserving economy, the FOEN is focusing on measures from the 2016 report entitled «Grüne Wirtschaft - Massnahmen des Bundes für eine ressourcenschonende, zukunftsfähige Schweiz» and developing a waste prevention strategy. Environmental monitoring and information should be improved so that the public can receive a realistic picture of the state of the environment.

The OECD Environmental Performance Review
The Environmental Performance Review (EPR) is one of the most important activities of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The EPR is intended to help countries improve their environmental policy. In the EPR process, the OECD closely examines environmental developments, strategies and results, draws conclusions and issues recommendations. Countries are invited to take stock of their progress in implementing the recommendations five years after the EPR is issued, and the OECD takes this into consideration in its next performance review.
The two previous reviews were published in 1998 and 2007. In 2016 and 2017, the OECD reviewed Switzerland for the third time. It examined progress in the area of green growth and in the two goals that Switzerland set for itself in the areas of water and biodiversity. The review process includes surveys, correspondence, an interview and a visit to the country by the OECD team.