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Swiss Government takes first initiative under new Green Action Plan
In an effort to strengthen the green profile of the Swiss economy, on 8 March the Government adopted an action plan. One of the main priorities is to increase recycling and by closing the ‘Cycle of materials’, the aim is to reduce the demand for new raw materials. In 2009 in Switzerland, aluminium worth about CHF 136 million was collected but more can also be achieved in other fields. During a visit on 8 April 2013 to Inmark AG, an electronics recycling factory, Federal Counsellor Doris Leuthard (DETEC) said:” “Obtaining raw materials here is done without altering the landscape or polluting the air or the water, unlike, unfortunately, what often happens in the mining industry, for example, during the extraction of copper.”
The visit to Inmark AG and the adoption of the action plan are both outcomes of the policies adopted by the federal government in 2010, when it decided to further green the Swiss economy. On 13 October 2010, the Federal Council mandated the administration to build a green economy prioritised on six focus areas:
- Cleantech: continue to conduct and combine efforts. New environmental and energy technologies (collectively known as Cleantech) offer the keys to increasing resource efficiency in the economy. The Cleantech Masterplan analyses Switzerland’s innovation and position in the global market in Cleantech’s areas of concern. It sets goals, defines areas of action and provides recommendations on making improvements.
- Information and communication technologies (ICT): increase resource efficiency. The use of ICTs has become an important principle in all economic sectors and consumption areas. However, it causes environmental impacts due to increased energy use, problematic waste and greater usage of rare metals. Therefore, opportunities for increasing ICT resource efficiency need to be identified within the Federal Council’s sustainable development and information society strategies.
- Environmental impacts of products: improve information. Consumption behaviour has a huge influence on the environment. In order to lower the use of resources to a sustainable level, the FOEN (The Federal Office for the Environment) maintains that better information needs to be made available to support environmentally-friendly decisions about purchasing and use.
- Environmentally-friendly tax system: avoid disincentives. Tax incentives can effectively encourage resource efficient behaviour. At the same time, the current system of taxes and subsidies also has tax incentives that encourage environmentally-damaging behaviour. Existing disincentives should be removed and appropriate incentives for sustainable resource use should be created.
- Global indicator of welfare: integrate environmental information. The success of the federal government’s economic policies definitely depends on measuring the gross domestic product (GDP). The necessity of integrating social, economic and environmental information in the GDP is recognized nationally and internationally. This is the key to being able to measure the development of a green economy.
- Legislation on resource efficiency: investigate resource efficiency and sustainability. A wide range of federal legislation may potentially have a huge influence on resources. Federal government bodies should in the future be required to investigate the impacts that legislation has on resource efficiency and sustainability.
The new efforts are part of the Federal Government’s plan to demonstrate their willingness to continue working on greening the economy having previously refused a popular initiative called:“For a sustainable and resource-efficient economy (green economy)”. The federal Government found that the initiative was unworkable and came up with its own policy which, when fully implemented, will achieve the same goals.