1.1 What is the basis of environmental policy in
your jurisdiction and which agencies/bodies administer and enforce
According to article 73 of the Federal Constitution
("BV"), the Confederation and the Cantons shall endeavour
to achieve a balanced and sustainable relationship between nature
and its capacity to renew itself and the demands placed on it by
the population. Pursuant to article 74 BV, the Confederation is
responsible for the legislation on the protection of the population
and its natural environment against damage or nuisance and it shall
ensure that such damage or nuisance is avoided. The Cantons are
primarily responsible for the execution of the relevant federal
regulations, but they may also enact implementing rules where
federal law so provides. The Federal Constitution contains further
provisions regarding protection of the water, forests as well as
natural and cultural heritage (articles 76, 77, and 78 BV).
There are numerous acts and ordinances implementing the
constitutional mandate regarding environmental protection. The
following acts are the most important: the Environmental Protection
Act ("USG"); the Ordinance on Avoidance and Disposal of
Waste ("VVEA"); the Ordinance on Contaminated Sites
("AltlV"); the Chemicals Act ("ChemG"); the Act
on Reduction of CO2 ("CO2- Act"); as well as the Nuclear
Energy Act ("KEG"); and the Ordinance on the
Environmental Impact Assessment ("UVPV").
The Swiss environmental policies and the implementation of
environmental laws are based on the following main principles:
The "precautionary principle"
(Vorsorgeprinzip) states that early preventive measures
must be taken in order to limit effects which could become harmful
or a nuisance (article 1 para. 2 USG).
The "polluter pays principle"
(Verursacherprinzip) states that any person who causes
measures to be taken due to endangering, polluting or causing
damage to the environment must bear the costs related to avoidance
or clean-up (article 2 USG).
The "principle of abatement of pollution at source"
(Prinzip der Bekämpfung von Umweltbeeinträchtigungen
an der Quelle) that originates from the precautionary
principle and states that environmental impacts must be abated at
According to article 74 para. 3 BV, the Cantons are responsible
for the implementation of the relevant federal regulations, except
where the law provides otherwise and determines that the
Confederation is competent for implementation. This principle is
replicated in article 36 USG. Accordingly, the Confederation
supervises the execution of environmental law by the Cantons and
coordinates their activities (article 38 para. 1 and 2 USG). In
some areas, the federal government is itself responsible for the
enforcement of environmental legislation, such as import and export
of waste (article 41 USG). In general, the Federal Council enacts
the implementing provisions (article 39 para. 1 USG).
On the federal level, the Federal Office for the Environment
("BAFU") is generally responsible for the execution of
environmental law, but there are also some special agencies, which
are competent in specific areas such as the Swiss Federal Nuclear
Safety Inspectorate ("ENSI"). In addition, each Canton
has its own authority responsible for the execution of
1.2 What approach do such agencies/bodies take to
the enforcement of environmental law?
Switzerland has a rather strict approach to enforce
environmental law. Apart from authorisations and inspections, the
agencies also have the power to impose fines for various violations
of environmental law (article 61 USG). Severe violations may even
be punished by a custodial sentence of up to three years (article
60 USG). Other sanctions include the order to discontinue illegal
activities, the re-establishment of the lawful conditions and the
withdrawal of authorisations.
1.3 To what extent are public authorities required
to provide environment-related information to interested persons
(including members of the public)?
The authorities are obliged to inform the public adequately
about environmental protection and levels of environmental
pollution (article 10e para. 1 USG). If it is in the public
interest, the authorities may also inform interested persons about
the results of inspections and conformity-assessments, after having
consulted the persons concerned. Furthermore, any person has the
right to inspect environmental information in official documents
and information relating to energy regulations that relate to the
environment and to request information from the authorities about
the content of these documents (article 10g para. 1 USG).
The Commission for Energy Regulation now regulates the safety of offshore and onshore oil and gas activities under the Petroleum Safety Framework.
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