In 2016 the so-called 'Responsible Business Initiative' was submitted to the Swiss Federal Chancellery. A key element of the initiative is the introduction of a legal obligation on Swiss-based multinationals to respect international environmental standards in all of their business activities worldwide. As the popular vote on the initiative is expected to take place in February 2020, Swiss-based companies should analyse whether they may be affected and, if so, determine appropriate implementation measures.
This article summarises key amendments to Swiss environmental laws which either came into effect in recent months or will come into effect in the foreseeable future. Recent developments in this area affect, among other things, plant and water protection, chemicals, non-ionising radiation, energy and CO2 reduction.
While the Federal Act on the Reduction of CO2 Emissions (CO2 Act) has had some success in reducing CO2 emissions, the average CO2 emissions of passenger cars have increased in recent years. As the existing law cannot sufficiently meet the ambitious goals of the Paris Convention, Parliament should agree on a revised CO2 Act that can provide for appropriate instruments to reach these goals.
The Federal Supreme Court recently ruled on the allocation of clean-up costs where certain polluters are exempt from liability. For the first time, the court discussed the question of whether a contaminated site owner's exemption from liability leads to a corresponding additional burden on the polluter which, through its own conduct, caused the clean-up measures or whether the additional burden passes to the canton and the municipality.
Various amendments to Swiss environmental statutes and ordinances have recently entered into effect or will come into effect in the foreseeable future. These new measures include certain amendments to the Energy Act, the Water Protection Ordinance, the Ordinance on the Prevention and the Disposal of Waste and the Ordinance on Protection against Major Accidents.