How Switzerland can achieve its Agenda 2030 objectives

July 3, 2018

What action must be taken now to ensure that Switzerland makes a substantial contribution to the global Sustainable Development Goals? The report published by the Swiss Federal Council on 20th June was a disappointment from start to finish.  In contrast, the report by Platform Agenda 2030, a group of organisations from civil society has shown how it can be done.

Michael Bergöö, Programme & Policy Switzerland, Advocacy Agenda 2030

In mid-July, the Swiss government will report to the UN in New York on its implementation of Agenda 2030. Unfortunately, the Federal Council has not done its homework and has produced an extremely sketchy report. In contrast, Platform Agenda 2030*, a group of organisations from civil society has now presented its own report on the implementation of Agenda 2030, including 11 demands compiled jointly by all members. This report contains substantive contributions on various topics associated with Agenda 2030 written by members of the Platform with specific expertise.

The report “How sustainable is Switzerland? Implementing the Agenda 2030 from a civil-society perspective” produced by Platform Agenda 2030 can be downloaded here.


Apply leverage to agricultural and food systems

Biovision contributed its expert knowledge to the chapters “Agriculture and Food systems in Switzerland” (SDG 2) and “Sustainable Consumption and Production” (SDG 12). These chapters identify the following areas of action, including concrete recommendations to ensure that the measures are effective:

1. Making Swiss agriculture more environmentally and climate friendly

Direct payment programmes to promote production in keeping with the local environment should be expanded to include grassland-based milk and meat production, pastureland grants, and to promote organic farming. The federal government must join forces with farmers to achieve the environmental targets for agriculture, and pesticide and fertilizer emissions must be reduced to the point at which they no longer have a detrimental effect on plant diversity and insect populations, and nitrogen surpluses are avoided. The Proof of Ecological Performance, or PEP, system should be enhanced to reduce the ecological footprint.

2. No concentrated feedstuffs for livestock

Switzerland’s pasturelands are very much an appropriate place to keep cattle, sheep and other livestock. A consistent policy of not feeding these animals concentrated feedstuffs will minimise the competition between farming feedstuffs and farming food for human consumption, and also reduce imports of the related products, thereby cutting ammonia emissions.

3. Strengthen organic farming research and training

It is essential to biodiversity and climate conservation that organic farming is strengthened. The soil will become a CO2 sink if we stop using mineral fertilizers, cultivate the soil less intensively, increase humus levels with the help of organic fertilizers, and support the preservation and extension of pastureland.

4. Trade policy for sustainable agriculture

The federal government must implement the new Article 104a of the Federal Constitution. Agriculture that is sustainable in all three dimensions can be achieved only if any deregulation of the agricultural commodity markets is subject to very careful evaluation. Barriers to trade cannot be dismantled unilaterally without any minimum standards for imports. In addition, Switzerland’s agricultural, foreign and trade policies must be reoriented so that they do not put pressure on valuable habitats and species, whether at home or abroad.

5. Improve trade policy to support developing countries

Fair prices must be paid for imports, specifically tropical fruit, coffee and cocoa. Preferential customs duties must be extended to processed products to allow developing countries to generate more value. Furthermore, Switzerland must stand up for the right of every country to levy duties to protect its own output, to avoid small farmers being crowded out of the market.

6. Conscious patterns of consumption among the Swiss population

General awareness must be raised of the impact of consumer behaviour on the environment and on developing countries. It is key that food waste is avoided, and that the Swiss population eats less meat, and subscribes to the philosophy of conscious, “nose-to-tail” eating.

7. The Federal Government must promote strategies which reduce Switzerland’s ecological footprint to a sustainable one-earth level

Growth based on a further increase in resource use can no longer be permitted to pay off. Rather, as mentioned above, Switzerland should adopt a system of indicators that measures public welfare.

8. More research funding must be made available for social innovation and the collaborative economy

There must also be support for research into local economic cycles, the circular economy and the sharing economy, as well as pilot projects at communal and cantonal level. The findings that are generated must be translated into practice on a broad scale, and the relevant frameworks created.

9. Official requirements and usage-based levies must be introduced in the mobility and housing sectors, in particular, to reduce the consumption of fossil fuels in Switzerland.

* Platform Agenda 2030 is a grouping of some 40 stakeholders from civil society, including Biovision who was a founding member.