This article summarizes key amendments to Swiss environment laws that have been in effect in recent months, or will be in effect in the near future.
The revised Ordinance on Air Pollution Control was effective as of January 20, 2022.(1)(OAPC) regulates the reduction of pollution from cement plants. These regulations were made because cement plants in Switzerland contribute approximately 4% to the country’s total nitrogen oxide emissions. Recent developments in technology have made it possible to reduce this pollutant. This technology will be used in cement plants as well with the new OAPC. It will ensure that pollutant emissions are reduced according to the latest state-of-the art. The ordinance sets stricter limits on the emission of nitrogen oxide and other air pollutants, such as volatile organic compounds and dust, and requires continuous monitoring for ammonia emissions. This new technology to reduce pollutant emissions slowly will be in place by 2031.
Producing fibreboard and particleboard can cause significant emissions of organic compounds, nitrogen oxides, dust, and formaldehyde. This is why we need to develop waste gas purification technology.
The OAPC will be revised to adapt the regulations for production of particleboard to the European Union’s requirements. Additional regulations for production of fibreboard will also be added. Additionally, the amendment removes the ban against using waste wood for the production of particleboard or fibreboard. This is because it is possible to use wood waste to produce heat that conserves resources and protects the environment. The consultation period closed on 5 April 2022. These changes are likely to take effect on November 20, 2022.
The Federal Office for the Environment and the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs approved the adaptation of the Chemicals Risk Reduction Order by the Federal Office of Public Health.(2)(ORRChem), in accordance with the EU requirements as of February 20, 2022. ORRChem regulates the handling and preparation of certain dangerous substances, objects, and other items in 36 annexes.
26 carcinogenic (mutagenic) or reprotoxic substances have been added to annexe 1.10 of the ORRChem. These substances will no longer be available to the general population after the expiration of the transitional period, which is 1 March 2022. This ban also applies to substances containing CMR substances or exceeding the relevant limit. The FOPH estimates that there are approximately 2,000 affected public products by the new additions to annex 1.10 ORRChem. However, this estimate is not accurate. The FOPH explained that 18 of the 26 substances have been removed from products for general public use. These products can be removed from the market without being placed in the product register.
The ORRChem now defines the conditions for special licenses for plant protection products in agriculture and horticulture. It also applies to special locations like railway infrastructures, military sites, or sports fields. The special license is only granted after a mandatory examination. It lasts for 8 years. The license is not extended for further training. Plant protection products intended for professional use are now only available to those who have a special license, as outlined in the revised Plant Protection Products Ordinance.(3)The special licence holders will be added to a registry. The consultation period expired on 5 April 2022. These changes will likely take effect on the 1st of November 2022.
The general extension of the moratorium on the cultivation genetically modified plants in agriculture was extended for four more years, until the end 2025. This amendment to article 38a of the Gene Technology Act(4)The Genetically Modified Organisms (GTA), is expected to enter force on 1 August 2022. For research purposes, genetically modified organisms cannot be grown in Switzerland.
In the next four years, the federal government will need to clarify issues related to the coexistence between traditional and genetically modified agricultural products. They will need to answer questions regarding responsibilities in the case of contamination by genetically altered organisms.
Federal Parliament has ordered that a bill be drafted by the government by mid-2024 to address a risk-based authorisation regime for plant parts, seeds, and other propagation materials that were produced using new breeding techniques and in which no transgenic genetic material (genome editing) has been added. These genetically modified organisms will not be approved if they have a greater value for the environment, agriculture, and consumers than conventional breeding methods.
The revised Ordinance on Return, Take-Back, and Disposal Electrical and Electronic Equipment has been in effect since January 2022.(5)(ORDEE) is now in force
Separate collection and recycling of old appliances allows for valuable materials, such as gold, copper and aluminium, and recyclable plastic components to be recovered using the appropriate recycling technologies. This revision is designed to improve the recycling of old appliances, and close the resource cycle. Rare technology metals, such as tantalum or neodymium, can now be recovered once the appropriate processes are in place.
The ORDEE’s scope has been expanded to include all electronic and electrical equipment. This includes medical devices, monitoring, control, dispensing machines, and photovoltaic module. The ORDEE requirements now apply to equipment from buildings, vehicles, and objects. With a reasonable effort, it is possible to recover recyclable components.
Consultations are currently underway for a parliamentary initiative called Strengthening the Swiss Circular Economy. Consequently, issues relating to future financing solutions for the collection and disposal electronic and electrical equipment in the ORDEE were put on hold. The discussion in Parliament will be concluded and a possible revision to the ORDEE on the financing system can be resumed.
The total revision to the CO2Act(6)After a referendum in June 2021, the bill was rejected by the public in a vote. (For more details, please see “Voters reject 3 environmental bills”). The current CO2Act was thus extended until 2024. The federal government has submitted a revised bill for consultation through April 20, 2022. In which the existing CO will be retained.2Taxes will be supplemented by effective incentives, targeted promotion and investments, and support for ongoing development. The revision is intended to allow the population to reduce their CO emissions.2Emissions in daily life
The revised CO2Act, the federal government seeks to reduce Switzerland’s greenhouse gases emissions by half by 2030 compared with 1990.
The proposed amendments include provisions for the years 2030 to 2025. The bill does NOT include any new levies in order to make up for the failure of the last June bill. The revised CO is expected to enter into effect in the coming weeks.2 Act set for January 2025
Up to half the CO is still available2The climate protection measures will now receive the tax levied by fossil fuels like oil and gas. The economy and the rest will get the remaining half. These funds will go into the building programme, technology fund and promotion of geothermal energies. They will be a benefit to homeowners who choose to purchase fossil-free heating system. Up to 40 million Swiss francs will be available per year until 2030 for the replacement or upgrade of old oil and natural gas heating systems with renewable ones.
To adapt to the further reduction in CO, vehicles that are more efficient will be required to be imported into the future.2The European Union has set targets. Penalties will be imposed for failure to meet these targets. This is to encourage the sale of climate-friendly cars. The penalties will be used as a means to promote electric car charging stations.
The tax privilege for diesel buses in the public transport sector will be eliminated. The revenues will go to electric and hydroelectric propulsion for buses.
The heavy vehicle fee will not apply to freight transport. Electric and hydrogen trucks will be exempted. This is an incentive to use climate-neutral alternatives for trucks.
The revised CO2Act further requires suppliers to aviation fuels to mix renewable aviation fuels with the fuel refuelled in Switzerland, in order to comply with EU requirements.
Importers of gasoline and diesel are still required by law to compensate a certain amount of the CO2These fuels can be emitted with climate measures. The percentage can be increased upto 90% and can also include projects to protect the climate from abroad. The maximum fuel importer surcharge is 0.05 Swiss francs for each litre of gasoline and diesel. Importers must reduce CO by 5-10%2By bringing renewable fuels in circulation, we can reduce our carbon emissions. This regulation replaces the temporary relief provided by the mineral oil tax.
Further measures will ensure that all companies are exempted by the CO2If they are willing to reduce their fuel consumption from oil and gas, and demonstrate how they can achieve zero long-term, they will be taxed.
The law also requires that regulators like the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (Swiss National Bank) report on climate change risks for Swiss financial institutions as well as for the stability and health of the financial markets.
The updated Environmental Protection Act will be effective on January 1, 2022(7)(EPA) and the new Ordinance on Placing Timber and Wood Products on The Market(8) (TTO) came into force. The TTO, which is based upon the EPA, creates regulations equivalent to those of the European Union. The ordinance’s purpose is to prevent timber or timber products from being illegally harvested or traded from being sold in Switzerland. The ordinance will reduce deforestation and biodiversity loss and aid in combating climate change. It also reduces trade restrictions between Switzerland, the European Union, and other countries.
The regulation’s core principle is the duty of care to those who put wood or wood products on the marketplace for the first time. They must be capable of proving that they have evaluated risks and, where necessary reduced them to a manageable level. This requires a system for due diligence, which must be maintained and updated regularly.
Now, traders must record from whom they purchased or to whom wood has been sold. This traceability will enable you to identify the first distributors. This regulation applies to forest owners who harvest timber in the Swiss forest. They can assume that the cantonal forest permit permits contain the information required to be considered proof of legal harvesting.
FOEN is responsible to control the traders and first distributors.
Minerals and metals derived from conflict areas or child labour
Since the popular initiative “For responsible companies – to protect people and the environment” was rejected in November 2020, Parliament’s indirect counterproposal has been further pursued. (For more information, please see “Voters reject popular initiative to tighten responsibilities for Swiss-based businesses” This proposal does not include the liability provision. However, it does introduce new reporting obligations for companies. These new due diligence obligations for businesses are based on EU regulations, but in some cases they go beyond them.
Two reporting obligations were created in the Swiss Code of Obligations to implement the counterproposal(9) (CO). First, large Swiss companies must report on the risks associated with their business activities in areas such as environment, social concerns, employee concerns, and the fight against corruption. Transparency will be achieved by reporting on the mitigation measures taken against these risks. Companies that are exposed to child labour and conflict minerals must follow a special, extensive due diligence process and report on their progress.
The new Ordinance regarding Due Diligence and Transparency with Respect to Minerals and Metals from Conflict Affected Areas and Child Labour further details the second obligation.(10) (DDTrO). These regulations define which companies must comply with the new due diligence requirements. Similar to the EU directive they must determine the import and processing quantities of minerals and metals. These threshold values may be modified by the federal government in accordance with developments in Europe. According to the European Union, small and medium-sized companies are subject to the due diligence reporting obligation if they sell products or services clearly made with child labor. Switzerland has now introduced regulations for reporting on child labor, a step beyond the European Union which only requires due diligence in relation to conflict minerals.
On January 1, 2022, new provisions in DDTrO and CO came into effect. The new regulations are effective immediately and will be applicable to the 2023 fiscal year.
Contact us for further information. Michael LipsMelanie von Rickenbach at Pestalozzi Lawyers at Law by phone (+41 44 2217 91 11), by fax (+41 44 2117 92 17), or via email ([email protected]Or [email protected]). You can visit the Pestalozzi Attorneys at Law Website at www.pestalozzilaw.com.