Biodiversity: Lots of support in the National Council

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Biodiversity: Counter-proposal meets with a lot of support in the National Council

Conservationists want to strengthen biological diversity in this country. Your popular initiative goes too far for the National Council, but sees a need for action. He would like to establish more protected areas.

With a popular initiative, nature conservationists want to strengthen biodiversity in Switzerland. Politicians also share this goal.

Andrea Stalder

The National Council and the initiators agree on the analysis: Biodiversity in Switzerland is in poor condition. Almost half of the habitat types and around a third of all known plant, animal and fungal species in this country are threatened. This decline is continuing despite the measures taken so far. Martina Munz (SP/SH) emphasized that biodiversity was on the sickbed and soon on the deathbed.

For this reason, the National Council also sees a need for action. In the big chamber there are signs of a yes to the indirect counter-proposal to the biodiversity initiative that the Federal Council has drawn up. At least that’s what the hour-long debate on Monday suggests. The National Council is likely to make decisions tomorrow, Tuesday. If the preliminary advisory commission has its way, some corrections to the draft will be necessary.

Initiative too rigid

The initiative, on the other hand, has a difficult time. Several speakers argued that it would unduly restrict the cantons’ room for maneuver in the landscape area. Susanne Vincenz-Stauffacher (FDP/SG) said that, particularly in the case of smaller protected areas, the referendum would lead to severe restrictions on the economy and other policy areas such as energy policy.

At the heart of the Federal Council’s counter-proposal is the goal of separating 17 percent of the state’s areas as biodiversity protection areas. Today, that proportion is 13.4 percent. Existing national biotopes are also to be rehabilitated and species protection in urban areas strengthened. The implementation would cost 96 million francs annually.

Money well invested

Money well invested for Roland Fischer (GLP/LU). Biodiversity loss would be much more expensive, he argued. Ursula Schneider Schüttel (SP/FR) emphasized that Switzerland is lagging behind in terms of biodiversity in a European comparison. In no other western country are more species threatened.

Only the SVP was united against the counter-proposal. Michael Graber (VS) criticized the 17 percent target as restricting agriculture and electricity companies too much. His Bernese party colleague Albert Rösti castigated the “protective euphoria” of the council majority. With the protection of an additional area the size of the canton of Lucerne, energy security is being jeopardized.

Criticism was also expressed by the president of the farmers’ association, Markus Ritter (middle/SG). With the counter-proposal, Parliament could forget the solar offensive in the Alpine region, he predicted. Any plans for energy security would be blocked by environmental and conservation groups. Rural Switzerland becomes a museum. If the counter-proposal passes parliament, he will campaign for a referendum, said Ritter.

Initiators dissatisfied

Unlike the glacier initiative, the counter-proposal should not lead to the biodiversity initiative being withdrawn. This was “an insufficient answer to the acute biodiversity crisis and the loss of landscape and building culture”, announced the initiative committee at the presentation of the Federal Council’s plans. The financial resources provided would not even suffice to maintain the most valuable natural areas. According to the initiators, Parliament must improve the draft significantly so that withdrawal is an option.

The federal people’s initiative “For the future of our nature and landscape (biodiversity initiative)” came about in October 2020 with 107,885 valid signatures. The request requires that the Confederation and cantons provide the necessary “areas, funds and instruments” to strengthen biodiversity. Several nature conservation organizations are behind the initiative.

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