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Swiss nature gets CHF80 million a year

The Swiss government has earmarked CHF80 million ($84 million) per year to implement its biodiversity strategy. Environmental groups say it’s not enough.

“It’s no small sum, but it will be much less expensive than doing nothing and then paying the price for the loss of biodiversity,” Swiss President and Environment Minister Doris Leuthard said at a media conference on Thursday.

She pointed out that biodiversity was important for the Swiss economy in terms of health, agriculture, water quality, and even the development of pharmaceuticals using local plants.

A government report published this summer revealed that half of Switzerland’s natural habitats and more than a third of its animal and plant species were under threat – much more than in most European Union countries. On Thursday, Leuthard formally introduced the government’s action plan to improve Swiss biodiversity.

The initial implementation phase – scheduled for 2017-2023 – includes immediate measures such as maintenance and rehabilitation of existing protected areas as well as the creation of new forest reserves. The government has also made a list of 3,600 species to be specifically supported. The action plan includes 19 pilot projects to boost biodiversity.

The CHF80 million per year in federal funding will be supplemented by money from the 26 cantons.

Not good enough

Environmental groups say that the measures outlined in the government’s biodiversity action plan are insufficient. In a joint statement issued on Thursday, BirdLife Schweiz, Pro Natura and WWF Schweiz wrote that the additional funds were urgently needed, but that they would be too little to cover even the most important measures.

The non-governmental groups also complained that the plan was not binding enough and that it failed to define expenses and responsibilities.

“This is a plan for some federal agencies. What we need is a biodiversity action plan for Switzerland – one that includes municipalities, businesses and civil society,” BirdLife Schweiz head Werner Müller said, noting that the government plan was just a small step in the right direction.

Earlier this week, the conservationist groups published their own 200-page action plan that tackles biodiversity from the perspective of civil society.

It confirms that most measures can be carried out without changing any laws. It also assigns specific responsibilities to certain stakeholders, and calls for all measures to be assessed by regular monitoring.