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Measuring Sustainability in Switzerland: MONET

The MONET system of national indicators offers in-depth insights into sustainable development in Switzerland. Meanwhile, synthetic indicators such as the ecological footprint provide an appropriate basis for more general statements and for international comparisons.

The Swiss Federal Statistical Office (SFSO), the Federal Office for Spatial Development (ARE) and the Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN) established the MONET measurement system to track sustainable development. Drawing on more than 80 indicators, this monitoring tool permits regular reporting on the status and progress of sustainable development in Switzerland. The main features and trends are shown in simplified form by 16 key indicators.   

Findings

One of the most important things revealed by monitoring activities is that approaches to sustainable development do actually exist in the majority of areas. That said, counter-trends can also be observed: For example, while household incomes are rising, there has been little progress on closing the gap between men and women with regard to professional status and income. There has also been only a slight decrease in the number of working poor. Developments on the transport front present a particular problem because, despite improvements in fuel-efficiency between 1990 and 2009, CO2 emissions raised for 11.8% as the volume of traffic expands unchecked.

A society of contradictions

Where the national aspects of sustainable development are concerned Switzerland is more or less on the right path. Yet the country does not act sustainably with regard to factors of global importance: Throughout Switzerland we enjoy ever-improving air quality and clean water, yet our CO2 emissions - so vital to the global climate - have only just begun to stabilize.

The growth in Switzerland's foreign trade and the increasing mobility of the Swiss population are in contrast with an only moderate increase in official development assistance (ODA), which is considerably lower than the target recommended by the UN.

Future generations will pay

The third finding concerns fairness between generations. There are many indications that the relatively positive overall picture at present comes at the expense of future generations. While many Swiss today are very satisfied with their working and private lives, 17% of young people do not even have the fundamental reading literacy skills they need for their future. The high level of satisfaction with the residential environment and the increasing living space per person entail growth in built-up areas of 0.86 square metres per second, mostly at the cost of valuable cultivable land.

All in all, there has been progress with regard to living conditions (subjective), the production and consumption of organic products, research and technology and the preservation of air quality. Yet these advances are offset by the greatest deficits, which are to be found in transport, the use of land and space, poverty and international solidarity. Particular attention must be devoted to these areas in the future.

Ecological footprint

The ecological footprint of a country, region or the world as a whole measures the degree to which people are using up the natural resources of the area in question. The results of the survey are expressed as «global hectares» and juxtaposed against «biocapacity», i.e. nature's ability to produce raw materials and break down pollutants.  

A study on Switzerland was published on the initiative of the Federal Office for Spatial Development (ARE), the Federal Statistical Office (FSO), the Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN) and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) in collaboration with the Global Footprint Network in 2006, using data from 2002. The study takes a particularly close look at the extent to which Global Footprint Network data, which is drawn from international sources, corresponds with Switzerland's official statistics. The two datasets were found to be largely congruent.

According to the last available data of 2007, Switzerland's per-capita footprint is around 5.0 global hectares, whereas global biocapacity is just 1.8 global hectares per capita. This means that the population of Switzerland is using more than three times the volume of natural resources that is sustainable in the long run.


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