Larissa Rickenbacher is a junior associate and member of Pestalozzi’s Real Estate & Environment Group in Zurich. She has a strong focus on public law questions and her main areas of practice include real estate, environmental and public procurement law. In these areas, Larissa Rickenbacher regularly advises and litigates on a broad range of cases.
She joined Pestalozzi after graduation from the University of Zurich.
This article summarises key amendments to Swiss environmental laws which either came into effect recently or will come into effect in the foreseeable future. These include efforts to reduce CO2 emissions, the decision to revert to the original scale system for energy labels, the modification of Annex 1 of the Prior Informed Consent Ordinance and the introduction of new regulations for the export of certain hazardous plant protection products which may endanger human health or the environment.
Swiss voters recently rejected a popular initiative that aimed to tighten the responsibilities of Swiss-based companies with respect to their global activities. One key element of the initiative was the introduction of a legal obligation on Swiss-based multinationals to respect international environmental standards. Both the federal government and Parliament considered the initiative to be too far reaching. Therefore, Parliament has presented a counter-proposal that will enter into force if no referendum is held.
In 2016 the so-called 'Responsible Business Initiative' was submitted to the Swiss Federal Chancellery. A key element of the initiative is the introduction of a legal obligation on Swiss-based multinationals to respect international environmental standards in all of their business activities worldwide. As the popular vote on the initiative is expected to take place in February 2020, Swiss-based companies should analyse whether they may be affected and, if so, determine appropriate implementation measures.
The Federal Supreme Court recently ruled on the allocation of clean-up costs where certain polluters are exempt from liability. For the first time, the court discussed the question of whether a contaminated site owner's exemption from liability leads to a corresponding additional burden on the polluter which, through its own conduct, caused the clean-up measures or whether the additional burden passes to the canton and the municipality.
Various amendments to Swiss environmental statutes and ordinances have recently entered into effect or will come into effect in the foreseeable future. These new measures include certain amendments to the Energy Act, the Water Protection Ordinance, the Ordinance on the Prevention and the Disposal of Waste and the Ordinance on Protection against Major Accidents.
In February 2021 the Economic Affairs and Taxation Committee of the National Council surprisingly decided to include the initiative to temporarily prohibit the acquisition of business premises by persons abroad in the revised urgent COVID-19 Act instead of amending the Lex Koller through the ordinary legislative process. However, the Council of States and the National Council recently rejected the proposal. Despite this pleasing result, the topic remains on the agenda.
The Legal Affairs Committee of the National Council recently submitted an initiative that would temporarily prohibit the acquisition of business premises by persons abroad. The proposal claims that it will mitigate the negative impact of the COVID-19 crisis by preventing foreign investors from acquiring financially distressed Swiss companies at low prices. However, as foreign investors improve the sales conditions for such companies by fostering demand, the amendment would actually be counterproductive.
According to federal planning principles, the cantons and municipalities must guarantee free public access to lakesides and riverbanks. However, some cantons have not yet implemented the required legislation, not least because of objections from private landowners. This article outlines the applicable federal legal framework and highlights examples of its implementation by two cantons.
Swiss voters recently rejected an initiative that aimed to stop urban sprawl by freezing the overall size of building zones and strictly limiting exceptions that allow building activities outside building zones. While supporters of the initiative considered the current legal regime to be insufficient, opponents argued that the proposed initiative was overly strict, unable to accommodate cantonal and regional differences and inadequate to address population and economic growth.
In March 2017 the federal government submitted to public consultation several proposals to amend the legal regime governing foreign investments in Swiss real property. The vast majority of the comments received rejected the proposed amendments. While the government subsequently dropped its plan to amend the Lex Koller and a related ordinance, certain pending parliamentary motions may impact the Lex Koller regime in the medium term.