Central and state government departments and policy
There are three governmental
departments whose work directly relates to forestry, forests, wood and timber
in differing ways. These are:
The Federal Ministry of the Environment (FOEN)
The Swiss Federal Office of Energy (SFOE)
The State Secretariat of Economic Affairs (SECO)
The Federal Ministry of the Environment (FOEN) – is the principal ministry responsible for forests, and the forestry and timber sector, including the Swiss Forest Policy. The basis of Swiss Forest Policy begins with the 1876 Forest Policy Act – see Switzerland overview – before being completely updated in the early 1990’s and has, in the interim, continued to be adapted and undergone several partial revisions. The completely revised Forest Act was finally approved by parliament in spring 2016, becoming law on January 1, 2017. Measures have increasingly sought to improve policy in the light of accelerating environmental and climate change issues, which have also seen an overhaul of regulations regarding use of timber in construction.
The Wood Resource Policy – within FOEN core policy fields are updated on a regular basis, including the current Wood Resource Policy (2017), itself an update the previous 2009 policy. This followed on from the Swiss National Forest Programme (2004-2015), which outlined the government’s forest related activities up to 2015.
Resource Policy, considered ‘synonymous’ with the country’s environmental
policy, also contributes to aligning the sector with the country’s new Climate
Policy (2018) and its implementation pathways in the aftermath of the 2015
UNCC’s Paris Agreement. It prioritises sustainable and efficient harvesting
potential both generally and specifically for wood energy, along with
underlining increasing demand for timber, particularly home-grown timber use.
Its principal instrument of implementation has been the Wood Action Plan.
The Wood Action Plan – is organised over several phases, including a current phase which runs until 2022. The action plan has supported over 200 projects since 2009, including promotional and research related projects like WOODVetia, the Swiss Wood Innovation Network (S-WIN), and a variety of new building projects.
An overview of the Wood Action Plan and its initiatives is here (in German).
In addition, the NRP Resource Wood programme (2012 – 2017) was the
source of a considerable portion of recent research.
National Resource Programme – Resource Wood (NRP66) – the main programme for wood-based research, which ran between 2012 and 2017. It was split into four themes, i) advances in timber construction, ii) novel wood bio-refining, iii) new applications for wood-based materials, and iv) sustainable wood use and provision.
New Developments in timber construction – report
Innovative Wood Based Materials – report
Forest and Wood Research Funding Switzerland – Wald- und Holzforschungsförderung Schweiz (WHFF-CH) – is one of the main funding bodies for research for the country’s forest and wood industries. Operational since the beginning of 2020, the WHFF is co-ordinated by federal government, with both the confederation and cantons represented on its board and responsible for funding decisions. The WHFF presently is responsible for an annual budget of 770, 000 Swiss Franks.
Funding support is focused on i) practice and implementation-oriented research, ii) support of wood production and use, and iii) knowledge transfer between research institutes and industry actors.
The Swiss Federal Office of Energy (SFOE) – responsible for the implementation of energy policy, the SFOE is involved in the forestry, wood, and timber sectors in two main ways; policy – related to renewable energy in the form of biomass and related to the reduction of energy use in construction – and the built environment.
Each of these are informed by the country’s Energy Strategy 2050=. Originating in 2007, the strategy was revised after the country’s decision to phase out nuclear power in the aftermath of the Japanese Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster in 2011, with the new Energy Strategy policy coming into force in 2018. With the objective of being carbon neutral by 2050, (building on legislation to halve greenhouse gas emissions by 2030) the strategy is organised around three main objectives: increasing energy efficiency, increasing renewable energy, and withdrawing from nuclear energy.
Biomass – increased use of biomass, including waste-wood, is part of a suite of measures to increase renewable energy sources. The SFOE is responsible for central government’s work on increasing biomass usage (presently a quarter of the country’s total renewable energy use, itself 23% of all energy used) through funding support, research, and promotion.
The Built Environment
– building energy efficiency and footprint reduction of buildings is a
key Energy Strategy 2050 measure. This includes a focus on increasing
timber in buildings, which while not the lead remit of the SFOE is
integrated into its strategic objectives.The State Secretariat of Economic Affairs(SECO)
– federal body with responsibility for the country’s economy. The
actions of SECO, while not as closely engaged with the forestry and
timber sector as the other federal institutions, influences the sector
through its role in determining policy, research, and their
implementation. These include the environment and energy sectors, the
Regional and Spatial Planning Policy, and the Tourism Sector.
Regarding the environment, the Secretariat includes the Convention on
Climate Change, while on energy matters the Secretariat’s focus is on
energy markets and energy sectors.