Chocolate, cheese, luxury watches, political neutrality and even the widely acclaimed Helvetica font. These are all things Switzerland has become famous for, and indeed, synonymous with throughout the world (well, aside from the last one which is a bit niche).

But sustainability? Yes, it may have some of the most ‘Instagramable’ rolling countryside there is, but it’s perhaps not the first place you’d associate with being a climate activist. Well, you’d be wrong.

Switzerland is becoming increasingly known for its stance on sustainable development and preserving the environment. In fact, in 2017 Switzerland was named one of the top five countries achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals the fastest. How you might say? Here’s how…

Waste not, want not…
Switzerland is without a doubt one of the world leaders in recycling. The country successfully separates and recycles organic and recyclable waste whilst converting the rest to energy.

For example, the KVA Thun waste-to-energy plant processes 100,000 tons of combustible waste every year, serving a total of 300,000 residents in 150 communities. Due to the plant’s proximity to the city of Thun, particular attention was paid in ensuring ecological and social safeties. The plant has an efficient air pollution control system which ensures air quality standards are met and emissions are kept to a minimum.

Water, water everywhere…
We can all agree that water is the basis for all life. Switzerland has many lakes and waterways such as the Rhine and Rhone and, as such, has taken to improving water quality as much as possible.

ARA Bern is a wastewater treatment plant considered to be one of most technologically advanced in the whole of Europe. The plant cleans a staggering 90million litres of wastewater per day whilst also producing biogas from the sewage sludge. This gas is then used by public transport systems.

Urban haven…
As many will know, the global urban population is set to increase by a whopping 2.5 billion by 2050. As such, the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal No. 11 focuses on building resilient and sustainable cities and communities.

In 2016, Zurich was named the top sustainable city in the world according to the Arcadis Sustainable Cities Index. It was praised for its dedication to improving the environment with specific reference to the cities’ plan to become a 2000-watt society – an amount considered globally to be sustainable energy use for a city.

Carbon capture…
In 2018, the IPCC report made it clear that negative emissions are required to keep global warming below the critical 2°C target and prevent major climate disaster. As such, the significant strides made towards energy efficiency and renewable energy are positive, but not enough. Climate change mitigation therefore needs carbon removal technologies to achieve both a zero emissions and negative emissions future.

In 2017, the world’s first industrial scale carbon-capture plant was opened outside of Zurich. The plant removes CO2 from the air through direct air capture. The process requires minimal land space and no water to run. The CO2 is captured and delivered to a greenhouse with 250,000 similar sized plants.

The plant is able to capture 900 tons, the same amount of CO2 that would be produced from around 200 cars in a year.

People come first…
As climate change and global warming become more of our everyday reality, more people are being displaced due to climate disasters like extreme weather events.

In fact, the World Economic Forum predicts that by the end of the century, climate change may drive 660,000 additional asylum seekers per year toward Europe.

Together with Norway, Switzerland created the Nansen Initiative in 2015 which intended to address challenges connected to climate migration on a global level, involving other countries to protect and look after displaced people in the context of natural disasters.

The initiative was endorsed to such a degree that it has since grown into the platform on ‘Disaster Displacement’ and includes support, committee and team members from all over the world.

In conclusion…
It’s clear to see that Switzerland is a city with sustainability at its heart and one that many other cities should, and need to, copy. Formula E, by racing in city centres, has the power to shine a spotlight on this part of the world and highlight the amazing, and sometimes trailblazing, work done by this destination that most people just thought made chocolate.