Management of Natural Resources and the Environment

Several of Empa’s Research Focus Areas concern natural resources and innovative ways to reduce their consumption as well as the use of environmental technologies to curb emissions of pollutants. It goes without saying that the institute is also working to minimize its own ecological footprint. To this end, Empa pursues an active environmental management.

The former Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland, who in 1987 on behalf of the United Nations (UN) published the sustainability report "Our Common Future", defined the concept of sustainability as a term referring to a way of living that could be sustained long into the future. "Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs", she wrote in the report that later on was named after her.

Empa's environmental mission statement and goals

In assessing sustainability, Empa adheres to the Brundtland definition and takes into account requirements regarding economic, ecological and social compatibility. It is concerned with those fields of action in which it can make a significant contribution to aspects of sustainability. Empa is committed to making a contribution to the long-term preservation of the natural foundations of life. The environmental mission statement includes the areas of energy and mobility and provides the framework for the definition of environmental objectives and targets.

In addition, Empa takes into account the overriding initiatives and principles within the Federal Administration:

  • Climate package of the Federal Administration (June 2019): Reduction of CO2 emissions by at least 50% by 2030 (compared to 2006), the remainder to be fully compensated. This means: 'Net Zero' by 2030.
  • VBE Federal Government's role model function in the energy sector (Swiss Federal Office of Energy).
  • Energy Agency for Industry ENAW: Empa voluntarily participates in the Energy Model of the EnAW. In this way we commit ourselves to ongoing measures and monitoring to ensure that target agreements on environmental and climate protection are met. The EnAW carries out annual checks to ensure that the targets are being met and confirms this with a certificate.
  • partly still: permanent mandate RUMBA (Resource and Environmental Management in the Federal Administration)
    RUMBA is a programme for systematic resource and environmental management in the federal administration, as defined in the Federal Council Decree of 15 March 1999. The main objective of RUMBA is the continuous reduction of environmental pollution, which always includes the economical and efficient use of energy. It is largely based on the methodology of ISO 14001 and has been introduced throughout the ETH domain. At the end of 2016, RUMBA was replaced as a programme and became a permanent federal mandate. In an interim phase from 2017 to 2019, the ETH Domain will no longer be part of RUMBA, but will continue to voluntarily orient itself to the guidelines and reporting. The definitive definition of RUMBA's mandate from 2020 is in preparation.
Climate package of the federal administration - countdown to 2030

Countdown to 'Net Zero' in 10 years.

The goal of the climate package seems radical: complete climate neutrality of the federal administration, to be achieved in only 10 years from 2020 to 2030. Switzerland has committed itself in the Paris Agreement of 2015 to achieving climate neutrality by 2050. With the climate package, the federal sector is assuming a clear role as an example and role model by aiming to achieve the goals of Swiss policy as early as 2030 instead of 2050.

What does this mean for Empa?

The goal is a tough one, but thanks to far-sighted planning and decisions already taken, Empa believes it is on the right track and will be able to play a leading and exemplary role in the countdown to 2030.

VBE Energie-Vorbild Bund - The Swiss government as example in the energy sector

Being part of the ETH Domain, Empa is reporting results and measures in the sector of environment, energy and mobility to the secretariat of VBE (Swiss Government as Energy Example). VBE is part of the federal strategy to reach the goals of Switzerland in view of the energy targets for 2050. The reporting includes: reductions, efficiency improvements, measures (39-point list for construction, mobility and ICT).