Switzerland is renowned for the excellent quality of its air. According to the WHO, it is the 13th least polluted country in the world.

Scientists at a measuring station on the Jungfraujoch
Scientists on the Jungfraujoch studying the impact of fine particles on climate change. © Paul Scherrer Institute

Air quality varies from place to place, from season to season and from altitude to altitude. There is more air pollution in urban areas on the Plateau, which are exposed to road traffic, than in high-altitude regions of the Alps and the Jura.

Switzerland has much lower air pollutant emissions per capita than other western European countries with a similar population density. Since 1990 Switzerland has succeeded in reducing its emission of certain pollutants: 80% cut in sulphur dioxide (SO2) emissions, 40% cut in particulates (PM10), 50% cut in nitrogen dioxide (NOx) emissions, and 70% cut in volatile organic compounds (VOC).

These advances are the result of federal, cantonal and municipal clean air policies, in particular the Federal Clean Air Ordinance which came into force in 1986. It draws on the Federal Environmental Protection Act and contains a catalogue of measures (transport, agriculture, industry) to reduce air pollutant emissions.

Air quality in Switzerland is constantly monitored and analysed by the 16 stations of the National Air Pollution Monitoring Network (NABEL). Switzerland also belongs to an international air monitoring network and is a full member of the European Environment Agency.