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LANDSLIDE

Bondo landslide: did hikers get sufficient warning?

Police in Graubünden are investigating whether hikers in the area that was hit by a huge landslide last week were given sufficient warning about the risks.

Bondo landslide: did hikers get sufficient warning?
The clear-up is under way at Bondo. Photo: Graubuenden police
Eight hikers were reported missing after the massive rockfall on the Piz Cengalo last Wednesday that sent four million cubic metres of mud and debris sliding into the Bondasca valley below. 
 
On Saturday the search for the eight missing – four Germans, two Austrians and two Swiss – was called off, with police saying there was no longer any hope of finding anyone.
 
Due to a previous serious rockfall several years ago, the area had a warning system in place. This was set off when Wednesday’s landslide occurred, meaning around 100 people from the village of Bondo were safely evacuated before the debris hit. 
 
However questions are now being asked as to whether sufficient warning signs were in place to inform hikers as to the potential danger in the area. 
 
In an update on Sunday, police said they had informed Graubünden prosecutor’s office about their investigation into whether “these natural hazards were sufficiently indicated”.
 
Speaking to the media, Bondo’s mayor Anna Giacometti said signs were erected at several points on hiking trails to warn against the risk of rockfalls, and at least one path was closed off.
 
Letters were also sent to several property owners in the region, with a ban on entering some properties deemed at risk, said news agency ATS.
 
Experts suggest that climate change could be partially to blame for the disaster, with melting permafrost and an adjacent glacier likely destabilising the landmass.
 
As a result, there could well be more landslides in the area.
 
According to the Sunday papers, some 100 sites across the Swiss Alps are considered at risk and are being monitored with sensors, reported ATS.
 
In Valais, 15 to 20 sites are under surveillance, including four or five that pose a direct threat to manmade infrastructure, a geologist told Le Matin Dimanche.
 
 
CIimate change a universal challenge
 
Responding to the Bondo disaster, the government on Monday outlined the steps it is taking to address the consequences of climate change, saying it must be considered a “challenge for the whole of society.”
 
Since 1864 the average temperature in Switzerland has increased by two degrees, more than double the global average, the government pointed out in a statement
 
This is causing glaciers to melt and mountainsides to become unstable, consequences that the government is working with the cantons and communes to protect against.
 
“As the effects vary from one region to another, the cantons, the regions and the communes have an important role to play,” said Marc Chardonnens of the federal environment office, which is currently preparing a study of the risks in eight cantons, the results of which will be available at the end of this year. 
 
Under a pilot scheme launched in 2013, the government is also supporting 31 projects that are tackling ways for the country to adapt to climate change. 
 
Four of the projects were presented to the media on Monday, including a project identifying which plants and trees can stand up to climate change, and another aiming to reduce the effects of heatwaves on the population. 
 
“It is better to prepare ourselves today than to manage the damage caused by climate change after the fact,” said the statement. 
 
 

CLIMATE CHANGE

Switzerland’s Nestle to spend billions cutting carbon footprint

Less than a week after Switzerland went to the polls on a set of corporate responsibility rules, Nestle has announced it will spend billions on improving its climate compliance.

Switzerland's Nestle to spend billions cutting carbon footprint
Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

Swiss food giant Nestle on Thursday unveiled a multi-billion programme to slash its carbon footprint, aiming to halve emissions by 2030.

As well as targeting zero net emissions by 2050, Nestle's new long-term road map calls for its 800 factories and production sites around the world to switch to 100 percent renewable electricity by 2025.

UPDATED: World's strictest corporate responsibility plan fails in Swiss vote 

The conglomerate, which is regularly attacked by environmentalists over things like plastic packaging pollution and deforestation, said it would plant 20 million trees each year over the next decade to help boost reforestation.

In 2018, the world's largest food company emitted some 92 million tonnes of greenhouse gases, it said, adding that was using that as its baseline for measuring progress.

“Tackling climate change can't wait and neither can we. It is imperative to the long-term success of our business,” Nestle chief Mark Schneider said in a statement.

“We have a unique opportunity to address climate change, as we operate in nearly every country in the world and have the size, scale and reach to make a difference,” he said, insisting the company was intent on reducing “our environmental footprint.”

Chairman Paul Bulcke said the group wants to “contribute to a sustainable future for generations to come.”

Nestle, which owns KitKat, Nespresso and Maggi among other brands, said it was working with hundreds of thousands of farmers and suppliers to implement so-called regenerative agriculture practices.

'Something consumers want'

“With nearly two-thirds of our emissions coming from agriculture, it is clear that regenerative agriculture and reforestation are the focal points of our path to net zero,” said executive vice-president Magdi Batato.

Nestle also said it was boosting its plant-based offerings, with several of its vegetarian and vegan brands due to become carbon neutral within a few years.

In total, Nestle said these changes will cost the company some 3.2 billion Swiss francs ($3.6 billion, 2.9 billion euros) over the next five years. That “is a big ticket,” Kepler Cheuvreux analyst Jon Cox told AFP, stressing though that “that has to be put into the perspective of its size.”

All food companies “are going to have spend similar amounts relative to their size to reach commitments on net zero emissions by 2050,” he said, hinting that such investments could be good for business.

“It is a positive as Nestle is leading amongst companies regarding its sustainability commitments,” he said, stressing this is “something consumers want.”

Nestle, whose international brands include Perrier, San Pellegrino and Acqua Panna, is furthermore considering selling its water bottling operations in North America, where environmental campaign groups have criticised its water withdrawal activities.

Greenpeace lambasted Nestle, along with Coca-Cola and PepsiCo earlier this week, for being the world's worst plastic packaging polluters for a third consecutive year.

The environmental group also last year accused the food giant, along with competitor Unilever, of not respecting a 2010 commitment to reach net zero deforestation within a decade, maintaining that the pace of deforestation linked to commodities had instead increased “dramatically”.

Last year, Nestle opened a research institute in Lausanne aimed at studying alternatives to plastic packaging, as it targets 100 percent recyclable packaging by 2025.

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