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Swiss take new steps to meet Kyoto goals

The government has asked the Climate Cent Foundation to buy extra emissions certificates, mainly from abroad, so that Switzerland can meet its Kyoto commitments.

The Swiss industry-run foundation signed an agreement on Tuesday to buy the certificates from funds accumulated from the voluntary supplement of 1.5 cents per litre of fuel paid by oil importers. They accepted this so-called climate cent – which is to be increased to five cents in the long term – in order to prevent a compulsory CO2 levy on petrol and diesel.

Foundation chairman David Syz said that so far 60 per cent of the money raised had been used in Switzerland, leading to a reduction of 2,000,000 tons of CO2. But cutting emissions abroad is much cheaper: 15 million tons had been saved with the remaining 40 per cent.

“For the climate it doesn’t matter where the CO2 is reduced. Buying emissions certificates could for example make it possible to replace a coal fired power station in a newly industrialising country,” Environment Minister Doris Leuthard told journalists on Tuesday.

She disputed claims by opponents that buying so many certificates abroad was a violation of the Kyoto agreement, which lays down that a specific proportion of the measures to reduce emissions must be implemented in the country which produces them.  

For the period 2008-2012 Switzerland has committed itself to bringing its greenhouse gas emissions down to a level eight per cent below that of 1990.

However, emissions from vehicles – the biggest challenge in meeting the

obligations – were 13 per cent higher in 2010 than they were in 1990.

As of 2013 Switzerland will in any case have to concentrate more on bringing down its domestic emissions. Parliament has decided that by 2020 it must reduce these by 20 per cent.

Tuesday’s agreement, and Switzerland’s climate policy in general, were sharply criticised by environmental organisations and parties, as well as by the Cleantech trade association. WWF Switzerland said the country’s climate policy had failed “almost all along the line”. Cleantech warned that failure to meet the Kyoto accords would damage Switzerland’s standing as a business location.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR