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climate debate Survey shows growing political acceptance for a fuel tax

swiss parliament

Climate will be a big debating point for October's parliamentary elections.

(© Keystone / Peter Klaunzer)

Analysis of survey questions filled out by Swiss politicians in 2015 and 2019 shows a marked turnaround in attitudes towards the introduction of a carbon tax on fuel.

The Smartvote online platformexternal link asks politicians various attitudinal questions in an effort to help voters make up their minds in the lead up to national elections.

An analysis of the most recent data done by the Swiss public broadcaster RTS now shows that the position of many politicians – especially those from centrist parties – on extending the CO2 law to cover fuel emissions has substantially shifted since the 2015 elections.

Just over half of all politicians surveyed four years ago were against the introduction of such a new tax, while in 2019, 63% of the same people said they would be in favour.

Predictably, left-wing politicians from the Green and Liberal Green parties have remained unanimously in favour of a such a step; right-wing politicians from the Swiss People’s Party have remained against.

The big shift has rather happened towards the middle. In 2015, parliamentarians from the Christian Democrats, Radical Liberals, and Conservative Democrats were 75% against taxing fuel emissions; four years later, they are just under 75% in favour.


The shift reflects current political and societal concerns around climate change, epitomised by student marches in Switzerland, the latest of which brought together 2,500 people in Lausanne on Friday.

And while activists are glad to see the pendulum swinging towards them, opponents say that the shift amounts to political opportunism (see the People’s Party’s 2019 election logo, below).

Radical-Liberal Philippe Nantermod, one of the politicians who has changed his position since 2015, admitted to RTS that there was a certain amount of opportunism involved.

“But we also have to admit that times are changing, opinions are changing, expectations are changing,” he said. “We have to give answers, all the while staying true to our values.”

In December 2017, the Swiss government adopted revisions to the Federal Act on the Reduction of CO2 Emissions (CO2 Act) to help it achieve its commitment to the Paris Climate Agreement. But, in December 2018, the House of Representatives rejected the proposal after conservative-right parties weakened the revisions including removing a domestic CO2 emissions target.

The current CO2 Act includes a specific tax on oil and natural gas, while vehicle fuel is exempted.

election logo

More to the climate movement than meets the eye? The People's Party 2019 election logo.

(© Keystone / Ennio Leanza)


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