Switzerland needs more ambitious energy and climate policies according to a report from the International Energy Agency (IEA) released on Monday.
The IEA warned that current efforts to rein in atmospheric pollution including voluntary measures and the so-called "climate centime" are insufficient, and that higher taxes on fuel were necessary.
Agency director Nobuo Tanaka said in Bern that while Switzerland had made progress towards reducing greenhouse gases under the Kyoto Protocol, it also had to look further down the road.
"Kyoto is just the first step and must be followed by a more ambitious international agreement," he added. "The real challenge is yet to come and lies in the post-Kyoto period"
With oil use responsible for more than three quarters of Switzerland's carbon dioxide emissions, the IEA report pointed out that efforts to cut greenhouse gases must now focus on transport and heating.
One solution adopted by the Swiss to promote more reasonable energy use is a tax on carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions that comes into force on January 1. Heating oil and gas will face levy of SFr12 for each ton of CO2 emitted.
Tanaka said though that compared with European countries, Switzerland was not taxing oil use sufficiently to make it unattractive when necessary. The IEA recommends raising these taxes further.
Swiss Energy Minister Moritz Leuenberger, who met Tanaka earlier in the day, was pleased with the recommendation, which corresponds with his own views on the issue.
Leuenberger said that Swiss drivers enjoyed travelling alone in thirsty cars too much for their own good – reason enough to increase fuel taxes.
The IEA suggests implementing measures that include promoting vehicles that use little energy, limiting CO2 emissions from new cars and trucks or increasing the cost of parking. The number of parking spaces could also be cut.
Tanaka said the other major challenge for the Swiss would the projected electricity supply gap.
Renewable energies and efficiency would help make up some of the shortfall, but given that the country wants to remain independent form foreign suppliers, it would have to consider nuclear and gas-fired power plants.
Tanaka suggested the Swiss streamline the decision process for nuclear power, although he admitted the problem of nuclear waste must also be resolved.
He added that building gas-powered plants was also problematic since it contradicted Switzerland's greenhouse gas targets. Tanaka said though this could be overcome if the Swiss were prepared to enforce emissions reductions across the board.
Leuenberger said he welcomed the agency's report and that its criticism of Swiss policies was justified, adding that he hoped that his energy action plan – presented in September – would not be pared down to the bone by parliament.
He pointed out that the measures were a compromise solution that took into account by the needs of the economy and protection of the environment.
swissinfo with agencies
The International Energy Agency acts as energy policy advisor to 26 member countries – including Switzerland - in their effort to ensure reliable, affordable and clean energy for their citizens.
Founded during the oil crisis of 1973-74, the IEA's initial role was to co-ordinate measures in times of oil supply emergencies.
Its mandate has broadened to incorporate the "Three E's" of balanced energy policy making: energy security, economic development and environmental protection.
Current work focuses on climate change policies, market reform, energy technology collaboration and outreach.