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Parliament agrees on air ticket tax and other incentives to reach climate target

Parliament's decision came a few hours after climate protesters were dispersed after camping out in front of the parliamentary building for 2 days. Keystone / Anthony Anex

After three years of debate, the Swiss parliament has reached agreement on a package of incentives to achieve the country’s climate goals.

This content was published on September 23, 2020 - 15:09
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On Wednesday, both chambers finalised revisions to the so-called CO2 law, which should help the country reduce carbon emissions by 50% by 2030 relative to 1990 levels.

Environment Minister Simonetta Sommaruga said that while further steps will be necessary, the agreement is good for both climate protection and the creation of new jobs. Centrist parties welcomed the compromise, while left-wing politicians hoped for a more ambitious outcome.

However, the right-wing Swiss People’s Party said it would support plans to overrule the parliamentary decision to a nationwide referendum.

Incentives

The new law introduces numerous incentives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in line with the Paris Agreement signed in 2015. Three quarters of the reductions in CO2 emissions will have to be achieved in Switzerland and the rest abroad. Emissions abroad currently count for two-third of the country's carbon footprint. 

Some of the measures introduced include a tax on private jet flights as well as a tax on airline tickets of CHF30-120 ($33-131) depending on the flight distance. Some money collected from this tax will be reimbursed to the population through social contributions. Higher taxes on fossil fuels including oil are also part of the package.

Other measures include limits on CO2 emissions for new heating systems in buildings. Emission targets for new vehicles will be tightened in line with the European Union and new targets will be set for heavy trucks.

The law also provides for the creation of a special fund, notably research into new technology.

In addition, the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority and the Swiss National Bank will have to periodically measure the financial risks resulting from climate change.

Greenpeace petition

On Wednesday, Greenpeace submitted a petition to the Federal Chancellery signed by 23,000 people calling on the Swiss government to take action to ensure that Swiss financial institutions become climate neutral.

According to Greenpeace, it is essential to know where Swiss financial institutions are placing their money. In July, the environmental NGO filed a complaint against Swiss financial regulators arguing that they have an obligation to ensure that Swiss financial flows are in line with the Paris Agreement.

Greenpeace proposes various measures including an immediate ban on the financing of fossil fuels and disclosure on the climate impact and financial risks of investments.

Climate activists staged a 2-day protest in front of the parliament building that was eventually dispersed by police just ahead of the vote in parliament. Political rallies are banned on the square while the Swiss parliament is in session.

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