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Environment minister: climate strategy is ‘feasible and affordable’

The construction sector can eliminate greenhouse emissions altogether, the strategy says. Martin Ruetschi

The Swiss government has signed off on a strategy it says will enable the country to reduce net carbon emissions to zero by 2050. Measures and legal changes to implement the strategy will follow.

This content was published on January 28, 2021 - 12:42
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The “Long-term climate strategy for Switzerland” comes after the 2019 declaration to eliminate net emissions by 2050, a goal which Environment Minister Simonetta Sommaruga said on Thursday put Switzerland “in good company”.

“Our most important trading partners – including the European Union and the US – all want to achieve the same target,” Sommaruga said at a press conference in Bern.

The goal is more ambitious than the 75-80% reduction called for by the 2016 Paris Agreement, and reflects the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) about the negative effects of temperature hikes.

The government is also concerned that temperatures in Switzerland – “as an Alpine country” – are rising twice as fast as the global average.

First targets, then measures

Ten “basic strategic principles” in the document outline the areas where emissions can be eliminated completely, including the construction and transport sectors, as well as the industrial energy consumption sector.

No concrete measures are outlined, however: these will be fleshed out in the coming months, said Sommaruga. For example, proposed revisions of the electricity supply act and the energy law aim to direct more resources towards renewable domestic energy sources.

The strategy also admits that aviation and the agriculture and food industries will not be able to become fully emission-free by 2050, though new fuel sources and technologies will be able to lead to substantial reductions.

Remaining emissions – which will amount to some 12 million tonnes of CO2 equivalents – will be offset by “carbon capture and storage” and “negative emissions technologies”.

Sommaruga also referred to the CO2 law, passed by parliament in September 2020, as a key pillar for achieving the strategy. This law foresees a 50% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.

The CO2 law, which came in for criticism from both right-wing and left-wing quarters, is set to be voted on in a national referendum in June, after campaigners earlier this month handed in the requisite 50,000 signatures to force a vote.

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