Swiss CO2 emissions: Small country, big footprint

Study reveals full extent of Swiss CO2 emissions

A cement factory in Hyderabad in 2006. Keystone / Nadeem Khawer

A report by the McKinsey consulting firm estimates that the small Alpine country, with its highly globalised economy and powerful financial centre, has an estimated indirect influence on 2-3% of global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.

This content was published on July 10, 2022 - 14:00
Keystone-SDA/NZZ am Sonntag/sb

Domestic CO2 emissions in Switzerland account for almost 50 million tonnes (Mt) of CO2 equivalents annually, or less than 0.1% of annual global emissions. 

But Swiss emissions are much larger if you look beyond its borders, according to a studyExternal link by the McKinsey consulting firm published on July 10.

It calculates that imported goods would add another 69Mt of CO2 equivalents per year to the Swiss carbon footprint.

On top of this, many international companies based in Switzerland operate mainly abroad. Their annual CO2 emissions account for 300-400Mt of CO2 equivalents, McKinsey estimates. And the Swiss financial centre, which plays a large international role via investments, loans, shares and other transactions, is responsible for 700-900 Mt of additional CO2 emissions per year, it says.

Together, the authors estimate that Switzerland has “at least an indirect influence on 2-3% of global CO2 emissions”, which would put it on a par with countries like Indonesia, Japan and Brazil.

“Contrary to popular belief, Switzerland and its economy are not insignificant compared to other global greenhouse gas emitters,” says the report, which was produced in cooperation with the Swiss business lobby EconomiesuisseExternal link and the WWF environmental group. McKinsey contacted 180 companies and sector organisations for its survey.

Switzerland wants to achieve climate neutrality by 2050. But the country narrowly missed its target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 despite coronavirus lockdowns and an unusually warm winter.

Under the terms of the Paris climate agreement, Switzerland has pledged to halve emissions by 2030 and intends to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2050External link. But the government was forced to re-draw its plansExternal link when voters rejected a package of climate reforms last yearExternal link.

In compliance with the JTI standards

In compliance with the JTI standards

More: SWI certified by the Journalism Trust Initiative

Change your password

Do you really want to delete your profile?

Your subscription could not be saved. Please try again.
Almost finished... We need to confirm your email address. To complete the subscription process, please click the link in the email we just sent you.

Discover our weekly must-reads for free!

Sign up to get our top stories straight into your mailbox.

The SBC Privacy Policy provides additional information on how your data is processed.