Swiss firms offered sweeteners to curb greenhouse gases
The government is offering tax incentives to Swiss firms which voluntarily cut pollution. Under the proposal, companies which meet pre-agreed targets would be exempt from a special tax on greenhouse gas emissions due to be introduced in 2004.
The government said on Monday that the planned tax could be avoided altogether if Swiss companies meet emissions' targets agreed under the United Nations Kyoto Protocol on climate change.
Under the terms of Kyoto, greenhouse gas emissions must be reduced by between eight and 15 per cent below 1990 levels by the year 2010.
To encourage bigger firms to meet these targets, the government - along with big business - has proposed exempting them from the special tax. Companies would also be able to sell so-called "carbon" credits if they exceed their targets.
"Companies are allowed to take into account reductions from climate protection projects abroad," said Philippe Roch, head of the Swiss Agency for the Environment, Forests and Landscape. "But carbon dioxide (CO2) reduction in Switzerland is the primary aim of this project."
If the Kyoto targets were not met, the tax could be introduced as of 2004, with the price of a litre of petrol rising by as much as 50 centimes.
Swiss voters accepted the planned tax on greenhouse gases, particularly carbon dioxide, in 1999. CO2 emissions in Switzerland have declined slightly since 1990, but pollution from other fuels has increased by 7.5 per cent.
To encourage more efficient energy use among small firms, the government has also launched a project called "SwissEnergy".
"Despite all the work we have accomplished, there is still a lot to do", said Rudolf Ramsauer of the Agency of Energy for the Economy.
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