Swiss turn up the heat at climate conference

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Thomas Kolly, head of the international division at the Swiss environment agency, tells swissinfo about his hopes for a climate conference in Canada this week.

This content was published on November 29, 2005 minutes

The United Nations Climate Change Conference opened in Montreal on Monday and runs until December 9.

Kolly, the top Swiss negotiator in Montreal, is optimistic that Switzerland will reach its targets to reduce carbon dioxide emissions but says a lot of work remains to be done.

The introduction of a CO2 emissions tax in Switzerland has been postponed, and the government last week rejected the imposition of a surcharge on off-road vehicles and other vehicles with high levels of emissions.

Earlier this month, Claude Martin, the outgoing Swiss head of WWF International, told swissinfo that many nations – including Switzerland – were too scared to "bite the bullet" over global warming.

swissinfo: What are you hoping to achieve in Montreal?

Thomas Kolly: We wish to adopt the rules of implementation of the Kyoto Protocol to make it fully operational and to improve the existing mechanisms.

We will also talk about what will happen after 2012, the end of the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol. The efforts of industrialised countries on their own will not be enough to tackle the problems of climate change – this needs the full participation of all countries: developed and developing.

swissinfo: Switzerland pledged under the Kyoto Protocol to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by an average of 2.5 million tons a year between 2008 and 2012 - will this target be met?

T.K.: We have signed the Kyoto Protocol. In Switzerland we respect what we have signed up to and we will certainly do everything that is necessary to achieve this goal and to live up to our obligations.

swissinfo: So is Switzerland on schedule?

T.K.: There are discussions now about the different instruments on how to implement the Kyoto goals – I'm talking about the carbon dioxide tax, a very important element of all our endeavours to reach our goal. It's under discussion right now in the Swiss parliament, but I'm very optimistic that we will achieve our goals.

swissinfo: What will happen to the fight against global warming once the Kyoto Protocol runs out in 2012?

T.K.: It's very often said that the Kyoto Protocol will run out after 2012, but this is not the case. 2012 is the end of the first commitment period but the protocol provides for starting discussions now on the second commitment period, the period after 2012.

For Switzerland it's very important that the Kyoto Protocol is continued after 2012. The big question is with which new targets and new elements. Our position is that all countries should participate in future efforts to reduce global greenhouse emissions and in Montreal we will start this discussion on who has to do what and to what extent.

swissinfo: You say all countries – are you optimistic that the United States will support the post-Kyoto effort to tackle global warming, given its refusal to engage with the Kyoto Protocol so far?

T.K.: Our goal is that all the big emitters are included in a future regime and certainly such an important country as the United States, which produces 20 per cent of global carbon dioxide emissions with a population that is just four per cent of the world's total. But I also have to say that the US has done a lot in the field of technology and research to tackle the problem of emission.

But it's a whole package – we in Switzerland want to include the US but also others such as Australia and emerging markets like China, India and Brazil.

I would be satisfied stepping out of the conference with a feeling that everybody realises there is a big problem but also that there is a willingness among all participants to contribute to a solution.

swissinfo-interview: Thomas Stephens

Key facts

Industrialised countries committed themselves to reducing greenhouse gases in Kyoto in 1997.
The Kyoto Protocol calls for industrialised nations to reduce harmful emissions by an average 5.2% by 2012.
The Swiss parliament ratified the Kyoto Protocol in June 2003.
Under Kyoto, Switzerland has pledged to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels to 10% below 1990 levels by 2010.
It has also pledged to cut emissions by 1.8 million tons a year between 2008 and 2012.

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In brief

The UN Climate Change Conference takes place in Montreal from November 28 to December 9.

Some 7,000 delegates and observers from 189 countries are discussing how countries can work together to address climate change.

They will also discuss the implementation of the Kyoto Protocol and future initiatives.

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