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Federal Council to adopt dispatch on revision of the CO2 Act

Bern, 26.08.2009 - In Switzerland, the CO2 Act forms the basis for climate policy and regulates measures until 2012. It must therefore undergo a revision to cover the period from 2013. The Federal Council is submitting a dispatch on this to Parliament. This draft on the revision of the CO2 Act is planned as an indirect counter-proposal to federal popular initiative “For a healthy climate”.

The CO2 Act that remains in force until 2012 requires the Federal Council to submit proposals to Parliament in good time on the goals for the reduction of greenhouse gases from 2013. These goals will enable Switzerland to continue to reduce its output of climate-harming greenhouse gases (in particular CO2) and thus fulfil its international obligations.

At its meeting on 26 August 2009, the Federal Council approved the corresponding dispatch for submission to Parliament. The key points of revision of the CO2 Act were already adopted by the Federal Council at a meeting on 6 May 2009. The Federal Council is proposing that the reform of the legislation take the form of an indirect counter-proposal to the federal popular initiative "For a healthy climate" (see box).

The proposed measures

By 2020, it is planned to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Switzerland by at least 20 per cent in comparison with emission levels in 1990. The measures planned to achieve this include the following:

  • the continuation of the CO2 incentive tax on fuels at 36 francs per tonne of CO2 and the possibility of a tax exemption for businesses if they provide the Confederation with an undertaking to make CO2 reductions.
  • the partial earmarking of the CO2 tax to the extent of a maximum of CHF 200million a year to fund CO2-effective measures in buildings (renovation of roofs, windows, façades, replacement of fossil-fuel heating systems with renewable energy systems). Depending on oil prices, the rate of tax may be in increased two stages if this should prove necessary to achieve targets. The Act also requires the cantons to ensure with federal support that annual CO2emissions from buildings heated by fossil fuels are steadily reduced.
  • a CO2 incentive tax on motor fuels may also be introduced if this proves necessary to achieve targets;
  • a binding target value for the average CO2 emissions of all new cars sold[KRM1];
  • the introduction of a duty for manufacturers and importers of fossil motor fuels to compensate for at least a quarter of the motor fuel emissions caused by means of greenhouse gas reduction measures in Switzerland or abroad;
  • the continuation and improvement of the existing emissions trading scheme (ETS) for energy intensive businesses with a view to a link-up with the European system. The objective will be a merger with the European emissions trading scheme.
  • the coordination by the Confederation of the measures required to adjust to changes in the climate that can no longer be prevented;

The proposed measures are designed to achieve the reduction target of 20 per cent lower emissions in 2020 in comparison with 1990 levels. However, as greater efforts are needed from the industrialised countries to be able to stabilise the greenhouse gas concentration in the atmosphere at a non-hazardous level, Switzerland is prepared to increase the reduction target to 30 per cent lower by 2020 in comparison with 1990. This will however depend on the outcome of the UN Climate Conference in Copenhagen in December 2009 (see Factsheet 2). The Federal Council outlines the strategy for compliance with this higher target in its dispatch.

If the international community adopts resolutions at the Climate Conference in Copenhagen that are incompatible with the draft Act laid before Parliament, the Federal Council will submit any required amendments to the CO2 Act to Parliament at the latest in the dispatch on the ratification of the Kyoto follow-up agreement.

Moderate economic effects

The economic effects of the proposed reduction measures by 2020 are moderate. They are not expected to have any significant adverse effects on economic growth or general prosperity. In addition, there are no concerns about any serious effects on Swiss economic structure.

In parallel to the debate on the revision of the CO2 Act for the period after 2012, various amendments to the existing CO2 Act are being made at present. Account is taken of this work in the dispatch (see Factsheet 1).

Popular initiative "For a healthy climate"

The federal popular initiative "For a healthy climate" demands a reduction in emissions of greenhouse gases by a minimum of 30 per cent by 2020 in comparison with 1990 levels; this is to be achieved by implementing measures within Switzerland. The background to the initiative is the objective of limiting global warming in the long term to a maximum of 2°C in comparison with the pre-industrial level.

The Federal Council recognises the urgent need for action in climate matters. With its proposal for the revision of the CO2 Act, it takes up the concerns of the federal popular initiative and sets out binding reduction targets to be achieved by 2020. It is recommending that the Federal Assembly reject the popular initiative, as the inclusion in the Constitution of a domestic reduction target of minus 30 per cent will permit too little flexibility.

Through its indirect counter-proposal, the Federal Council also wishes to permit the limited use of foreign emission certificates and thus reduce the economic costs. This approach is more comprehensive than the popular initiative: all internationally regulated greenhouse gas emissions and reduction efforts as well as adaptations to climate change will now fall within the scope of the Act.

Address for enquiries:

Bruno Oberle, Director Federal Office for the Environment FOEN, +41 (0)31 322 90 00
Andrea Burkhardt, Head of the Climate Section FOEN, +41 (0)31 322 64 94


Federal Department of the Environment, Transport, Energy and Communications
Internet: https://www.uvek.admin.ch/uvek/en/home.html