Climate protection: Federal Council adopts Switzerland’s long-term climate strategy
Bern, 28.01.2021 - Switzerland aims to have net-zero greenhouse emissions by 2050. The Federal Council set the net-zero target in 2019 and on 27 January 2021 adopted the corresponding “Long-Term Climate Strategy for Switzerland”. The strategy sets out climate policy guidelines up to 2050 and establishes strategic targets for key sectors, building on the measures and targets of the revised CO2 Act. The new CO2 Act is essential for achieving the net-zero target. It will lead to a 50 per cent reduction in greenhouse gases by 2030 and put Switzerland on track to meet its 2050 climate target.
In 2019, the Federal Council decided that, by 2050, Switzerland should not emit more greenhouse gases than can be absorbed naturally or by technical means. The net-zero target is in response to the latest scientific findings by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that an average global warming of just 1.5 degrees will have serious consequences for humans and biodiversity. As an Alpine country, Switzerland is particularly affected by climate change, as temperatures here are rising twice as quickly as the global average.
In parallel to setting the net-zero target, the Federal Council commissioned the Federal Department of the Environment, Transport, Energy and Communications DETEC to draw up the new climate strategy. On 27 January, it adopted the “Long-Term Climate Strategy for Switzerland” in fulfilment of an obligation under the Paris Agreement, which requires countries to submit their long-term climate strategies to the UN Climate Change Secretariat by the end of 2020. Switzerland’s strategy is based in large part on the Energy Perspectives 2050+ published by the Swiss Federal Office of Energy last autumn.
Guidelines for a climate-neutral Switzerland by 2050
The Long-Term Climate Strategy formulates ten basic strategic principles that will shape Swiss climate policy in the coming years. It presents possible developments up to 2050 for the buildings, industry, transport, agricultural and food sectors, financial markets, aviation and the waste industry, setting strategic targets for each.
The strategy also shows to which extent emissions that are difficult to avoid are likely to remain until 2050. These must be offset by carbon capture and storage (CCS) or by negative emissions technologies (NETs) CCS technologies capture CO2 directly where it is emitted from plants in the industrial and waste sectors. NETs are used for emissions that cannot be captured directly, for example from agriculture. They remove these emissions from the atmosphere and store them permanently.
Net-zero is attainable
The Long-Term Climate Strategy shows that Switzerland can reduce its greenhouse gas emissions in transport, buildings and industry by almost 90 per cent by 2050. The building and transport sectors can become emission-free by 2050, and emissions from industrial energy consumption can also be virtually eliminated. In aviation, sustainable renewable fuels and new propulsion technologies offer potential for reducing emissions. In the agricultural and food industries, emission reductions of at least 40 per cent compared to 1990 can be achieved.
In 2050, the remaining greenhouse gas emissions from industry, waste management and agriculture will amount to around 12 million tonnes of CO2 equivalents. These can be offset by CCS and NETs. As an innovative and financially strong country with near CO2-free domestic power production, Switzerland is in a good position to achieve the net-zero target by 2050.
Climate protection costs less than unchecked climate change
The social and economic costs of unchecked climate change far exceed the costs of climate protection measures. The net-zero target is therefore also very much in Switzerland's economic interests. By moving away from fossil fuels such as oil, gas, petrol and diesel, Switzerland is also reducing its dependence on foreign countries. Money that flows abroad today will be invested domestically in the future. This benefits Swiss trade and industry.
CO2 Act provides the foundation
The Long-Term Climate Strategy ties in with the revised CO2 Act and its objectives. Approved by Parliament in the 2020 autumn session and due to come into force in 2022, the Act is a key prerequisite for achieving the long-term climate target. It puts Switzerland on course for attaining the climate target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 50 per cent by 2030 and net-zero by 2050. An optional referendum is to be held on the revised CO2 Act.
Address for enquiries
Reto Burkard, Head of Climate Policy Section, Federal Office for the Environment FOEN, Tel. +41 58 465 92 96
The Federal Council
Federal Office for the Environment FOEN
Swiss Federal Office of Energy
General Secretariat of the Federal Department of Environment, Transport, Energy and Communications; General Secretariat DETEC