Switzerland must achieve its net-zero target by 2050. First and foremost, this requires a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions such as CO2. Not all greenhouse gas emissions are entirely avoidable. That is why additional technologies are needed to capture or remove CO2 and store it permanently. There are two types of technology: carbon capture and storage (CCS), which as the name suggests captures and stores fossil and process-based CO2 at installations, thereby further reducing emissions, and negative emission technologies (NETs), which permanently remove CO2 from the atmosphere. Both technologies are not yet widely available. The FOEN is committed to achieving the net-zero target by 2050 and to supporting the sustainable upscaling of these technologies and putting in place the required framework conditions.
In adopting the net-zero target in 2019, the Federal Council decided that by 2050 Switzerland should not emit more greenhouse gases than can be absorbed in geological or technical reservoirs. Above all, intensive efforts are needed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The Federal Council's long-term climate strategy of January 2021 shows that in 2050 greenhouse gas emissions will still be difficult to avoid, particularly from industry, waste treatment and agriculture. To deal with these emissions, technologies are needed to capture and store fossil and process-related CO2 directly at installations (carbon capture and storage, CCS) or permanently remove CO2 from the atmosphere (negative emission technologies, NETs).
NETs 'indispensible' according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) emphasises in its Sixth Assessment Report of April 2022 that NETs are 'indispensible' to limit global warming to 1.5 °C and thereby minimise climate risks for humans and the environment. Switzerland therefore advocates that the opportunities and risks surrounding the necessary expansion of NETs be analysed and discussed more widely in international forums such as the UN Environment Programme.
Solutions known, upscaling necessary
The CCS and NET solutions are not new, but they are not yet available on the scale required. A report (PDF, 2 MB, 02.09.2020) published by the Federal Council in September 2020 provides a systematic overview of the approaches known today (see also factsheet (PDF, 770 kB, 02.09.2020)). In order to ensure that NETs and CCS can be rolled out over the next 30 years in an environmentally compatible, cost-efficient and socially acceptable manner, the necessary framework conditions need to be improved today.
Upscaling in two phases
In its report (PDF, 509 kB, 18.05.2022) of May 2022, the Federal Council envisages a progressive approach. Based on the Energy Perspectives 2050+, it is assumed that around 12 million tonnes of CO2 will have to be stored annually by 2050. The upscaling of CCS and NETs is to take place in two phases: a 'pioneering phase' up to 2030 and a 'targeted scaling phase' up to 2050.
The pioneering phase can be implemented by developing the current legal framework. However, the subsequent scaling phase beyond 2030 will require further-reaching preparations. In particular, a comprehensive CO2 transport and storage infrastructure needs to be developed. Various points also need to be clarified such as the roles of the federal government, the cantons and the economy in developing such an infrastructure, a means of financing based as far as possible on the 'polluter pays' principle, and not least the legal framework. The Federal Council will consider specific proposals by the end of 2024.
Across both phases up to 2050, CCS units are to be used in industry, for example in waste treatment plants and cement works. Transporting CO2 and storing it at domestically or abroad requires new infrastructure, such as pipelines and underground storage facilities or storage in building materials. Further investment in NETs is also necessary, for example within the framework of bilateral climate agreements with partner countries.
Opportunity for research and industry in Switzerland
Upscaling of CCS and NETs is not only necessary from a climate policy perspective, it also serves as an opportunity for Switzerland to consolidate its international pioneering role in research and industry. For example, the federally funded demonstration project DemoUpCARMA, run by ETH Zurich in cooperation with other universities and industry, is for the first time demonstrating and optimising the cross-border transport of CO2, its mineralisation underground (in Iceland) and its storage in concrete. This pioneering project aims to gain important insights into feasibility, energy and environmental impacts and scaling issues.
Faktenblatt: Pflanzenkohle in der Schweizer Landwirtschaft – Risiken und Chancen für Boden und Klima (PDF, 564 kB, 19.01.2023)(available in German, French or Italian)
Last modification 19.01.2023