Indicator Economy and Consumption

Greenhouse gas footprint

Final demand for goods and services is often linked to greenhouse gas emissions along the whole value-added chain both inland and abroad, such as CO2 from transport, building heating systems, industry and the extraction of raw materials. Nitrous oxide and methane are admitted by agriculture and waste management in particular.

In a globalised economy, both the greenhouse gases emitted in Switzerland and those emitted abroad as a result of Swiss final demand must be recorded (total final consumption expenditure of households and the public sector). A large part of Switzerland’s footprint is created abroad because imports make up a high proportion of the country’s total consumption.

Assessment of the state
poor poor
Assessment of the trend
unsatisfactory unsatisfactory
Per person
Greenhouse gas emissions caused by final domestic demand of goods and services in Switzerland

Data for the graph: Excel
Source: FOEN, FSO
Emissions abroad 2020: 67.7617733121547 Emissions in Switzerland 2020: 35.3734762020899 Emissions abroad 2019: 74.7290039835942 Emissions in Switzerland 2019: 40.3282208930221 Emissions abroad 2018: 73.8815218536782 Emissions in Switzerland 2018: 40.3269836504287 Emissions abroad 2017: 74.1142494477 Emissions in Switzerland 2017: 42.1041837496297 Emissions abroad 2016: 76.7724069448319 Emissions in Switzerland 2016: 42.9795774350396 Emissions abroad 2015: 73.7305236802838 Emissions in Switzerland 2015: 42.7114602567896 Emissions abroad 2014: 73.6732973574516 Emissions in Switzerland 2014: 42.0415313435637 Emissions abroad 2013: 76.1194223980262 Emissions in Switzerland 2013: 45.4990096103782 Emissions abroad 2012: 78.8123914142294 Emissions in Switzerland 2012: 44.1953256018531 Emissions abroad 2011: 78.5594094080072 Emissions in Switzerland 2011: 43.2099722487426 Emissions abroad 2010: 70.1989313269375 Emissions in Switzerland 2010: 46.3668881032313 Emissions abroad 2009: 64.3147921013816 Emissions in Switzerland 2009: 45.2768256340799 Emissions abroad 2008: 65.8963826664348 Emissions in Switzerland 2008: 45.7965900224098 Emissions abroad 2007: 71.2374414134104 Emissions in Switzerland 2007: 45.0118246596333 Emissions abroad 2006: 72.6633742897283 Emissions in Switzerland 2006: 47.2697203017449 Emissions abroad 2005: 68.9232552718204 Emissions in Switzerland 2005: 48.1289187619467 Emissions abroad 2004: 62.6085220281346 Emissions in Switzerland 2004: 47.8702619880237 Emissions abroad 2003: 61.9178083287589 Emissions in Switzerland 2003: 48.1913760606401 Emissions abroad 2002: 65.4257356436483 Emissions in Switzerland 2002: 47.6277435564248 Emissions abroad 2001: 76.5392910039794 Emissions in Switzerland 2001: 48.4492865178892 Emissions abroad 2000: 70.8921292029991 Emissions in Switzerland 2000: 47.0084325974085
Greenhouse gas emissions caused by final domestic demand of goods and services in Switzerland along the value-added chain

Data for the graph: Excel
Source: FSO
Changes in greenhouse gas efficiency  2020: 132.867070077749 Changes in greenhouse gas efficiency  2019: 125.708280881968 Changes in greenhouse gas efficiency  2018: 124.807210557535 Changes in greenhouse gas efficiency  2017: 122.598221623667 Changes in greenhouse gas efficiency  2016: 119.007764727679 Changes in greenhouse gas efficiency  2015: 120.303763209449 Changes in greenhouse gas efficiency  2014: 119.268734471416 Changes in greenhouse gas efficiency  2013: 113.435286468581 Changes in greenhouse gas efficiency  2012: 113.038211229566 Changes in greenhouse gas efficiency  2011: 114.400056736301 Changes in greenhouse gas efficiency  2010: 114.315176520954 Changes in greenhouse gas efficiency  2009: 119.384167005832 Changes in greenhouse gas efficiency  2008: 116.267930058003 Changes in greenhouse gas efficiency  2007: 110.415437161855 Changes in greenhouse gas efficiency  2006: 107.14012164237 Changes in greenhouse gas efficiency  2005: 107.467089020686 Changes in greenhouse gas efficiency  2004: 109.202784255898 Changes in greenhouse gas efficiency  2003: 109.404784658433 Changes in greenhouse gas efficiency  2002: 106.195673473803 Changes in greenhouse gas efficiency  2001: 96.36724281756 Changes in greenhouse gas efficiency  2000: 100
Final domestic demand of goods and services to greenhouse gas footprint ratio

Data for the graph: Excel
Source: FSO

In 2020, the greenhouse gas footprint per capita amounted to around 11.9 tonnes of CO2-equivalents – well over the average of the EU countries. In 2000, it was nearly 18 tonnes per capita, which means that it has fallen by around a quarter – whereby this drop can in part be attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Switzerland’s greenhouse gas footprint is far in excess of a level that is in line with the planetary boundaries. Only a limited amount of greenhouse gas can be allowed to enter the atmosphere if global warming is to be restricted to 1.5 degrees Celsius. If we assume that everyone in the world has an equal right to emitting greenhouse gases, then Switzerland has already produced its share, or shortly will do. Based on existing political objectives, it needs to reduce its greenhouse gas footprint by about 90% by 2040 (EBP/Treeze, 2022). For these reasons, the state is rated as negative and the trend, despite a reduction, as unsatisfactory.  

The Federal Statistical Office splits the share of the total footprint attributable to households into separate categories, the main ones being Transport, Living, and Food and Drink. Together, these three categories make up two thirds of the greenhouse gas footprint of households.

In the 2030 Sustainable Development Strategy, the federal government’s aim is to reduce the greenhouse gas footprint from food and drink by a quarter compared to 2020. The report on future developments in agrarian policy, drawn up in response to a parliamentary postulate, the amount set is at least two thirds by 2050.

Although the population grew by 20% during the period considered, total emissions fell by 13% to approx. 103m tonnes CO2 equivalents. Between 2000 and 2019, the greenhouse gas footprint fell by 2% and between 2019 and 2020 by 10% – in large part owing to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The proportion of domestic and import-related emissions has remained relatively constant. In 2020, 66% of emissions were generated abroad.

Between 2000 and 2020, greenhouse gas footprint efficiency increased by around 33%. Consequently, a decoupling between the growth in prosperity and greenhouse gas emissions has taken place.

There are a number of reasons for the reduction in the greenhouse gas footprint and efficiency improvements – not just the COVID-19 pandemic. Environment, energy and agrarian policies set certain requirements; for example, the CO2 levy on fossil fuels (oil and gas) creates incentives to reduce consumption and use more climate-friendly energy sources. Furthermore, more resource-efficient technologies, a rising market share of environmentally-friendlier goods and services and the outsourcing of emission-intensive production abroad may also play a role.

International comparison

An international comparison is only indirectly possible, due to the differing data sources and calculation methods used as a basis. According to Tukker et al. (2014) and the calculations of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and of the UNEP Life Cycle Initiative (LCI), Switzerland’s greenhouse gas footprint per capita is more than double the global average, and up to four times higher than that of many developing countries. For example, according to UNEP LCI figures, Tanzania’s footprint is just 0.7 tonnes per capita (SCP hotspot analysis).


The statistical concept of the greenhouse gas footprint is used to determine total greenhouse gas emissions caused by the final demand for goods and services in Switzerland. In addition to domestic emissions, the emissions generated abroad in the production of goods and services destined for Switzerland are also taken into account.

The footprint comprises the direct emissions from households, those due to final demand from households and the public sector, and those linked to gross fixed capital formation (GFCF). Domestic emissions created in the production of exports are not considered.

The greenhouse gas footprint is a quantity that must be modelled. The results presented here are based on the calculations of the Federal Statistical Office FSO. The method uses air emissions accounts, the input-output tables of the state financial accounts and a weighting of imported emissions. The weighting takes into account the CO2 emission intensity of the origin of Swiss imports. The greenhouse gas intensity of exports from the EU is weighted using an overall aggregate ratio of total CO2 emissions to the gross domestic product (GDP) of the respective economic region.

The greenhouse gases taken into account are carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O) and synthetic gases (HFC, PFC, SF6, NF3) in CO2 equivalents.       

Basis for assessment of the trend
Targeted trend Initial value Final value Deviation from theoretical path in% Observed trend Assessment
1.4 in 2040 2000 2020 59.74% Towards theoretical path unsatisfactory
Basis: Emissions in Switzerland, Emissions abroad
Last updated on: 07.12.2023

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