Greenhouse gas footprint
The consumption of goods and services is often linked to greenhouse gas emissions, such as from transport, building heating systems, industry and the extraction of raw materials. Nitrous oxide and methane emissions originate specifically from agriculture and waste management.
In addition to the greenhouse gases emitted in Switzerland, the country is responsible for additional emissions, known as “grey emissions”. Due to the high proportion of imports in the total consumption, a large portion of the greenhouse gas emissions caused by Swiss consumption occur abroad.
In 2015, the greenhouse gas footprint per capita amounted to 14 tonnes of CO2-equivalents per capita. Thus, it is well over the average of the EU countries. Although it may be subject to fluctuations from one year to the next (caused by weather conditions, for example), it has been relatively stable during the period of time considered (4% decrease in 20 years).
The greenhouse gas footprint is far in excess of a level that is in line with the planetary boundaries. According to Dao et al. (2015), such a level would be 0.6 tonnes per capita in 2015. The current development is significantly above the required reduction. For these reasons, the state is rated as negative and the trend as unsatisfactory.
Since Switzerland’s population grew by 17% during the period considered, total emissions have increased significantly, in contrast to the relatively stable per capita development, i.e. by around 12%.
Consumption-based greenhouse gas emissions show a steadily declining domestic share. However, their foreign share is rising just as steadily. In 2015, 60% of them were caused abroad.
Since the consumption of goods and services is linked to environmental impacts, emissions could generally be expected to increase similar to final demand. As far as the greenhouse gas footprint is concerned, this is not the case: While emissions increased by 12%, Swiss final demand increased by a greater extent during the same period, i.e. by 32%. Consequently, a relative decoupling between prosperity and greenhouse gas emissions has takten place. In other words, the so-called consumption-based greenhouse gas efficiency has improved. This may have different causes, such as more resource-efficient technologies or a rising market share of environmentally-friendlier goods and services.
An international comparison is only indirectly possible, due to differing system limits and the life cycle models that were used as a basis. According to Tukker et al. (2014) and the calculations of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Switzerland’s greenhouse gas footprint is excessively high in international comparison.
This indicator considers the greenhouse gases listed in the Kyoto Protocol (CO2, CH4, N2O and synthetic gases).
The datasets used for this indicator are domestic emissions data (domestic principle) combined with trade and life cycle data.
In addition, the values of Switzerland's greenhouse gas inventory are shown separately, in accordance with the Kyoto Protocol (territorial principle). These values take into account the emissions within Switzerland’s borders, including those caused by exports but not those caused by imports.
The calculation of the greenhouse gas footprint comes from Frischknecht et al. (2018).
For a comparison with the planetary limit values, see IPCC 2018 and Dao et al.
In 2018, the Federal Statistical Office (FSO) calculated the greenhouse gas footprint of Swiss consumption for the first time. The method used for the preliminary calculation by FSO was the so-called environmentally extended input-output analysis. The results of both methods are comparable. The footprint calculated by the FSO also amounted to 14 tonnes of CO2-equivalents per capita in 2015 and the foreign share was 65% in the same year.