Climate: International Affairs

Greenhouse gas emissions do not respect national borders. Due to its mountain ecosystem, Switzerland is particularly vulnerable. A globally coordinated course of action is essential. That is why Switzerland is actively committed to climate protection at an international level.

1. International climate policy: stages and results

Rio, Kyoto, Marrakesh, Cancun and Paris: There have been many stages in the discussion about climate protection. Since the adoption of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in 1992, the international community has met regularly to limit climate change.

In 1992, during the Rio Earth Summit, countries adopted the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which came into force in 1994.

The adoption of the UNFCCC was the first step of a concerted international course of action. It officially recognised the importance of climate change, and its anthropogenic causes linked to greenhouse gas emissions. The Convention aims to stabilise greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at levels that will not dangerously disrupt the climate. It takes into consideration the differentiated responsibility of developed countries and developing countries by advocating “an effective and appropriate international response, in accordance with their common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities and their social and economic conditions”. Accordingly, it encourages governments to implement strategies to reduce emissions and adapt to climate change, where developed countries provide financial and technological support to developing and emerging countries. Industrialised countries are therefore committed to reducing their greenhouse gas emissions and helping developing countries reduce their emissions and adapt to climate change, in particular by financing projects through the Global Environment Fund (GEF). The UNFCCC is now universal, ratified by 195 States and the European Union. 

In 1997, the countries at the COP3 adopted the Kyoto Protocol. It was the first binding international agreement with commitments in figures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It came into force in 2005 after the double condition was met that it be ratified by at least 55 countries as well as the industrialised countries (known as Annex I Parties to the UNFCCC) that emitted at least 55% of total CO2 emissions in 1990.
Under the Kyoto Protocol, industrialised countries committed to reducing their greenhouse gas emissions by an average of 5.2% compared to 1990 levels from 2008 to 2012, which was known as the first commitment period. Individually, these binding targets ranged from -8% to +10% of emissions (8% for Switzerland and the EU) compared to 1990 levels. The commitments made under this protocol are binding, but cover only about 25% of global emissions. In fact, they apply only to developed countries, since developing countries are only required to keep an inventory of their polluting emissions. As a result, the protocol is not binding on countries like China, India or Brazil. Switzerland met its emissions reduction requirements under the Kyoto Protocol in the 2008 -2012 period.
At the end of 2012, the States agreed to a second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol (Doha Amendment) during the Doha Climate Change Conference. With this amendment, industrialised countries agreed to reduce their emissions by an average of 18% compared to 1990 levels (Switzerland: -20% in 2020; EU: -20% between 2013 and 2020) by 2020. The second commitment period concerns only 14% of global emissions, because the United States and Canada withdrew from the Kyoto Protocol or did not ratify it, and Japan, Russia and New Zealand did not commit to the Doha targets and are therefore no longer bound to the second commitment period. Developing countries that have not made a reduction commitment have seen their emissions increase substantially.
The second commitment period ends at the end of 2020. A third commitment period is not anticipated.

In 2015, the countries adopted the Paris Agreement. It came into force on 4 November 2016 and takes effect starting on 1 January 2021. Thus, it covers the post-2020 period. The Paris Agreement is the first binding international climate convention for all the States: developed countries and developing countries. By ratifying it, States agree to take concrete actions to reduce their emissions and adapt to climate change according to their responsibilities and respective capabilities. Industrialised countries reaffirm their commitment to support developing countries in their efforts to reduce greenhouse gases and adapt to climate change. Other States are now also invited to contribute support.
Under the Paris Agreement, all major emitters, including the United States and China, committed for the first time to achieve concrete emissions reduction targets. As of 1 May 2020, 189 States had ratified the Paris Agreement, including the States responsible for nearly 97% of total greenhouse gas emissions. Under the presidency of Donald Trump, the United States withdrew from the Paris Agreement at the end of 2020, before rejoining in February 2021 under the presidency of Joe Biden. All other States have nevertheless reaffirmed their commitment to the Agreement.

The conferences of the Parties to the Convention (COP), the Kyoto Protocol (CMP) and the Paris Agreement (CMA) take place every year. During these conferences, the States examine the progress that has been made and make the decisions required to effectively implement these agreements, such as by agreeing on more detailed rules for applying the agreements or on the required institutional and administrative provisions.

2015, COP21 in Paris, France

COP 21 Paris Logo

After years of difficult negotiations, the 195 countries meeting in Paris adopted an agreement on 12 December 2015 that is binding on all states and aims to limit global warming to under two degrees Celcius. Switzerland, which was actively involved in the negotiations, welcomes this outcome. The states must now agree on the detailed rules for implementing the agreement.

Conférence de Paris COP21 sur le climat: Accord sur la politique climatique mondiale

2016, COP22 in Marrakech, Morocco


The aim of the negotiations was to initiate the drafting of uniform provisions and binding directives, including for the setting of national climate targets and reporting, in order to be able to measure and ascertain the effects and progress made by individual countries. It was concluded that different countries have different priorities, both in terms of targets in different areas and in terms of how quickly a solution can be found.

22e Conférence des Nations Unies sur le climat à Marrakech

2017, COP23 in Bonn, Germany

Under the presidency of Fiji: the states expressed their support for the climate and the Paris Agreement. States agreed on core documentation that brings together the different positions on all the points to be negotiated to formulate the rules for implementing the agreement. These were adopted at the next climate conference in 2018.


2018, COP24 in Katowice, Poland

Logo COP24

Twenty decisions and directives that specify the implementation of the Paris Agreement were adopted. With regard to emission reductions in particular, the states determined what information was needed to make national reduction targets clear, understandable and quantifiable. Common rules for counting emissions and reductions were also adopted. For the Swiss delegation, all these provisions are sufficient to guarantee the transparency necessary for the development of effective action in climate protection.

24. Conférence sur le climat COP24 à Katowice (PL)

2019, COP25 in Madrid, Spain

Under the presidency of Chile: The conference focused on adopting the robust rules on implementation in the area of foreign emission reductions. No rules on market mechanisms could be adopted. Switzerland regrets this outcome and, together with other partner states, is committed to an ambitious market regulation. These rules were finally adopted the following year in 2021. At COP25, however, countries agreed to strengthen the Warsaw International Mechanism on Loss and Damage associated with Climate Change Impacts. This system aims to improve the exchange of knowledge and experience between countries in order to prevent such events.

25e Conférence des Nations unies sur les changements climatiques (COP25) à Madrid

2021, COP26 in Glasgow, UK

Logo COP26

Celsius target, adopting effective and uniform rules for overseas emission reductions, reporting, and dealing with climate change-related losses and damages. Countries agreed on rules to exclude double counting of emission reductions made abroad. The final rules for the implementation of the Paris Agreement were thus adopted. Switzerland campaigned strongly at the conference to prevent double counting. It had already committed itself to strict market regulation in several bilateral agreements.

26e Conférence des Nations unies sur les changements climatiques (COP26) à Glasgow

2022, COP27 in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt


States adopted a work programme for climate protection until 2026, which will include sharing best practices on emission reductions. The states also decided on a new fund for the most vulnerable countries to support them in managing the damage caused by climate change. Switzerland welcomes this additional support in principle, although there are still key issues to be clarified.

27ème conférence sur le climat COP27 à à Charm el-Cheikh

2023, COP28


COP28 is taking place from 27 November to 12 December in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

COP28 UAE | United Nations Climate Change Conference (UNFCCC)



2. Switzerland’s climate targets under the Paris Agreement

The emission reduction commitments made under the Paris Agreement are implemented in national climate legislation. Switzerland has set emission reduction targets in line with the objectives of the Paris Agreement and the recommendations of science. Switzerland communicated its nationally determined voluntary contributions in 2017. It has since strengthened its target.

Switzerland’s national targets for reducing emissions are detailed here 

Switzerland has communicated its targets for reducing emissions at international level. The nationally determined contribution is available in the UNFCCC NDC Registry, which is maintained by the secretariat: Nationally Determined Contributions Registry | UNFCCC.                                   

Switzerland’s communication: Swiss NDC 2021-2030 incl ICTU_0.pdf (

3. UNFCCC - international cooperation in implementing the Climate Convention (UNFCCC) and the Paris Agreement

3.1. New market-based mechanisms

3.1.1. Agreements under Article 6

Greenhouse gas emissions know no borders. Reducing emissions, therefore, have the same effect whether they are achieved in Switzerland or abroad. Switzerland’s commitment under the Paris Agreement is to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50% by 2030 compared to 1990 levels (Nationally Determined Contribution, NDC). Article 6.2 of the Paris Agreement provides for bi- or plurilateral cooperation in achieving the NDC. To this aim, Switzerland concludes bilateral Agreements.

Agreements under Article 6 of the Paris Agreement

3.1.2 Pilot projects on new market-based mechanisms

Switzerland intends to achieve its greenhouse gas reduction target for 2030 thanks in part to international emissions reductions. The Paris Agreement provides for new market-based mechanisms that allow States to purchase international emissions reductions and calculate their reductions in relation to their specific climate goals. The applicable rules are currently being negotiated at the international level. The applicable rules have been determined at international level. Switzerland and the Climate Cent Foundation are developing pilot projects to test new approaches and come up with practical solutions for the post-2020 period. 

3.2. International climate funding

International climate funding is an essential part of Switzerland’s international climate policy. Switzerland is therefore also closely involved in international negotiations on this issue within the context of the Framework Convention on Climate Change. Both within and outside the convention, it works to find pragmatic solutions to the various challenges in the area of international climate funding, such as the calculation rules and incentive systems for mobilised private funds. It endeavours to make an appropriate contribution to international climate funding and the various climate funds.

The two operational units of the financial mechanism of the Framework Convention on Climate Change are the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and the Green Climate Fund (GCF), to which Switzerland contributes a fair amount.

In addition to the GEF and the GCF, there are three other climate funds linked to the Framework Convention on Climate Change:

  • The Least Developed Countries Fund (LDCF) was established in 2001 as part of the financial mechanism of the Framework Convention on Climate Change. This fund is aimed at the specific needs of the least developed countries, primarily the poorest African countries and small island states which are most severely affected by the negative effects of climate change. The LDCF mainly finances national programmes to help these countries adapt to climate change.
  • The second specialised climate fund, the Special Climate Change Fund (SCCF), was founded in 2001 as part of the financial mechanism of the Framework Convention on Climate Change. This fund provides additional funds for the climate protection measures set out in the convention in developing and transitioning countries. A smaller part is for programmes to promote the transfer of technology.
  • The Adaptation Fund (AF) was launched in 2001 as a finance mechanism under the Kyoto Protocol to finance projects and programmes to help developing countries adapt to climate change. The fund’s main source of funding comes from the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) defined in the Kyoto Protocol. Each project registered in the CDM pays a 4% fee, half of which goes to the AF. It was also decided in Katowice in 2018 that the AF should also serve to implement the Paris Agreement, and should receive funds from the implementation of Article 6.4.

4. Alliances and coalitions in climate negotiations

4.1 Environmental Integrity Group (EIG)

Switzerland is involved in international climate negotiations through the Environmental Integrity Group (EIG), which it presides over. The EIG, which is also comprised of Georgia, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Mexico, South Korea and Switzerland, was established during the Kyoto Protocol negotiations, where only groups of Parties were allowed to negotiate. Korea, Mexico, and Switzerland were not part of any group so they agreed to form the EIG and invited other independent parties to join. The EIG worked to be a strong advocate for progressive climate policies. Spanning three continents and three time zones, and the only negotiating group that includes both developed and developing countries, the group has a unique scope. The group strives to play a constructive role, and can help to find common ground between blocs with diverging interests.

4.2 Cartagena Dialogue

Negotiations under the UNFCCC have been traditionally marked by a divide between developed and developing countries. The Cartagena Dialogue for Progressive Action was formed to provide an informal space in the UNFCCC negotiations for delegations from developed and developing countries to explore possible solutions beyond the traditional positions of their groups in the UNFCCC. The Cartagena Dialogue is thus an informal grouping of countries working towards an ambitious, comprehensive and legally-binding regime under the Paris Agreement, and committed domestically to becoming or remaining low-carbon economies. Under the Cartagena Dialogue, experts work year-long to resolve specific issues under negotiation and meet physically during the
negotiations. Switzerland is an active member of the Cartagena Dialogue and co-leads two working groups: one on targets to reduce emissions and the other on rules for implementing the Paris Agreement.

4.3 Short-Lived Climate Forcers

At the international level, Switzerland is engaged under the UNECE Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution Transport and in particular as Party to the Gothenburg Protocol. In line with the commitment of this protocol, Switzerland reports annually on national emissions data related to Black Carbon. A decrease of more than 40% of Black Carbon emissions was registered between 2005 and 2016. Switzerland also continues its participation in the Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC) that promotes action on Short-Lived Climate Forcers. Short-lived climate forcers are substances such as methane, ozone and aerosols that remain in the atmosphere for a much shorter period of time than carbon dioxide (CO2), yet their potential to warm the atmosphere can be several times greater than CO2 (e.g. methane heats the atmosphere 25 times more than CO2).

Certain short-lived climate pollutants are also dangerous air pollutants that have harmful effects for people, ecosystems and agricultural productivity. Switzerland has a robust national clean air policy and is committed to continue reducing Short-Lived Climate Forcers at the national level and supports such efforts in partner countries in the framework of its international cooperation. Furthermore, Switzerland has provided financial support for the methodological work by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on Short-Lived Climate Forcers.

4.4 Friends of Fossil Fuel Subsidies Reform (FFFSR)

Since 2010, Switzerland is an active member of the “Friends of Fossil Fuel Subsidy Reform” (FFFSR), a joint initiative by Costa Rica, Denmark, Ethiopia, Finland, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and Uruguay to promote the removal or reform of subsidies to fossil fuels in an effort to help fight climate change. Switzerland supports informal exchanges on this topic and the promotion of links to countries’ Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) under the Paris Agreement, through the Friends’ network and through a novel network of francophone countries, which is meeting at the occasion of multilateral climate negotiations.

5. IPCC - the scientific basis

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change IPCC was established in 1988 by the World Meteorological Organization WMO along with the United Nations Environment Programme UNEP to provide the necessary scientific, technical and socio-economic information on human-induced climate change.

The IPCC periodically evaluates the causes and effects of climate change and thus provides the necessary information and basis and basis for forming climate policy. It does not make policy recommendations. Today, the IPCC's reports are regarded as the standard reference work for all those involved in climate change: scientists, civil servants and the private sector. Every seven years or so, the IPCC publishes a comprehensive assessment report on climate change.

The IPCC Bureau provides guidance to the Panel on the scientific and technical aspects of IPCC assessments and gives advice on management and strategic issues. It is elected for the duration of a assessment cycle of 5-7 years. The Swiss candidate, Prof. Sonia Seneviratne (ETHZ), was elected to the IPCC Bureau in July 2023 for the seventh cycle 2023-2030.

Each assessment report comprises four volumes, the first three being the reports of the three IPCC thematic working groups and the fourth the synthesis report.

  • The Physical Science Basis
  • Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability
  • Climate Change Mitigation
  • Synthesis Report

Summaries of the individual reports are drawn up for policymakers and approved by the member states (approval plenary).

Synthesis Report

On 20 March 2023, in Interlaken, Switzerland, the sixth evaluation cycle since the convening of the IPCC was concluded with the adoption of the synthesis report. The Synthesis Report summarises the state of knowledge on climate change, its widespread effects and risks, and the opportunities for mitigating greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to the impacts of climate change. The synthesis report builds on the contributions already published by the three working groups and three special reports. The report examines current status and trends, presents long-term climate projections, and assesses options for responding to climate change.

Mitigation of climate change

In April 2022, the IPCC published the third volume of the sixth assessment report. It paints a picture of global greenhouse gas emissions and global warming in various scenarios. It outlines the necessary climate protection measures to ensure that the global temperature increase does not exceed 1.5 degrees Celsius by the end of the century.

These include renewable energies, energy efficiency measures and alternative, sustainable fuels. Emissions that are difficult to avoid must be offset with technologies that remove carbon from the atmosphere and store it (negative emission technologies). It sets out both the costs and the economic benefits of political climate protection measures.

IPCC 6th Assessment Report - Mitigation of Climate Change

Impacts, adaption and vulnerability

The IPCC published the second volume of the sixth series at the end of February 2022. This demonstrates the vulnerability of ecosystems and human systems in the face of climate change. It also assesses present and possible future adaptation strategies to climate change. The report points out that there are major differences between the different parts of the world in this regard. It also identifies a need for action in Europe to minimise the risks of climate change and to make ecosystems and human systems more resilient to its effects.

IPCC 6th Assessment Report - Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability

The Physical Science

The first volume of the sixth assessment report was published in August 2021. It confirms the findings of previous IPCC reports, namely the contribution of man-made greenhouse gases to global warming and the link between climate change and increasingly frequent extreme weather events such as heatwaves, heavy precipitation and dry spells.

IPCC Special Reports

The previous assessment report (AR5) was completed in 2014. In 2018, the IPCC produced a special report on stabilising global temperatures at 1.5 degrees Celcius above pre-industrial levels. It published two further special reports in 2019, one on the oceans and cryosphere, and one on land systems.

IPCC 6th Assessment Report - Special Reports

Further information

Last modification 28.07.2023

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