Swiss climate policy

Switzerland pursues an active policy to reduce greenhouse gases, thus contributing to the internationally recognised target of limiting global warming to significantly under 2 °C. The applicable CO2 Act focuses on reducing Switzerland’s domestic emissions.

The CO2 Act, the heart of Swiss climate policy, pursues an emission reduction target for 2020, and is concerned with different instruments for buildings, transport and industry:

  • Switzerland intends to reduce domestic greenhouse gasses by at least 20% from their 1990 levels, by 2020.
  • The Act primarily concerns fossil heating and motor fuels, but also includes other important greenhouse gases in addition to CO2.
  • It also assigns to the federal government the role in adaptation to climate change.

Measures to reduce greenhouse gases:

CO2 levy

The CO2 levy is a key instrument for achieving statutory CO2 emissions targets. This incentive tax on fossil combustible fuels, such as heating oil and natural gas, has been levied since 2008.

Emissions trading

Emissions trading makes it possible to reduce emissions where the costs are low. Climate change targets can thus be achieved at low cost. Particular companies and specialised dealers trade in emission rights and Certified Emission Reductions (CERs).


The building sector is the source of approximately a quarter of Switzerland’s greenhouse gas emissions. This is where cantonal building standards and the federal and cantonal Buildings Programme comes in.

Emissions regulations for vehicles

In Switzerland, CO2 emissions regulations similar to those of the EU were introduced for new cars in July 2012: from 2015, the average new car fleet may not exceed 130 g CO2 per kilometre of emissions. From 2020, the target is 95 g CO2 per kilometre for passenger cars. CO2 emissions standards will also be introduced for delivery vans and light commercial vehicles, which will be required to meet an average target value of 147 g CO2 per kilometre.

Compensation for CO2 emissions

Fuel importers are required to compensate domestically for CO2 emissions. The federal government defines the requirements.

Climate training and communication programme

The CO2 Act also sets out measures of communication and education in order to strengthen other legal measures and to promote voluntary climate protection.

Technology fund

The Confederation’s Technology Fund promotes innovations that reduce greenhouse gases or resource consumption, favour the use of renewable energies, and increase energy efficiency. Guarantees make it easier for innovative firms to take out loans.

Sector agreements

The Environmental Protection Act and the CO2 Act enable the Confederation to conclude agreements with sectors of the economy.

Measures to adapt to climate change

Adaptation to climate change

Because global warming can be limited – in the best case – to 1.5 °C, adaptation to the effects of climate change are becoming increasingly important. Coordinating this adaptation has been a federal responsibility since 2013.

Other policies affect the emission of greenhouse gases:

International Climate Policy

International Climate Policy

Climate change does not stop at national frontiers. Since Switzerland, with her mountain ecosystem, is strongly affected by warming, a coordinated approach at global level is essential for this alpine country.

Further information

Last modification 12.11.2018

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