The Swiss Parliament is currently discussing a total revision of the CO2 Act that sets out objectives and tools for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the period up to 2030. At the same time, it is vital to prepare for longer-term developments beyond 2030. To this end, on 28 August 2019 the Federal Council decided that Switzerland should reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050.
To flesh out this ambition, the FOEN is currently working on a long-term climate strategy that will show how Switzerland can achieve this goal. The strategy will also provide the framework for a discussion of the role of negative emissions technologies in Switzerland's future climate policies.
Explanation of the target
From 2050 onwards, Switzerland should emit no more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere than can be captured and stored in natural and technological sinks ('net zero emissions'). This will require emissions from the building sector, transport and industry in particular to be substantially reduced. Emissions that are impossible or very difficult to eliminate are mainly produced by agriculture and certain industrial processes such as cement production. These residual emissions will need to be offset by the use of natural and technological sinks (i.e. 'reservoirs' that absorb and store carbon).
The 2050 climate target is the outcome of a review of Switzerland's existing long-term goals, commissioned by the Federal Council in autumn 2018. In 2015, Switzerland announced on the international stage a reduction target of 70–85% by 2050 compared with 1990 levels, to be achieved partly by measures abroad. The Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5 °C, published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in October 2018, made it clear that this target is no longer in line with the requirements set out by scientists. Raising the target to net zero will ensure that Switzerland plays its part in limiting global warming to below 1.5 °C.
Significance of the target
Switzerland will communicate the target to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) secretariat in 2020 by adjusting its nationally determined contribution (NDC). The target will remain indicative; it is a declaration of intent and does not impose any direct obligations on Switzerland. Nor is it part of the ongoing total revision of the CO2 Act, which will cover the period until 2030. The long-term target will be legally enshrined in future revisions of the CO2 Act after 2030.
As a preliminary basis for this, the FOEN is developing a long-term climate strategy that will show how Switzerland can reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to net zero and what measures will be needed to achieve this target.
How the target compares internationally
To date, around 20 countries (including France, the UK, Sweden, Japan and Chile), as well as the EU, have announced net zero targets or already enshrined them in national law. Norway, for example, aims to be climate neutral as early as 2030, Sweden by 2045 and the UK by 2050. Within countries, a number of states, such as California, and cities including New York, London, Paris and Zurich are also aspiring to reach net zero, some of them well before 2050.
An overview of the net zero targets announced so far can be found on the websites of Climate Home News and the Energy & Climate Intelligence Unit (see the links below).
Last modification 28.08.2019