Long-term climate strategy

Switzerland ratified the Paris Agreement in October 2017, thereby subscribing to its goals and commitments. Among other things, the agreement invites all parties to develop long-term strategies showing how they will cut their long-term emissions in accordance with climate targets. Switzerland is using this as an opportunity to set a specific target for 2050.

Fulfilling the Paris Agreement

By drawing up a long-term climate strategy, Switzerland is fulfilling one of the terms of the Paris Agreement. Article 4.19 of the agreement invites the parties to draw up "long-term low greenhouse gas emission development strategies", to be communicated by the end of 2020. In these strategies, individual countries should set out how they intend to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions in accordance with the objectives of the agreement, in particular limiting global warming to well below 2 °C and, if possible, to 1.5 °C. The strategies should be formulated taking into account "common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, in the light of different national circumstances".

Section III paragraph 35 of Decision 1/CP.21 of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) states that the strategies should cover a period up to the middle of the century and will be published on the website of the UNFCCC secretariat. Another key provision is Article 4.1 of the Paris Agreement, which states that, in order to achieve the temperature goal, global emissions must peak as soon as possible and then be rapidly reduced so as to achieve a balance between greenhouse gas sources and sinks in the second half of the century. These provisions are the key parameters for formulating the strategies.

Goals and content of the long-term climate strategy

The starting point for the long-term climate strategy will be Switzerland's reduction targets for 2050. On 28 August 2019, the Federal Council decided that Switzerland should reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050. The long-term strategy will identify the opportunities and challenges associated with cutting greenhouse gas emissions to this level as well as the technical, political and societal measures and developments required.

The strategy should therefore lay the foundations for the further development of the legal framework post-2030. It will take into account and complement existing federal strategies in other policy areas affected by climate policy. As the strategy is not legislative in character, the establishment of specific regulatory instruments is not a priority.

The strategy will be divided into a number of areas so that it can address key emission sectors in a targeted way. Those areas are transport, building, industry, waste, agriculture (including land use) and financial markets. The future development of energy and electricity supply is also a critical factor. The Energy Perspectives prepared by the Swiss Federal Office of Energy are the most important basis for this. Currently being updated, they show emission pathways towards the long-term targets and illustrate the necessary technological developments and measures, based on a range of scenarios. The strategy's long time horizon also means that it can address the role of negative emissions technologies in some depth.

The FOEN has started working on the content of the strategy with a number of other directly affected federal offices. The Federal Council would like to adopt the strategy by the end of 2020 and communicate it to the UNFCCC secretariat by the specified deadline.

Other countries' strategies

The EU presented its draft long-term climate strategy in November 2018. The strategy reaffirms the EU's ambition to achieve a climate-neutral Europe by 2050. It shows that such a transformation can be delivered in a socially acceptable and economically viable way and sets out some initial strategic priorities. These include the complete abandonment of fossil fuel for energy supply and mobility (decarbonisation) and the use of carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies to reduce otherwise unavoidable emissions. The EU views the draft strategy as the starting point for a wide-ranging discussion of European climate policy in the period up to 2050.

A number of countries, including Germany, France, the UK, Canada and the United States, have already communicated long-term strategies. Most affirm their ambition of achieving extensive or complete decarbonisation or net zero emissions by the middle of the century. In some cases, these objectives are already enshrined in law. For example, Norway aims to be carbon neutral by 2030, Sweden by 2045 and France, the UK and New Zealand by 2050.

Many other countries are formulating long-term climate strategies or adapting their existing strategies. There are now a number of platforms and networks enabling the exchange of experiences and approaches and providing methodological support. Their aim is to help ensure that the strategies are as ambitious, well designed and internationally comparable as possible. One stand-out example is the 2050 Pathways Platform, in which almost 30 countries, including Switzerland, are now involved.

Further information

Last modification 21.08.2019

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