Long-Term Climate Strategy FAQs

1. How does the Long-Term Climate Strategy fit in with the CO2 Act?

  • The revised CO2 Act contains measures to halve CO2 emissions by 2030 compared to 1990. This will be achieved primarily in buildings, industry and transport. Parliament has also set a course for achieving net zero by 2050. Numerous instruments, for example the Climate Fund and the setting of carbon emission limits for both new and old buildings, will help Switzerland to meet this target.
  • The Climate Strategy builds on the measures of the CO2 Act, and is an important milestone on the path to achieving net zero, with ten strategic principles and clear targets for the individual sectors.
  • Net zero by 2050 is also in line with the Glacier Initiative, which seeks a total ban on fossil fuels. In its direct counter-proposal, the Federal Council supports ceasing the use of fossil fuels, but is not in favour or doing so by means of a ban.

2. Where does Switzerland stand compared to other countries?

  • Switzerland shares its objective with many other countries: almost 30 states have also legally defined, adopted or promised to set net-zero targets. These include large countries which are some of Switzerland’s main trading partners, such as the EU, China, Germany, France, the United Kingdom, Japan, South Korea, South Africa and Canada. Furthermore, some federal states (e.g. California), cities (e.g. Zurich, New York, London and Paris) and companies (e.g. Google or Microsoft) are also aiming for net zero, in some cases well before 2050.
  • Switzerland thus joins a growing number of countries that have also committed to implementing the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement and have set themselves the targets to do so. Switzerland is therefore not going it alone on the path towards net zero, but is moving in line with its main trading partners.
  • Several other countries, including Austria, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, South Korea, the United Kingdom and the USA, have also already submitted long-term climate strategies. In them, most commit to shifting away from fossil fuels such as oil, gas, petrol and diesel either largely or entirely, or to achieving net-zero emissions by 2050 at the latest.
  • As one of his first acts in office, the new US president Joe Biden signed a decree to rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement.

3. By how many per cent must emissions be reduced for net zero to be realistic by 2050? How high are the unavoidable emissions?

The following emission reductions are technically possible:

  • Transport and the building sector can become virtually emission-free by 2050. We already have the technologies to make this possible.
  • The industrial sector can also largely operate without fossil fuels. To reduce the remaining emissions from industrial processes, technologies can be used that capture CO2 directly where it is produced and store or reuse it (CCS = carbon capture and storage; CCU = carbon capture and utilisation).
  • In the waste sector, incineration will continue to generate CO2 emissions. Here, too, technical solutions are available.
  • Substitutes already exist today for solvents or refrigerants that cause very strong synthetic greenhouse gases. Often, emissions occur only when there is a leak or accident, and so can be contained with better risk management.
  • In agriculture, technology can reduce emissions by at least 40 per cent by 2050 compared to 1990. Further significant potential lies in the food sector; this was not considered in the Long-Term Climate Strategy, however.
  • Conclusion: Greenhouse gas emissions in Switzerland can be reduced by almost 90 per cent by 2050, in part thanks to the use of CCS technologies in industry. The remaining emissions of around seven million tonnes of CO2 equivalents can be offset by using negative emission technologies (NETs) to remove CO2 from the atmosphere and store it permanently.

4. How will the goals in the individual sectors be met?

  • The goals are initial guidelines. They show the order of magnitude by which emissions in the individual sectors need to fall in order to achieve net zero. 
  • The goals have been set according to current foreseeable technical potentials and are based on or derived from the SFOE’s Energy Perspectives 2050+ for the buildings, transport and industrial sectors. The targets for the agriculture sector are based on estimates by the Federal Office for Agriculture FOAG.
  • The Federal Council has decided not to prescribe instruments in the Long-Term Climate Strategy for achieving these goals. This is because the CO2 Act is to be implemented first; this puts Switzerland on course for achieving net zero and will be further developed in step with international commitments.

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Last modification 28.01.2021

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