Switzerland boosts green goals with aim to go carbon neutral by 2050

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Switzerland boosts green goals with aim to go carbon neutral by 2050
An environmental protest in Lausanne in May this year. Photo: AFP

The Swiss government has kick-started a busy autumn by announcing its intention to make the country carbon neutral within 30 years.


“There’s not much time and we have a lot to do,” said Swiss Environment Minister Simonetta Sommaruga on Wednesday of the ambitious new target.

Switzerland had already stated its intention to reduce CO2 emissions by 70 to 85 percent by the middle of this century in bid to ensure global temperatures do not increase by 2C over pre-industrial levels by 2100.

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But in a statement (here in English) on Wednesday, the Swiss government, known as the Federal Council, said new scientific reporting from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) showed that even a temperature increase of 1.5C above pre-industrial levels could have a serious impact on global ecosystems. As a result, countries would have to hit a net emissions target of zero sooner.

The Federal Council did not outline any concrete measures on Wednesday. But it did note the country’s CO2 emissions from buildings, industry and transport could be reduced by 95 percent using existing technologies and green energy.

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It also said that “alongside natural CO2 sinks (such as forests and the soil), technologies that permanently remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere and store them are to be used in future to offset the remaining emissions”.

'Climate change has arrived in Switzerland'

“Since the beginnings of industrialization, temperatures in Switzerland have risen 2C. This summer has also shown that climate change has arrived in Switzerland. It is a reality,” said environment minister Sommaruga on Wednesday.

“The permafrost in the Alps has further thawed and we have to anticipate that almost all glaciers will disappear and that less water for agriculture and energy supply will be available,” she told journalists.

But as Swiss daily NZZ said on Wednesday, the challenge now is to transform grand ambitions into policy.

The Swiss government’s plans are designed to act as a reference point but are not binding.

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