Swiss referendum For Members

EXPLAINED: What is Switzerland’s ‘CO2 referendum’ and how could it affect you?

Helena Bachmann
Helena Bachmann - [email protected]
EXPLAINED: What is Switzerland’s ‘CO2 referendum’ and how could it affect you?
Passengers, among them children, queue at the check-in for a flight to Mallorca at the departure level at the Duesseldorf airport, western Germany, on March 26, 2021. - As of the night from March 30 to 31, the new coronavirus test obligation will apply to all travellers who want to enter Germany by plane. ()

Among several issues at the ballot box on June 13th, Swiss voters will weigh in on the so-called CO2 tax. From climate change compliance to higher costs of fuel and flight tickets, this is what you need to know.


CO2 is a chemical formula for carbon dioxide which, when released into the atmosphere over an extended period of time, contributes to climate change.

In September 2020, the Swiss parliament passed the so-called CO2 law, which aims to achieve the objectives of the Paris Climate Agreement by halving Switzerland’s CO2 emissions by 2030 compared to 1990.

Its ultimate goal is to no longer emit any greenhouse gases by 2050 — the so-called ‘net zero target’

However, opponents of the law, including auto and petrol industry, and other groups, have brought about a referendum to repeal the legislation.

READ MORE: What’s at stake in Switzerland’s Covid-19 referendum?


If accepted by Swiss voters, what could this law mean to an average person?

Simply put, costs of goods and services ranging from plane tickets to heating oil would go up. The following calculations were made by Swiss media outlet,


All air passengers will have to pay a climate tax.

For short-haul flights, this should be 30 francs per ticket. On long-haul ones, prices could increase up to 120 francs per ticket  A fee of 500 to 3,000 francs per flight is planned for business and private jets.

Heating oil

The federal government has been levying a tax on heating oil since 2008. The upper limit is currently set at a maximum of 120 francs per tonne, which would be raised to 210 francs per tonne.


Importers of petrol or diesel would have to invest more in climate protection. These costs can then be passed on to customers: in the future, a fee of up to 12 cents per litre of fuel can be levied, versus 5 cents today.

Requirements for new cars

Importers of vehicles must rely on more environmentally-friendly models.

In the period from 2021 to 2024, newly registered cars may emit an average of no more than 95 grams of CO2 per kilometre.

From 2025, this value is to be reduced by another 15 percent, and from 2030 the values ​​are to be 37.5 percent lower than in 2021. For delivery vans, a maximum of 147 grams of CO2 / km will be allowed from 2021, followed by a further reduction.

Requirements for buildings

In the future, new buildings will no longer be allowed to emit any carbon dioxide.

If the heating is replaced in an existing building, there is also an upper limit for CO2 emissions.


What do the opponents say?

“The complete revision of the CO2 law will increase bureaucracy and generate significant additional costs”, according to the opponents’ website.

“These additional costs will be enormous for everyone. For example, the new tax on airline tickets will limit vacations for many families. In addition, the increase in the price of gasoline will mainly affect families and people living in outlying and mountainous regions”, they added.

Also, the ban on oil and gas heating, as well as new building regulations,  will result in significant additional costs for landlords, which they will pass them on to tenants, leading to higher rents, referendum groups argue.

They say that the climate and the environment are better protected when each individual acts responsibly.

“Innovation and economic dynamism are central and promising factors in terms of reducing CO2 emissions - far more than government regulations and taxes”.

Other issues to be voted on on June 13th are explained here.

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