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

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.

EXPLAINED: What is Switzerland’s ‘CO2 referendum’ and how could it affect you?
Flying could get more expensive. Photo by Ina FASSBENDER / AFP

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.

EXPLAINED: What’s at stake in Switzerland’s pesticide referendum?

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UPDATE: Swiss voters say big ‘yes’ to same-sex marriage

With results in from almost all of Switzerland's 23 cantons, the Swiss population has backed the legalisation of same-sex marriage via a referendum.

UPDATE: Swiss voters say big 'yes' to same-sex marriage
(Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP)

Nearly two-thirds of Swiss voters backed the government’s plan to introduce same-sex marriage in a referendum held Sunday, with campaigners calling it a historic day for gay rights in Switzerland.

With results in from 20 of the wealthy Alpine nation’s 23 cantons, 64 percent of voters backed the move, on a 52 percent turnout.

Switzerland was one of the last countries in western Europe where same-sex marriage remained illegal.

The government’s “marriage for all” proposals were challenged by opponents, who successfully triggered a referendum.

“The Swiss have dropped a massive ‘yes’ into the ballot box,” Olga Baranova, a spokeswoman for the “yes” committee, told AFP.

She was at a restaurant in the Swiss capital Bern hosting the “yes” campaign’s celebrations — decked out in balloons in the rainbow colours — where drag artist Mona Gamie sang Edith Piaf’s “Hymn to Love” to rapturous applause.

“Today does not change my country,” Baranova said.

“Today reflects the change of mentality over the last 20 years. It is really the reflection of a very broad and very important acceptance of LGBT people in society.”

Lengthy battle

Switzerland decriminalised homosexuality in 1942, but numerous local and regional police forces continued to keep “gay registers”, some into the early 1990s.

Same-sex couples can already register a civil partnership, with around 700 established each year.

However, this status does not provide the same rights as marriage, including for obtaining citizenship and the joint adoption of children.

READ MORE: ‘Deviance and morality’: The history of the same-sex marriage movement in Switzerland

After years of debate and discussion, the Swiss parliament approved a bill last December allowing same-sex couples to marry in the country of 8.6 million people.

But it was challenged under Switzerland’s direct democracy system, with opponents gathering the 50,000 signatures needed to put the issue to a referendum.

(Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP)

Deborah Heanni, a member of the Libero collective which campaigned for “yes”, told AFP: “After eight years of campaigning, we are happy finally to be able to celebrate this victory.”

Jan Muller of the “yes” committee said: “It is a historic day for Switzerland, a historic day when it comes to equality for same-sex couples, and it is also an important day for the whole LGBT community.”

The law change will allow same-sex couples to marry in civil ceremonies and provide them with the same rights as those enjoyed by other married couples.

Foreign spouses will become eligible to apply for citizenship through a simplified procedure, and same-sex couples will be permitted to jointly adopt.

And, in what proved the most controversial aspect of the referendum campaign, lesbian couples will have access to sperm donations.

‘Babies on demand’

The right-wing populist Swiss People’s Party (SVP) — Switzerland’s largest political party — called for a “no” vote.

Opponents plastered Swiss cities with stark posters decrying the commodification of children and warning the law will “kill the father”.

One poster showed a crying baby with its ear tagged like cattle, and the question: “Babies on demand?”

Another featured a huge zombie-like head meant to represent a dead father.

“Everyone will be disappointed,” Yohan Ziehli, vice president of the SVP in the French-speaking Vaud canton in western Switzerland.

(Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP)

“Parliament made the tactical choice to link two subjects that should not have been, namely the question of parentage which has been hidden behind the shield of marriage for all in order to guarantee its success,” he told broadcaster RTS.

READ MORE: Swiss Protestant church supports gay marriage

A second vote was held alongside the referendum, on an initiative brought forward by the youth wing of the Socialist Party, titled “Reduce taxes on wages, tax capital equitably”.

Proponents of the so-called “99 percent” initiative wanted greater taxation on high levels of capital income, with the revenues generated used to reduce income taxes for the less well off.

Results so far showed that 65 percent voted against the measure.