July 31, 2021

Referendum in Switzerland: narrow majority rejects CO2 law

Status: 13.06.2021 8:06 p.m.

Global warming is affecting the Swiss mountain regions particularly hard. Nevertheless, a narrow majority has now voted against raising CO2 prices by law. Switzerland wanted to cut its emissions by half by 2030.

By Dietrich Karl Mäurer,
ARD studio Zurich

In Switzerland, the revised CO2 law failed at the ballot box – especially in rural regions. After counting all the votes, the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation (SRF) reported that 51.6 percent had voted against the project.

A broad party alliance had campaigned for this, as did environmental groups. They now fear that it remains unclear whether and how Switzerland can meet its international climate obligations.

“Urgently need solutions”

“Above all, this is a step backwards for climate protection and it is a step backwards for Switzerland. We have signed the Paris Climate Agreement. We want to implement it and that will of course be much more difficult now. The problems remain and we urgently need solutions.” said the green MP Regula Rytz said in the SRF.

The law was not overloaded, said the Green politician. “That is why it is really very strange for me that we have now succeeded in spreading these doubts about the course of the CO2 law very strongly.” It was clear that it was a very business-friendly law.

SVP supported the associations’ requests

The law was intended to help reduce annual CO2 emissions – by 2030 to half of the 1990 emissions. A new climate charge was planned for flight tickets: depending on the route, up to the equivalent of around 110 euros. Petrol and diesel would have become more expensive, as would heating oil.

But it was also planned that part of the money should flow back to the population. In addition, climate-friendly building renovations would have been funded. There was a referendum on the law because automobile, transport and mineral oil associations had called the referendum against it.

Support came mainly from the national-conservative Swiss People’s Party, which considered the law to be unsuccessful, expensive and useless. The law would have placed an additional burden on the economy in the pandemic. The population said “No to a paternalistic policy” with new taxes and new levies, said SVP MP Mike Egger. What is wanted is a liberal approach that his party supports. “We have the best universities in the world in this country. We have bright minds. We can achieve great things through innovation together with business,” he said.

“No no to climate protection”

Switzerland, whose mountain regions are particularly badly affected by global warming, has reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by just 14 percent by 2019. This means that it is far from the desired goal of halving it by 2030 and of becoming climate-neutral by 2050.

Environment Minister Simonetta Sommaruga said in her statement after the vote that the no to the CO2 law is not a no to climate protection. The debates of the last few weeks have shown that many people want to strengthen climate protection, but not with this law.

Anti-Terror Law Adopted

Two initiatives for a more ecological agriculture by banning synthetic pesticides also received a rebuff in the referendum.

On the other hand, a law was adopted that allows the Swiss police in the fight against terrorism to also impose preventive measures – such as house arrest. A majority also voted for the so-called Covid-19 law, which regulates state compensation for companies and cultural workers in the pandemic.

Referendum in Switzerland: narrow majority rejects CO2 law

Dietrich Karl Mäurer, ARD Zurich, June 13, 2021 7:25 p.m.