Swiss voters say Yes to climate protection act

The Climate Protection Act has been approved by a clear majority of the electorate. Switzerland is thus committed to 'net zero' by 2050, but there are also critics: the HEV, for example, fears a «state compulsion to invest.»

The people have approved the Climate Protection Act. The 'Federal Law on Climate Protection Goals, Innovation and Strengthening Energy Security', supported by a large majority of the parliament, gives Swiss climate policy a framework that is coherent with the Paris Agreement. Greenpeace Switzerland, which has worked closely with the Swiss Climate Protection Association since the launch of the Glacier Initiative, is delighted with the outcome of the vote: «As of today, our country is seriously on track to phase out fossil fuels. This gives planning and legal certainty», triumphs Georg Klingler, climate and energy expert at Greenpeace Switzerland. The funds earmarked for replacing heating systems and improving the energy efficiency of buildings made concrete progress possible. And he continues: «The federal government can take charge of the restructuring of building policy, which not only strengthens our energy security but also our independence and offers our country positive prospects thanks to the new jobs that will be created.»

But Klingler also cautions, «The federal authorities must now implement the requirements of the Climate Act as quickly as possible without limiting its scope. This applies in particular to work on the Energy Supply Act or the CO2 Act, which must now be guided by the climate law that has been passed.»

Swiss want to stick to Paris climate target

According to Klingler, the result of the vote also shows that the citizens of Switzerland wanted to continue to adhere to the internationally agreed target of limiting global warming to 1.5°C. In doing so, they wanted to protect glaciers, water reserves, agriculture, and prosperity as much as possible.

Homeowners association fears higher costs

The Swiss Homeowners Association (HEV) is far less euphoric. It criticizes the fact that the proponents have consistently ignored the cost drivers hidden in the new 'climate protection law'. Particularly in the building sector, the interim targets set out in the law would lead to state investment constraints for residential buildings, while at the same time shortening the useful life and amortization periods of existing heating systems/building services equipment and components. In many buildings, especially in urban and rural areas, the renewal of the heating system would also require structural adjustments to the heat distribution and energy upgrades to the building envelope. The resulting additional costs would exceed the energy savings that could be achieved in ancillary costs. The billions in subsidies that would be distributed under the new law could only cover a small proportion of the investment costs for individual rental properties.

In its statements, HEV Switzerland has also highlighted the real threat of higher energy costs to be borne by the entire population. Winter power shortages, cross-border supply bottlenecks and massive investments in due renewals and the indispensable expansion of distribution grids would not only have a direct impact on electricity prices, but also promote the risks of forced shutdowns and blackouts.

HEV Switzerland then wants to hold the proponents of the law accountable in the immediately pending revisions of the CO2 Law, the Energy Law and the Electricity Supply Law; «so that housing and electrical energy remain affordable for the Swiss population.»