| 27 February 2024, Tuesday |

Swiss voters reject law to help country meet Paris carbon emissions goal

On Sunday, Swiss voters rejected a trio of environmental proposals, including a new law aimed at assisting the country in meeting its carbon emission reduction targets under the Paris Climate Agreement.

A new CO2 regulation was barely defeated in a nationwide referendum held under the country’s direct democracy system, with 51.6 percent of voters opposing it.

The Swiss government, which supported the new law, which included measures such as raising the fee on car gasoline and imposing a levy on airline tickets, was defeated as a result.

The rejection meant it would now be “very difficult” for Switzerland to reach its 2030 goal of cutting carbon emissions to half of their 1990 levels and to be become net neutral on emissions by 2050, Environment Minister Simonetta Sommaruga said.

“Today’s no is not a no to climate protection, it is a no to the law on which we have voted,” Sommaruga told a news conference.

“Debates in the last few weeks have shown that many people want to strengthen the climate protection but not with this law,” she said.

The government would now seek to extend uncontroversial measures like a duty for fuel importers to invest in climate protection projects, and attempt to forge a new consensus with the population on climate policies, she added.

A plan to make Switzerland the world’s second country to outright ban artificial pesticides was also rejected, as did a proposal to restrict their usage by transferring subsidies to farmers who no longer employed the chemicals.

Pesticides were connected to health hazards, according to supporters, while opponents said that a ban would result in higher food prices, job losses in the Swiss food processing industry, and a greater reliance on imports.

Antoinette Gilson, one of the authors of the artificial pesticides initiative, said the results did not mean the Swiss were unconcerned about the environment, but were more worried about immediate problems at present.

“People find it very hard to think about problems in the future, and don’t see the urgency of these problems,” she said. “When they are having a difficult time during the COVID-19 pandemic they are thinking about immediate concerns more.”

Syngenta and Bayer, both agrochemical companies, were pleased with the outcome.

“It’s a clear vote in favor of a resource-efficient, productive agriculture,” Bayer added.

Separate referendums supporting a temporary measure offering financial assistance to businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic and a bill giving police greater powers to combat terrorism received 60 percent and 57 percent approval, respectively.

  • Reuters