Recently published emissions numbers for 2016 show that Switzerland has not met its 2016 target for reducing emissions.
The 2016 target, set at 27% less than emissions in 1990, was missed by 2.2%. Because of this the government must raise the tax on emissions from CHF 84 to CHF 96 per tonne of CO2 equivalent emitted from 1 January 2018. This is equivalent to an extra 3 cents per litre of mazout or heating oil. An existing law makes the tax rise automatic.
The tax, which has been added to the price of fossil fuels such as gas and diesel since 2008, raised CHF 1.17 billion in 2016. This money is redistributed to the public directly via rebates on health insurance premiums and indirectly via rebates to employers on social security taxes. In addition, some of it is spent on incentives to make Swiss homes greener.
Total emissions in 2016 were 17.61 million tonnes after adjusting for seasonal differences – because winters vary in length and intensity, an adjustment is made based on the number of days below 12 degrees to ensure emission numbers are comparable. Before this adjustment 2016 emissions were 16.24 million tonnes, a lower amount due to a mild winter in 2016.
The emissions calculations exclude emissions related to sea or air travel, an sector which has seen rapid emissions growth in Switzerland.
A recent study by Swedish researchers recommends four tips for reducing emissions. Top of the list is having fewer children. One fewer child in a developed country reduces emissions by 58.6 tonnes CO2-equivalent per year on average. Second is living car-free (2.4 tCO2e saved per year), third is avoiding air travel (1.6 tCO2e saved per roundtrip transatlantic flight) and fourth is eating a plant-based diet (0.8 tCO2e saved per year).
With an average birth rate of between 1.5 and 1.6, Switzerland gets a gold star on the first recommendation. However with 4.5 million vehicles for a population of 8.3 million it scores averagely on car ownership – the US has 256 million vehicles for a population of 327 million, well ahead of Switzerland on a per capita basis. On air travel Switzerland’s record is grim. According to WWF Switzerland, the country’s residents lead the world on plane journeys. On food emissions Switzerland sits around the middle. Swiss eat around half as much meat (a high emission food) as an average american but far more than many other nations.