On 25 September 2016, the Swiss electorate will vote on the ‘Green Economy’ initiative, the work of the Green party.
Switzerland’s per capita consumption of the earth is far from sustainable. The Green party says three earths would be required if everyone on the planet consumed natural resources, such as water, air, soil or raw materials, at the same rate as those living in Switzerland. Their plan, if accepted, would aim to reduce Switzerland’s resource consumption to one third of its current rate by 2050, by focusing on climate protection, more efficient use of resources and cleaner imports.
The initiative requires the Confederation, cantons and communes to ensure that the Swiss economy makes more efficient use of natural resources and does as little harm as possible to the environment. Industry would be compelled to use raw materials sparingly, create as little waste as possible and recycle as much as possible.
Switzerland’s Federal Council says that it “understands the concerns expressed” by the Green party. However, it believes the plan is too ambitious. It thinks achieving such targets would require “drastic economic measures and may have negative consequences for competitiveness, growth and employment.” In addition, they say they have already introduced many measures aimed at the efficient use of natural resources. Switzerland’s parliament shares the Federal Council’s view.
Switzerland’s National Council (parliament and cabinet together) rejected the initiative by 128 votes to 62 with 2 abstentions.
According to an article in the Tages Anzeiger, fossil fuel burning accounts for three quarters of Switzerland’s ecological footprint. ETH professor Tony Patt told the newspaper that CO2 emissions largely come down to four things: population, consumption, energy efficiency, and the share of fossil fuels in the energy mix. If fossil fuels were replaced entirely by renewable energy sources, such as solar, wind, biomass, geothermal, and hydro, then CO2 emissions would disappear. Technically it is possible, he believes.
Some Swiss political parties agree with the Swiss government. The Swiss People’s Party (UDC/SVP) says the plan is too costly and will leave Switzerland dependent on foreign energy, while pointing out the open question on how to replace energy currently supplied by nuclear. The Liberal Radical party (PLR/FDP) also rejects it believing that it is too extreme, unrealistic, will reduce personal liberty, and damage the economy.
Swiss socialists are behind the initiative. They say Switzerland consumes too much resource and energy and the focus should be on the long term. They think the initiative could help Switzerland lead the way on technological innovation.
On 25 September 2016, Swiss voters will decide.