Switzerland’s Federal Statistical Office has come up with a new greenhouse gas emissions figure for Switzerland, which includes emissions from imports.
The idea is that emissions related to a computer made in China but bought by someone in Switzerland belong to Switzerland rather than China. Adding this in takes Swiss per capita emissions from 4.9 to 14.1 tonnes CO2 equivalent. The imported bit is 65% of the total, with food imports making up the largest share.
Including imports, Switzerland emitted 116 billion tonnes CO2 equivalent in 2015, 7% more than the 109 billion tonnes it emitted in 2008.
Given all the investment in reducing emissions, why did Switzerland’s emissions increase?
Population growth was the main driver. From 2008 to 2015, growth in Switzerland’s population from 7.6 million to 8.2 million (+8.5%) masked a small decline in per capita emissions from 14.3 to 14.1 tonnes. Around 60% of the rise in population was down to net inward migration.
For Switzerland to have stood still on total emissions it would have needed to achieve a 7.8% drop in per capita emissions, a 2015 figure of 13.2 rather than 14.1 tonnes.
If Switzerland’s population continues to grow at this rate between 2015 and 2030 it will need to reduce per capita emission by 16% just to keep its emissions stable at 2015 levels.
It could be argued that someone moving to Switzerland has little impact on global emissions. However, this depends on the carbon footprint they leave behind. Someone moving from Australia to Switzerland would reduce the global total. Someone moving from Madagascar to Switzerland would add to it.