This week, the Swiss People’s Party (UDC/SVP) announced it had collected enough signatures to launch a referendum to reject the government’s plan for reducing carbon emissions. The initiative puts Albert Rösti, Switzerland’s new environment minister, in a difficult position as a member of the party behind the future vote.
On 9 January 2023, the party announced that it had collected 80,000 signatures, a figure well above the 50,000 required to launch a popular vote opposing government legislation.
The government’s latest plan has already been watered down after an earlier one was rejected by a majority of voters in 2021 – 51.59% of voters rejected a plan to increase taxes on high emission products and services. The vote showed the divide between rural and urban voters that occurs on numerous political issues in Switzerland. The Swiss People’s Party (UDC/SVP) has more support in rural areas that are more likely to be opposed to higher fuel taxes.
Another environmental initiative dubbed the glacier initiative followed. This one aimed to replace polluting heating and improve building insulation. However, parliament rejected this plan, judging it too extreme, and came up with a counter proposal.
However, some in the Swiss People’s Party (UDC/SVP) are opposed to the counter proposal, describing it as ecological tyranny and poisonous to the economy.
The current political situation will be seen as a test for Albert Rösti. As a member of the Swiss People’s Party (UDC/SVP) and the minister charged with defending the environment he may find himself caught between a rock and a hard place.