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Switzerland misses greenhouse gas reduction target

Switzerland has ambitious greenhouse gas reduction plans but has yet to implement a concrete plan to realise them. © Keystone / Gaetan Bally

Switzerland has narrowly missed its target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 despite coronavirus lockdowns and an unusually warm winter.

The Alpine state had set itself the target of reducing harmful emissions by 20% compared to 1990 levels. The actual reduction was 19%, the Federal Office for the Environment said on MondayExternal link.

“Less heating was used during a comparatively warm winter. The pandemic resulted in a sharp fall in mobility,” the environment office stated. “With the lifting of pandemic restrictions, emissions are again increasing significantly again. The pressure to act remains elevated.”

Only the industrial sector exceeded its emissions reduction targets between 2013 and 2020, cutting CO2 equivalents by 17% in that period.

The government is particularly disappointed by the transport sector missing its 10% reduction target. Vehicles only managed an 8% reduction despite an increase in the number of electric and biogas alternatives and a huge reduction in traffic at the height of the pandemic.

Construction sector emissions fell 39%, narrowly missing the 40% target despite less oil and gas being used to heat houses during a warm winter. “The building sector continues to be heated to a significant extent with fossil fuels,” read the statement.

Agriculture and “other” sectors missed their targets by some margin.

Switzerland had aimed somewhat higher than the 15.8% reductions between 2013 and 2020 laid out by the Kyoto protocol. Domestic emissions were reduced by 11% during this period, which was bumped up to 19% largely by offsetting emissions with the funding of sustainable climate projects in other countries.

Under the terms of the Paris climate agreement, Switzerland has pledged to halve emissions by 2030 and intends to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2050External link.

But the government was forced to re-draw its plansExternal link when voters rejected a package of climate reforms last year.

NGO Climate Strike Switzerland labelled the country’s CO2 reduction efforts as “laughable”. WWF Switzerland said the missed targets demonstrate that Switzerland should ramp up its efforts, particularly with the airline industry.

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