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Switzerland’s warm spring triggers new climate law referendum

After experiencing record-breaking warm temperatures this spring, over 200 scientists urged the Swiss government to hold a referendum for a new climate law. If successful, it will trigger a national move towards reaching net zero by 2050. 

On the 18th of June, Swiss citizens will vote on an important new law regarding the country’s Climate Protection Targets, as well as its Innovation and Strengthening Energy Security Act.

Known together as the ‘Climate and Innovation Act,’ passing the law would bind Switzerland to reach complete climate neutrality by 2050.

Under this law, national greenhouse gas emissions would not be able to exceed the amount of carbon dioxide it captures through local forestlands and carbon absorption technology.

And how would this be achieved? By making a radical switch from imported oil and gas to local sources of clean energy, of course.

The government will be required to pledge a budget of 2 billion francs over the next decade to complete the transition.

Why hold the referendum now?

The decision to hold the referendum comes after Switzerland experienced an unseasonably warm spring, where temperatures were 1.5C warmer than the normal average.

In March, average national temperatures reached 3C higher than those recorded between 1960-1990. Basel, one of the country’s most North-western cities, had seen 23-degree C days in the middle of the month.

On top of abnormally hot days, nationwide weather patterns had been unpredictable and abnormal. Central Switzerland saw unusual levels of rain while southern parts of the country experienced long periods of drought.

These extremes are predicted to influence the June 18th votes of the Swiss citizens who witnessed them.


What is Switzerland’s stance on renewables?

This is not the first time laws related to reaching net-zero emissions have been discussed in Switzerland.

We all know that the energy crisis, sparked by the reliance on imported fossil fuels, has caused many countries to consider a radical switch to generating clean energy independently.

At present, the vast majority of Switzerland’s energy is imported – around three-quarters of it being gas from fossil fuels.

The government has previously acknowledged a need to stop importing energy, saying, ‘these fossil fuels will not be available indefinitely and they place a heavy burden on the climate.’

In fact, the Swiss Parliament had already moved to pass the new climate law in September. However, the right-wing Swiss People’s Party pushed back on it, triggering the need to hold a public referendum.

Conservative political groups believe that a plan to transition entirely to clean energy by 2050 would damage Switzerland’s economy. They branded the plan an ‘electricity sinkhole’.

That said, environmental scientists are heavily in favour of the new climate law. Over 200 academics have signed a public statement to show support for the plan, saying it will ‘make the country stronger.’

Considering the breadth of evidence from climate science, combined with energy bills which show no signs of dipping, it’s hard to see how the public won’t vote with a resounding ‘yes’ in favour of moving towards clean energy. Roll on June 18th.