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What is Switzerlandʼs pathway to limit global warming to 1.5°C?

In brief

This is a summary of the most important findings of our analysis. Get a brief overview over the most important figures and entry points into the various parts of the in depth analysis.

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Ambition gap

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Switzerlandʼs total GHG emissions

excl. LULUCF MtCO₂e/yr

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Displayed values
Reference year
−150 %−100 %−50 %0 %200020202040206012345
  • 1.5°C compatible pathways
  • Middle of the 1.5°C compatible range
  • Current policy projections
  • 1.5°C emissions range
  • Historical emissions
Legend
  1. 1
    1.5°C emissions level
    −61 %
  2. 2
    NDC (Domestic target)
    −37 %
  3. 3
    Ambition gap
    −25 %
  4. 4
    Net zero GHG incl. BECCS excl. LULUCF and novel CDR
    2057
  5. 5
    Reference year
    1990
Key messages

After a June 12 referendum resulted in a rejection of Switzerland’s updated CO2 Act, the domestic component of Switzerland’s 2030 emissions target equates to an emissions level of 37.7 MtCO2e in 2030, which is a reduction of 30% below 1990 levels – well short of the 61% reduction required for a 1.5°C compatible pathway (20.8 MtCO2e).

It is possible Switzerland will meet the domestic component of its 2030 target under current policies, with emissions projected to reach 37-40 MtCO2e/ in 2030, a reduction of 26-30% below 1990 levels.

Emissions reductions targeted abroad under the international component of Switzerland’s 2030 target (20% below 1990 levels) are not considered by this analysis, which focuses only on domestic emissions reductions.

Switzerland has set the goal to reach net zero GHG emissions by 2050. Excluding the contribution of LULUCF sinks,1 the country should already have negative emissions by 2050 of around -7 MtCO2e/yr from BECCS, thus having reached net zero GHG prior to that date.2

1 Some pathways include sinks based on bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS).

2 While global cost-effective pathways assessed by the IPCC Special Report 1.5°C provide useful guidance for an upper-limit of emissions trajectories for developed countries, they underestimate the feasible space for such countries to reach net zero earlier. The current generation of models tend to depend strongly on land-use sinks outside of currently developed countries and include fossil fuel use well beyond the time at which these could be phased out, compared to what is understood from bottom-up approaches. The scientific teams which provide these global pathways constantly improve the technologies represented in their models – and novel CDR technologies are now being included in new studies focused on deep mitigation scenarios meeting the Paris Agreement. A wide assessment database of these new scenarios is not yet available; thus, we rely on available scenarios which focus particularly on BECCS as a net-negative emission technology. Accordingly, we do not yet consider land-sector emissions (LULUCF) and other CDR approaches which developed countries will need to implement in order to counterbalance their remaining emissions and reach net zero GHG are not considered here due to data availability.

Other pathways show that remaining emissions should not be higher than 3-5 MtCO2e/yr by 2050 to be aligned with Paris compatible pathways.

Switzerland would then need to balance its remaining emissions with the use of carbon dioxide removal (CDR) approaches, either by increasing its land sink (around -1 MtCO2e/yr in 2018) or by developing technological options.

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Key messages

Switzerland has little fossil fuel generation in its power sector, with natural gas making up just 1.3% of total generation in 2017 and no coal generation, while hydro (58%) and nuclear (36%) made up the majority of total generation.

Switzerland’s emissions trading scheme now covers its power sector, which may help to phase out its the remaining gas generation, alongside feed-in tariffs for renewables, subsidies for solar PV and a target to more than triple non-hydro renewable generation by 2035.

All remaining fossil fuel generation in Switzerland should be phased out by 2025.

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Key power sector benchmarks

Renewables shares and year of zero emissions power Including the use of BECCS

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Current targets
Required targets
2025
  1. 2025 Zero emissions power
2030
  1. 2030 86 to 98% Renewable share
2042
  1. 2042 95 to 100% Renewable share

Footnotes