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In brief

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

Economy wide

After a referendum resulting 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 63% reduction required for a 1.5°C compatible pathway.

Switzerlandʼs total GHG emissions

excl. LULUCF MtCO₂e/yr

Displayed values
Reference year
−150%−100%−50%0%19902010203020502070
Net zero GHG excl. LULUCF*
2064
Reference year
1990
1.5°C emissions level
−63%
NDC (Domestic target)
−30%
Ambition gap
−33%
  • 1.5°C compatible pathways
  • Middle of the 1.5°C compatible range
  • Current policy projections
  • 1.5°C emissions range
  • Historical emissions

Current policy

Switzerland is not projected to meet the domestic component of its 2030 target under current policies, with projected emissions reduction of 23% below 1990 levels (excl. LULUCF).

1 IEA. World Energy Balances 2020 Edition. (2020).

2 Government of Switzerland. Switzerland. 2020 Common Reporting Format (CRF) Table.

3 Climate Action Tracker. Switzerland – November 2020 Update.

4 Swiss Federal Office of Energy. CO2 emission regulations for new cars and light commercial vehicles.

5 Bundesamt für Energie. Energieverbrauch und Energieeffizienz der neuen Personenwagen und leichten Nutzfahrzeuge 2019. (2020).

6 Bundesamt für Energie. Faktenblatt Vollzug der CO2-Emissionsvorschriften für Personenwagen 2017 Neuzugelassene Personenwagen und ihre CO2-Emissionen. (2018).

7 Bundesamt für Energie & Bundesamt für Strassen. Roadmap Elektromobilität 2022. (2018).

8 ACEA. Fuel types of new cars: diesel -23.6%, electric +33.1% in fourth quarter of 2018 | ACEA – European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association.

9 ACEA. Fuel types of new cars: diesel -17.9%, petrol +3.3%, electric +40.0% in first quarter of 2019 | ACEA – European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association.

10 ICAP. Swiss ETS. (2020).

11 Schweizer Parlament. Bundesgesetz über die Verminderung von Treibhausgasemissionen (CO2-Gesetz). (2020).

12 Schweizerische Eidgenossenschaft. Switzerland’s Fourth Biennial Report under the UNFCCC. (2020).

13 der Bundesrat. Verordnung vom 30. November 2012 über die Reduktion der CO2 Emissionen. (2012).

14 Schweizer Parlament. Bundesgesetz über die Verminderung von Treibhausgasemissionen (CO2-Gesetz).

15 Swiss Confederation. Revision of the CO2 law: Explanatory report on the consultation draft. (2021).

16 Schweizerische Eidgenossenschaft. Switzerland’s Fourth Biennial Report under the UNFCCC.(2020).

17 ICAP. ICAP Allowance Price Explorer. (2022).

18 European Alternative Fuels Observatory. Switzerland – Vehicles and fleet. (2022).

19 Kuramochi, T. et al. Ten key short-term sectoral benchmarks to limit warming to 1.5°C. Clim. Policy (2017).

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

21 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.

Fair share

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.

Net zero GHG

Switzerland has set the goal to reach net zero GHG emissions by 2050. Excluding the contribution of LULUCF sinks , the country should already have negative emissions by 2050 of around -11 MtCO₂e/yr for some scenarios from BECCS, thus having reached net zero GHG prior to that date.20,21

Remaining emissions

Other pathways show that remaining emissions should not be higher than 4-6 MtCO₂e/yr by 2050 to be aligned with Paris Agreement 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.

Sectors

Power

  • 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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Buildings

  • Despite outpacing the overall reduction in Swiss GHG emissions, buildings emissions failed to reach the 2020 target of a 40% reduction below 1990 levels.
  • The proposed 2030 target and ban on fossil fuel heating has been removed from the latest iteration of the CO₂ Act, making it less likely the Swiss building sector will achieve a 1.5°C compatible emissions reduction of at least 55% below 1990 levels.
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Transport

  • Strong EV sales in 2021, reaching 22% of total sales led Switzerland to already surpass its 2022 target of a 15% share.
  • Achieving 100% EV sales by 2035 and a 55% reduction in total transport emissions below 2019 levels by 2030 would place the Swiss transport sector on a 1.5°C aligned pathway.
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Industry

  • Switzerland’s main tool for targeting industry emissions is its CO₂ Act, which includes its emissions trading scheme, now linked to the EU emissions trading scheme (EU ETS).
  • To align with 1.5°C pathways, Swiss direct industry emissions would need to fall by more than a third below 2019 levels by 2030, and the sector should be completely decarbonised between 2040 and 2050.
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Footnotes