Environmental alliance calls on Switzerland to encourage sustainable travel

Most Swiss flights are to a European destination that could also be reached by more climate-friendly night trains, environmental organisations argue. Keystone

If Switzerland wants to achieve the targets set by the Paris climate agreement, it must make climate-friendly modes of travel more attractive, an environmental group said in an open letter on Monday. 

This content was published on April 9, 2018

Written by the Coalition for Aviation, Environment and HealthExternal link and the green transport association umverkehRExternal link, the letter demanded that the government levy plane ticket fees and kerosene taxes to make more sustainable modes of travel, such as night trains, a more appealing option for the Swiss.

The letter was addressed to transport minister Doris Leuthard, and co-signed by many other environmental and transport organisation as well as by the Social Democratic Party, the Green Party, and the Young Socialists.

Presented to the Federal Office of TransportExternal link on Monday, the letter’s authors pointed out that the climate impact of air transport represents 18% of Switzerland’s total climate impact, and that the Swiss travel twice as often by air than inhabitants of neighbouring European countries.

More than 80% of flights in Switzerland are to another European destination, the letter said, and therefore the potential for saving greenhouse gas emissions in this area is particularly great.

Alternative options

The authors of the letter said that up to a distance of 1,500 kilometres (932 miles), night trains are a more environmentally friendly travel option than airplanes. But train service providers have been suffering from very cheap airplane fares for years, and the rail travel options on offer have diminished accordingly.

Air travel is in the process of becoming the main source of climate change, the authors argued, predicting that by 2030, flying will exhaust Switzerland’s annual carbon budget alone.

Switzerland therefore needs to impose changes that reflect the true cost of air travel, and promote more sustainable rail transport at the same time. The transport ministry must support and encourage such measures and communicate actively in this area, the authors emphasised.

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