Swiss struggling to reach greenhouse gas targets

Swiss traffic emissions were around 9% higher in 2014 than in 1990 Keystone

Greenhouse gas emissions in Switzerland fell sharply in 2014 compared with the previous year as a result of the mild winter. But traffic emissions were only slightly lower and it’s unclear whether Switzerland will be able to hit 2020 reduction targets. 

This content was published on April 15, 2016 - 13:58 and agencies, and agencies

The Federal Office for the Environment said it had passed its greenhouse gas inventoryExternal link for 2014 to the United Nations climate change secretariat on Friday. Emissions totalled 48.7 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalentExternal link – five million fewer than the basis year 1990 and 3.9 million fewer than 2013. 

The environment office said this reduction now needed to be continued and consolidated in order that Switzerland reach its national and international targets: 20% lower relative to 1990 by 2020 (see box). 

However, greenhouses gases fluctuate depending on heating requirements, and if climatic influences are taken into account, the figures drop to 2.8 million tonnes (a decrease of 5%) and 500,000 tonnes (1%) respectively. 

Traffic problems 

Emissions from the construction sector were 30% down on 1990, but traffic emissions were 9% higher, having peaked in 2008. Since then, traffic emissions have decreased slightly, falling by 0.6% between 2013 and 2014. 

The environment office said that although emissions per kilometre had been clearly reduced, this was largely balanced out by more kilometres being covered. 

Greenhouse gases emitted by industry had dropped by 10% since 1990, despite  emissions from waste incineration increasing significantly. 

Agriculture also reported a 10% reduction since 1990, caused by a drop in the number of livestock.

Swiss emission targets

The national greenhouse gas inventory, updated annually, is the basis for the evaluation of the objectives in the frame of the Kyoto Protocol and the CO2 Act: 

  • Kyoto Protocol: Mean reduction of total emissions of all greenhouse gases over the period 2013-2020 by 15.8% relative to 1990.
  • CO2 Act: Reduction of total emissions of all greenhouse gases by 20% relative to 1990 in the year 2020. 

The CO2 Act requires emission reductions to take place domestically, while the Kyoto Protocol allows the use of flexible mechanisms, i.e. foreign emission reduction certificates, to meet the target. 

(Source: Federal Office for the Environment)

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