Swiss set to vote on ‘Glacier Initiative’

Climate activists outside the Federal Parliament building in Bern on Wednesday. "We have no planet B", reads the polar bear's lantern. Keystone / Peter Klaunzer

Campaigners have handed in a “Glacier Initiative” calling on the Swiss authorities to dramatically step up efforts to cut greenhouse gases by 2050. 

This content was published on November 28, 2019 - 11:06

A total of 112,296 signatures were delivered to the Federal Chancellery in Bern on Wednesday aimed at forcing a national vote on the issue. A minimum of 100,000 is required. 

Presented last January, the Glacier InitiativeExternal link, launched by the Swiss Association for Climate Protection, aims to reduce Switzerland’s net carbon emissions to zero by 2050. 

It also wants to elevate climate protection as a priority in political circles by enshrining the goals of the Paris Climate AgreementExternal link in the Swiss constitution. Supporters want to cease the use of fossil fuels by 2050 at the latest. The text notes that climate policy should strengthen the economy and promote innovation and technology. It acknowledges the need for exceptions when there is no adequate technical substitute, but CO2 emissions should be compensated. 

The association currently has 2,000 members and is supported by various environmental organisations as well as churches, scientists and academics. Several politicians are also on the initiative’s board. The initiative signatures were collected over five months, well within the 18-month deadline. 

+ Read more about the Glacier Initiative

Annual greenhouse gas emissions dropped slightly in 2017, according to the most recent figures from the Swiss government’s environment agency. But Switzerland is unlikely to reach goals agreed in the Kyoto Protocol

The environment and global warming have become a big political issue in the small Alpine nation, which is described as being on the climate change frontline. Over the past 150 years, average temperatures in Switzerland have risen by 2°C, compared with 0.9°C in the rest of the world.  

Climate change dominated national elections in October, which saw a surge of support for Green parties

The Swiss government announced in August that the country should become climate neutral by 2050, but it has yet to present a roadmap. The initiative campaigners hope their proposal will put pressure on the authorities to accelerate reforms.

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