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Canton Basel-Stadt becomes a climate pioneer

27.01.2023 – MARC LETTAU

Canton Basel-Stadt is aiming to become climate-neutral by 2037, i.e. to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions. The population of the city canton voted for the measure in November 2022. This makes Basel-Stadt a climate pioneer. This is the most ambitious environmental political goal ever set in Switzerland. Climate neutrality for the whole country is set to be achieved by 2050. The city of Zurich is aiming to become climate-neutral by 2040, and Berne by 2045.

Federal Council extends the ‘S’ protective status

Because the war in Ukraine is not expected to end in the near future, the Federal Council is extending the ‘S’ protective status for asylum seekers from Ukraine. Initially, the decision was taken to provide refugees with protection and support for one year, i.e. until March 2023. Now, however, these protective measures have been prolonged by a year.

Federal railways losing millions

Swiss Federal Railways (SBB) generates most of the electricity it needs in its own hydroelectric power plants. Owing to this year’s severe drought, however, the SBB needed to purchase large amounts of electricity and is forecasting a loss of 180 million Swiss francs for 2022. The sharp rise in energy prices triggered by the war in Ukraine is thus hitting the railway company full force.

Valais votes Yes to assisted dying in retirement homes

Accompanied dying, also known as assisted suicide, is legal in Switzerland. In the Catholic and conservative-leaning Canton Valais, however, many retirement and care homes do not support it. A cantonal referendum is now set to correct this. A good 75 percent of voters approved the proposal to allow assisted dying in all retirement and care homes in Valais in future.

Green Liberals campaign for the EEA

The unresolved, non-contractual and therefore increasingly cloudy relationship between Switzerland and the European Union (EU) is making alternative solutions sound more attractive. The Green Liberal Party (GLP) pushed in December for Switzerland to enter the European Economic Area (EEA). As a reminder, Switzerland voted very narrowly in 1992 against joining the EEA. The GLP is arguing that the non-EU countries of Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein have done very well out of their EEA membership. Switzerland, on the other hand, is making no headway in renegotiating a framework agreement with the EU and is getting bogged down in the details. Entering the EEA would provide a rapid solution with long-term stability for Switzerland, the GLP argues: EEA entry has already been brokered and covers the entire internal market, including the bilateral aspects. Whether Switzerland would actually be accepted into the EEA is another matter entirely.

Picture  Children demonstrating in Basel against their canton dragging its feet on climate. Now, the adults have made a decision at the voting booth: Canton Basel-Stadt will become climate-neutral by 2037. This is the most ambitious environmental political goal ever set in Switzerland. Photo Keystone