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“These were the climate elections”

20.11.2019 – SUSANNE WENGER

Apart from the scientific facts, the election success of the green parties should be motivation for Switzerland to pursue more ambitious climate targets. This is the view of Swiss climatologist Sonia Seneviratne, who has some recommended reading for the newly elected parliament.

Sonia Seneviratne believes that the tremendous increase in seats and voting share achieved by the green parties is due to the Swiss people realising that something urgently needs to be done about climate change. “These were definitely the climate elections,” she says. Seneviratne hails from the canton of Vaud and is currently Professor for Land-Climate Dynamics at ETH Zurich. She is also a lead author of reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that warn about the severe consequences of global warming. The Federal Council recently tightened the country’s climate targets on the basis of these findings, announcing that Switzerland must aim for climate neutrality and reduce net greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2050. Before the elections, the Council of States approved a revised CO2 Act that proposes a surcharge on the price of petrol as well as a levy on air tickets. We will soon see what a greener National Council thinks about this, and whether voters are prepared to swallow the new taxes. “There is a good chance that Swiss climate policy will become more ambitious,” says Seneviratne, who thinks the Federal Council’s targets are realistic, not radical. Switzerland, a highly developed country, has committed in the Paris Agreement to do its bit against climate change, and green taxes are a socially acceptable means of going about it, she explains. “And you can refund these contributions by reducing health insurance premiums, for example.” In particular, the climatologist recommends that members of the newly elected parliament read the IPCC special report on global warming, which details the climate risks of exceeding the 1.5°C threshold. “I would even suggest that we begin discussing whether we want to make Switzerland carbon-neutral by as early as 2040,” she adds.

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