Net zero targets
We evaluate the net zero target as: Average.
Switzerland committed to a net-zero target as part of its long-term strategy submitted to the UNFCCC in January 2021. The net zero target generally covers key elements but fails to meet best practice standards for some of them.
Switzerland’s target covers all sectors and gases underpinned by emissions pathway analysis and the communication of clear strategic goals and emissions targets per sector. However, the Swiss government currently fails to provide explicit and transparent assumptions on several key elements. International aviation and shipping attributable to Switzerland are not covered by the target’s scope. Switzerland has also not yet set up a periodic reviewing cycle of measures and interim targets. The proposed measures aim to achieve net zero on Switzerland’s own territory, but it reserves the right to use international offset credits, even if only for technically unavoidable domestic emissions.
While extensively outlining challenges ahead and sketching technological opportunities, Switzerland’s strategy so far fails to articulate detailed action pathways and quantified measures. The policy document has also not yet been enshrined into law, which could make targets and measures legally binding and more transparent.
The current assessment does not account for the outcome of the 18 June 2023 public referendum on Switzerland's Climate Protection Act (Schweizerische Eidgenossenschaft, 2023b). If accepted, the Act would enshrine Switzerland's net-zero target in law, introduce binding interim and sectoral targets, and require the parliament to develop periodic roadmaps for achieving the target. Although improving across several key elements, if the law passes, the CAT would still evaluate the scope, architecture, and transparency of Switzerland’s net-zero target as ‘Average’.
CAT analysis of net zero target
Ten key elements
- Target year – Switzerland aims to reach net zero by 2050.
- Emissions coverage – The target covers all GHG emissions (i.e., the 7 Kyoto gases: CO2, CH4, N2O, HFCs, PFCs, SF6, NF3) and all sectors of the economy (excluding international bunkers).
- International aviation and shipping – The target excludes both international aviation and shipping attributable to Switzerland. Although the Federal Council previously proposed to do so, the LTS explicitly excludes this.
- Reductions or removals outside of own borders – Switzerland reserves the right to use international offset credits to meet its net zero target
- Legal status – The Swiss Federal Council adopted the net zero target in its “Long-Term Climate Strategy for Switzerland” (Swiss Federal Council, 2021). If the Climate Protection Act passes the public referendum in June 2023, Switzerland’ net zero target will be passed in law.
- Separate reduction & removal targets – Switzerland specifies separate emission reduction and removal targets. In its LTS, Switzerland outlines indicative targets for emissions removal needs per sector for 2050.
- Review process – Switzerland provides no information on its intention to establish a review cycle for its net zero and intermediate targets. If the Climate Protection Act passes in June 2023, the Federal Council will have to submit timely proposals to the Federal Assembly for the implementation of the objectives of the net zero target in at least three predefined review cycles (2025–2030; 2031–2040; 2041–2050)
- Carbon dioxide removal – Switzerland provides transparent pathways only for removals in the net zero target year (and not LULUCF).
- Comprehensive planning – Switzerland provides strategic goals and emissions targets per individual sectors and comprehensively outlines the respective challenges. For example, Switzerland pursues the objective of having a net zero buildings sector by 2050, 90% emissions reduction below 1990 levels in the industry sector by 2050, and land transport that does not generate emissions in 2050 with few exceptions. In doing so, Switzerland elicits some actionable medium-term measures to reach net zero in the long term but only with limited detail.
Overall, much of the strategy outlines technological possibilities without committing to concrete action pathways. If the Climate Protection Act passes in the June 2023 referendum, Switzerland will also have legally binding interim and sectoral targets.
- Clarity on fairness of target – Switzerland makes no reference to fairness or equity in the context of its net zero target. It does not address the gap between its net zero target considered realistic domestically and what would be a fair target.
For further information on the targets Switzerland has adopted, see the targets tab here.
The Climate Action Tracker has defined the following good practice for all ten key elements of net zero targets. Countries can refer to this good practice to design or enhance their net zero targets.