Switzerland submitted its updated NDC to the UNFCCC in December 2020, and responded to paragraph 29 of the Glasgow Climate Pact in December 2021 when it submitted an amended NDC. Besides addressing paragraph 29 it also included some amendments which occurred as a consequence to the rejection of the CO2 Act. In both documents, language slightly changed from the original NDC’s commitment of “a 50% reduction below 1990” levels by 2030 to “at least 50%” below 1990 levels (Swiss Confederation, 2021). In absolute terms, this translates to emissions levels of at most 27–28 MtCO2e excluding LULUCF by 2030. Switzerland has also committed to reaching net zero GHG emissions by 2050 as outlined both in its NDC and LTS. The target is not yet enshrined in national law as it was part of the CO2 act that was rejected in a public referendum in 2021.
In its updated NDC, Switzerland does not specify a domestic emissions reduction component of its 2030 target, but instead clearly states its intention to apply Article 6 of the Paris Agreement. In its NDC it states that “Switzerland will realise its NDC mainly domestically and will partly use internationally transferred mitigation outcomes (ITMOs) from cooperation under Article 6” (Swiss Confederation, 2021).
A proposed amendment of the CO2 Act (known as the Total Revision), in which Switzerland aimed to make the 2030 NDC target legally binding, previously included a domestic share target of at least 37.5% (75% of the 50% by 2030 below 1990) (Schweizer Parlament, 2020). However, the Swiss people voted against the Act’s adoption in a 2021 public referendum, forcing Switzerland to extend the targets of its expired CO2 Act to 2024 and start a process of drafting a new amendment.
Switzerland is currently drafting and holding consultations on a new amendment of the CO2 Act (known as Succession Act). Earlier drafts in 2021 included a targeted 33% reduction in domestic emissions, which reflects two thirds of the total emissions reduction of its 50% target (Der Bundesrat, 2021). In the current draft of the law of 2022, however, this has been replaced by vague supplementary comments stating that the reductions are “primarily” achieved within Switzerland and that “the Federal Council determines the share” (Schweizerische Eidgenossenschaft, 2022d). Official communications imply that at least 30% (60% of the 50% by 2030 below 1990) will be targeted domestically (Schweizerische Eidgenossenschaft, 2022c).
|SWITZERLAND — Main climate targets|
|2030 NDC target|
|Formulation of target in NDC||A reduction of at least 50% by 2030 compared with 1990 levels, corresponding to an average reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by at least 35% over the period 2021–2030.|
Absolute emissions level in 2030
Level of emissions to be achieved at home (domestic target component)
36–39 MtCO2e in 2030
[30–33.3% below 1990]
[29–32% below 2010]
Level of emissions to be achieved in total through domestic action and use of international market credits (full NDC target)
27–28 MtCO2e in 2030
[50% below 1990]
[49% below 2010]
|Status||NDC update submitted on 17 December 2021|
|Net zero target|
|Formulation of target||Switzerland should achieve balanced greenhouse gas performance by 2050 at the latest (net zero).|
|Absolute emissions level in 2050 excl. LULUCF||
11.8 MtCO2e in 2050
[78% below 1990]
[77% below 2010]
|Status||Submitted on 28 January 2021|
Switzerland did not increase ambition in December 2021
A first update to Switzerland’s NDC target in December 2020 did not represent an increase in ambition, as it changed only from a 50% reduction below 1990 levels to an “at least” 50% reduction, but the domestic component of the target increased from 60% to 75%. A subsequent update to Switzerland’s NDC in December 2021, however, removed entirely any specific reference to a domestic component to its overall 2030 target.
|SWITZERLAND — History of NDC updates||First NDC (2016)||Updated NDC (2021)|
|SWITZERLAND||First NDC (2016)||Updated NDC (2021)|
|Formulation of target in NDC||
To reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2030 compared to 1990 levels, corresponding to an average reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 35% over the period 2021–2030.
To reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50% by 2030 compared with 1990 levels, corresponding to an average reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by at least 35% over the period 2021–2030.
Absolute emissions level
Unconditional target (domestic component):
37–39 MtCO2e by 2030
27–28 MtCO2e by 2030
Unconditional target (domestic component):
36–39 MtCO2e by 2030
(estimated based on latest available information)
27–28 MtCO2e by 2030
Emissions compared to 1990 and 2010
Unconditional target (domestic component):
30% below 1990 emissions by 2030
29% below 2010 emissions by 2030
50% below 1990 emissions by 2030
51% below 2010 emissions by 2030
Unconditional target (domestic component):
30–33% below 1990 emissions by 2030
29–32% below 2010 emissions by 2030
At least 50% below 1990 emissions by 2030
At least 51% below 2010 emissions by 2030
NDC target (domestic) against modelled domestic pathways:
NDC target against fair share:
|Separate target for LULUCF||No||No|
|Gas coverage||All greenhouse gases||All greenhouse gases|
|Target type||Absolute emissions reduction from a base year||Absolute emissions reduction from a base year|
* Before September 2021, all CAT ratings were based exclusively on fair share and only assessed a country’s target
Analysis of earlier NDC developments:
CAT rating of targets
The CAT rates NDC targets against what a country should be doing within its own borders as well as what a fair contribution to achieving the Paris Agreement’s long-term temperature goal would be. For assessing targets against a fair share, we consider both a country’s domestic emissions reductions and any emissions reductions it supports abroad through the use of market mechanisms or other ways of support, as relevant.
Switzerland has clearly stated that a portion of emission reductions to meet its NDC target will be achieved through the support of emissions mitigation abroad. To rate Switzerland’s NDC target, we assess a domestic component of its NDC against what needs to happen within its border based on modelled domestic pathways and the full NDC target (reduction achieved both domestically and abroad) against what a fair contribution would be.
Switzerland has, however, remained vague on the extent to which its NDC target will be achieved through domestic reductions as it does not specify a domestic component of its 2030 target in its NDC. In an earlier amendment of the CO2 Act (known as Total Revision), which was rejected by a public referendum, Switzerland had proposed a domestic share target of at least 37.5% (75% of the 50% by 2030 below 1990) (Schweizer Parlament, 2020).
Earlier drafts of 2021 of a follow-up amendment of the CO2 act (known as Succession Act) included a targeted 33% reduction (66% of 50%) (Der Bundesrat, 2021). In the current draft of the law of 2022, however, this has been replaced by vague comments stating that “the Federal Council determines the share” (Schweizerische Eidgenossenschaft, 2022d). Official messages imply that at least 30% of emissions reductions (60% of the 50%) will be targeted domestically (Schweizerische Eidgenossenschaft, 2022c).
To rate Switzerland’s NDC we have therefore had to make assumptions on the domestic component. A range between 30%, which seems to be the current consensus to aspire for (Schweizerische Eidgenossenschaft, 2022c) and 33%, which was removed from previous drafts for unknown reasons (Der Bundesrat, 2021) seem to be where Switzerland is realistically headed and was thus assessed here.
The lack of specificity regarding the proportion of emissions that Switzerland intends to reduce domestically versus abroad is problematic as it becomes difficult to assess the effectiveness of its overall emission reduction strategy. This it makes it challenging to hold Switzerland accountable for its emission reduction commitments. Equally, the lack of transparency raises questions about the sincerity of Switzerland's commitment. It is important for governments to provide transparent information on their emission reduction plans, as reducing GHG emissions is a global effort and trust and international cooperation are key.
Switzerland intends to achieve the remaining 17% to 20% of its amended target through Internationally Transferred Mitigation Outcomes (ITMOs). Since October 2020, Switzerland has signed bilateral agreements with several countries including Peru, Ghana, Senegal, Georgia, Vanuatu, Dominica, Thailand, Ukraine, Morocco, Malawi, Uruguay and Chile, which provide for cooperation on the transfer of mitigation outcomes on the basis of Article 6 of the Paris Agreement (Schweizerische Eidgenossenschaft, 2022a). While developed countries have to support the mitigation levels of less developed countries, there is a more constructive way to pursue bilateral cooperation. Governments should ensure they fulfil the fair share of their climate finance contributions and only reserve the use of market mechanisms for the hardest-to-abate emission sources.
To effectively address all these concerns, Switzerland should provide a clear and detailed NDC with deep emission reductions domestically, and provide sufficient climate finance.
The CAT rates Switzerland’s estimated domestic target as “Almost sufficient” and its overall NDC target compared with its fair-share emissions allocation as “Insufficient.”
We rate the estimated domestic component of Switzerland’s 2030 emissions target, a 30% to 33% reduction below 1990 levels, as “Almost sufficient” when compared with modelled domestic emissions pathways.
The “Almost sufficient” rating indicates that Switzerland’s domestic component of its NDC target in 2030 is not yet consistent with limiting warming to 1.5°C but could be, with moderate improvements. If all countries were to follow Switzerland’s approach, warming could be held below—but not well below—2°C.
If we were to rate Switzerland’s estimated domestic target against its fair share, assuming that the bilateral agreements do not lead to an overall mitigation effect, the target would be “Highly insufficient”.
We rate Switzerland’s overall NDC target as “Insufficient” when compared with its fair-share emissions allocation. The “Insufficient” rating indicates that Switzerland’s NDC target needs substantial improvements to be consistent with limiting warming to 1.5°C.
Switzerland’s target is at the least stringent end of what would be a fair share of global effort, and is not consistent with the 1.5°C limit, unless other countries make much deeper reductions and comparably greater effort. If all countries were to follow Switzerland’s approach, warming would reach up to 3°C.
Switzerland’s international public climate finance contribution is rated “Insufficient”. Switzerland has committed to increase its climate finance and, despite a steady annual increase culminating at USD 411m in 2020, its contributions to date have been low compared to its fair share. In 2020 Switzerland additionally mobilised USD 106m from the private sector and increased its specific support for bilateral adaptation activities to USD 129m (Swiss Federal Office for the Environment, 2022).
Climate finance contributions fall short of Switzerland’s fair share contribution to the USD 100bn goal but show an increasing trend. Several recent developments indicate a commitment to international climate finance.
Switzerland is one of the only countries that has explicitly prioritised an equal distribution of adaptation and mitigation funding for public bilateral financing (Alliance Sud, 2020). Other decisions that lead to the upward trend are the increase of the level of official development assistance to 0.5 per cent of gross national income, the gradual shift of development assistance to place an enhanced focus on climate change, and the new strategy for international development cooperation 2021–2024, which provides for an increase in funding for climate change mitigation and adaptation to CHF 400 m (approximately USD 426 m) per year by 2024 (Swiss Federal Office for the Environment, 2022).
Switzerland remains committed to the USD 100bn goal in climate finance for developing countries per year through 2025, and it considers multilateral mobilised private climate finance as well as the full-face value of the climate finance outflow of multilateral institutions as climate finance accountable towards the 100 billion US dollars goal.
Based on Switzerland's economic performance and the polluter-pays principle, the Swiss government estimates its fair share of international finance contributions to be around CHF 450–600m (Federal Council of Switzerland, 2017). This would be close to its current investments, however, civil society organisations recommend a fair share of around CHF 1 bn per year (Alliance Sud, 2020). In addition, the USD 100bn goal on itself is insufficient for the post-2020 period, and the scale of financial contributions would remain insufficient to increase Switzerland’s CAT climate finance rating. A clear and sustained increase in international climate mitigation finance is therefore needed.
To fulfil the non-domestic component of its emissions reduction target, Switzerland is one of only a few countries that officially intends to achieve part of its NDC target through Internationally Transferred Mitigation Outcomes (ITMOs) on the basis of Article 6 of the Paris Agreement and has already signed bilateral agreements.
In October 2020, Switzerland and Peru signed a carbon credit agreement where Switzerland will finance emission reduction projects that are designed to contribute to sustainable development in Peru while the emissions reductions would count towards the Swiss NDC (Lo, 2020). In order to ensure environmental integrity, both Peru and Switzerland will have to apply robust accounting systems so that the reductions are only counted once.
Switzerland has subsequently signed similar agreements with Ghana, Senegal, Georgia, Vanuatu, Dominica, Thailand, Ukraine, Morocco, Malawi, Uruguay and Chile (Schweizerische Eidgenossenschaft, 2022a). These developments are not rated in this component of the CAT rating. Instead, the full international NDC, that includes such agreements, is rated against Switzerland’s fair share goal - and rated “Insufficient”.
To be aligned with the sentiment of “highest possible ambition”, Switzerland must first set its domestic NDC within at least an “Almost sufficient” range. Although not transparently communicated (see NDC target), the estimated domestic share in Switzerland lies within this threshold. Thus, as a second step, the country must provide its fair share of climate finance. This should be a prerequisite to purchasing credits and entering ITMOs. As Switzerland is not providing its fair share of international climate finance, the CAT does not consider it legitimate to offset for the fair share rating. Nevertheless, the CAT does acknowledge the transparency of Switzerland’s credit purchase agreements.
Switzerland has yet to commit to stop funding fossil fuels abroad, but the CAT has not found evidence of continued international fossil finance.
Further information on how the CAT rates countries (against modelled pathways and fair share) can be found here.
Net zero and other long-term target(s)
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.
The current assessment does not account for the outcome of the public referendum on Switzerland's Climate Protection Act scheduled for 18 June 2023 (Schweizerische Eidgenossenschaft, 2023b). If accepted, the Act would enshrine Switzerland's net-zero target into law, introduce 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’.
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