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Tuesday, October 3, 2023

Switzerland Referendum: Voters Support Carbon Cuts as Glaciers Continue to Melt

Swiss Voters Support Climate Bill to Reduce Carbon Emissions as Glaciers Retreat

Switzerland has witnessed public support for a newly approved climate bill to reduce fossil fuel usage and achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. The government recognizes the urgency to safeguard energy security and the environment, particularly as glaciers in the Swiss Alps continue to melt rapidly.

The law necessitates a transition from reliance on imported oil and gas towards adopting renewable energy sources. In the recent referendum held on Sunday, 59.1% of voters backed the green energy proposals, despite opponents’ concerns regarding potential energy price increases.

Most of Switzerland’s major political parties endorsed the bill, except the right-wing Swiss People’s Party (SVP), which initiated the referendum in opposition to the government’s proposals. Switzerland imports around three-quarters of its energy, relying entirely on foreign oil and natural gas supplies.

The climate bill outlines a commitment to provide financial support amounting to 2 billion Swiss francs ($2.2 billion; £1.7 billion) over a decade to promote replacing gas and oil heating systems with climate-friendly alternatives. Additionally, 1.2 billion Swiss francs will encourage green innovation among businesses.

The pressing threat of climate change to the Alps’ glaciers, which have already lost a significant portion of their ice volume between 2001 and 2022, adds urgency to Switzerland’s climate efforts. Prominent Swiss glaciologist Matthias Huss, who closely monitors glacier retreat, applauded the “strong signal” conveyed by the referendum’s outcome, expressing his satisfaction on Twitter that the arguments of climate science were heard.

Valerie Piller Carrard, a parliamentarian from the Socialist Party, deemed this vote “an important step for future generations.” Moreover, Swiss voters overwhelmingly supported introducing a global minimum tax of 15% for multinational corporations in a separate referendum, with 78.5% in favor. Switzerland had previously joined over 140 countries in signing an agreement proposed by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) to establish a minimum tax rate for large corporations.

Finance Minister Karin Keller-Sutter commended the “very strong acceptance rate” for the constitutional amendment necessary for Switzerland to participate in the global minimum tax agreement. The voter turnout for Sunday’s referendums reached approximately 42%.

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