Switzerland's swindle: now officially confirmed

Politically, a petrol price increase will hardly have majority appeal. Yet in 2011 the Federal Government shelved promising instruments for the funding of Switzerland's climate contribution.
Article as analysis
«More than 60 per cent of the greenhouse gas footprint originates abroad». This is the title of the February 2018 edition of Federal Statistical Office's News. Thus, official Switzerland at last acknowledges its climate responsibility in the world.

The Federal Statistical Office (FSO) stands for objectivity and precision; its studies are incorruptible and serve as analytical bases for the political and economic forces of our country. For the first time the FSO is presenting figures that confirm a major, long-standing criticism voiced by Alliance Sud: it is untenable for official Switzerland to equate its climate responsibility with the greenhouse gas balance arising within the country’s borders.

The FSO notes in a study, that «emissions generated abroad due to Swiss final demand» amount to 76 million tonnes of CO2eq per year, and have almost twice the impact of greenhouse gas emissions arising within national borders. This is attributable to the fact that we are increasingly offshoring our energy and emission-intensive production.

The greenhouse gas inventory is compiled regularly as part of reporting under the Kyoto Protocol. It is based on the territorial principle and therefore only records emissions that arise within the country's borders. It therefore downplays the consumption of imported goods just as it does emissions produced by air travel and car trips abroad. It takes just as little account of emissions generated by Swiss companies engaged for example in exploiting and processing commodities or in producing goods and services abroad. For countries like Switzerland, which are shifting ever more emissions abroad rather than preventing them, this statistical fraud is «advantageous».

As previously stated, this is not a new insight. In its Master Plan, the Climate Alliance Switzerland also called in 2016 for Switzerland's climate policy to be based on its total input into the atmosphere worldwide. For many years Alliance Sud has voiced the criticism that the Federal Council, in particular in assessing its climate funding contributions owed under the Paris Climate Agreement, has always evoked the polluter pays principle, while taking into account only the one third of Swiss emissions that take place within the nation's borders.

What is new is that at last, a global view is being asserted even in official circles. According to the FSO, this is of paramount importance «particularly in a country like Switzerland that maintains intense trade relations with the rest of the world». This could lead to alignment with what is called the national accounts method, used across the OECD and also guided by the residence principle.

The FSO has now laid the cornerstone for a reliable assessment of Switzerland's «common but differentiated» climate responsibility. Its modelling shows Swiss emissions of about three times what the Federal Council has previously used as its basis. This therefore brings the share of international climate financing that Switzerland should bear to 900 million francs per year. We should recall that in its report of 10 May 2017, the Federal Council was still working on the basis of 450 to 600 million.

The discussion on Switzerland's «fair» share in climate funding can and must therefore be considered closed. Attention should now turn at last to the urgently needed raising of additional funds.

 

The principle of «common but differentiated responsibility»

js. Since the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development of 1992, the principle of common but differentiated responsibility (CBDR) has played a significant role in the international climate debate. At the heart of this CBDR principle is the realization that global environmental threats such as climate change, loss of biodiversity or desertification can only be tackled through joint action. But, because countries bear varying degrees of responsibility, the burden of preventing and combating climate change must be distributed differentially.