Swiss Reject Higher Levy on CO2 Emissions, Key Part of 2050 Goal

The Swiss shot down a plan to reduce carbon emissions, sending their government back to the drawing board in order to meet its commitment under the Paris Climate Agreement.

Voters rejected a higher CO2 levy by 51.6% to 48.4%, swayed by claims the measure was too costly. In a separate vote, they approved of the government’s response to Covid-19, including financial aid to businesses.

“Today’s ‘no’ is not a ‘no’ to protecting the environment,” said Environment and Transport Minister Simonetta Sommaruga. “Many people want to strengthen protections of the environment but not in this way, not with this law. The government has understood this message.”

Swiss Reject Higher Levy on CO2 Emissions, Key Part of 2050 Goal

The proposal would have raised the maximum tax on carbon dioxide emissions to 210 francs ($234) per ton from 120 francs previously. It would also have introduced a new surcharge on airplane tickets and private jet usage.

Switzerland aims to be carbon-neutral by 2050, one of a number of countries that have set the target as part of efforts to limit global warming. But achieving that goal will require significant cuts to carbon dioxide emissions from transportation, construction and industry.

The government will now have to come up with an alternative, which will need to be passed by parliament and could face another popular vote. It faced a similar predicament when reforming corporate taxation. Voters eventually approved an overhaul of the tax code in 2019 after they torpedoed a proposal two years earlier. Political parties brokered a compromise that finally enabled the reform to go ahead.

The following measures were also on Sunday’s ballot:

  • An initiative promoting clean drinking water failed, with 60.7% of voters turning it down. It would’ve limited the use of pesticides and antibiotics for farm animals but the government warned it would lower agricultural yields in Switzerland. Moreover, drinking water is already clean.
  • A ban on synthetic pesticides in Switzerland got rejected by a similar margin. Officials had warned it would restrict food supplies.
  • The government’s Covid-19 law, giving businesses financial assistance during the pandemic, passed comfortably, with support at 60.2%
  • A law to enhance police powers to fight terrorism got a backing of 56.6%. Opponents warned it would undermine civil liberties.

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