«VOTE YES ON THE CLIMATE LAW»
Tony Patt, Head of the Climate Policy Lab at ETH Zurich and member of the board of Protect Our Winters Switzerland, explains why it is essential to vote yes to the climate law.
Climate change is here, but it could get a lot worse. Global average temperatures have risen 1°C over the last century, mainly in the last 30 years. If emissions stay at their current rate, they will rise another 2°C by 2100. Coastal regions home to 10% of humanity will be permanently flooded. The effects on ecosystems and agriculture will be catastrophic. The temperature rise has been and will continue to be even stronger in Switzerland. By mid-century, we will look back at the winter of 2022 - 23, one of the worst on record so far, and say: at least there was still some snow.
The only realistic way to stop further temperature rise – and we can stop most of it – is to eliminate emissions of CO2 and reduce emissions of shorter-lived greenhouse gases like methane. By now most wealthy countries, including the European Union, have laws in place to make sure this happens. Switzerland doesn’t. Our athletes may be winning the most alpine skiing medals, but when it comes to the race to net zero emissions, we aren’t even showing up.
We can’t blame it on elected politicians. In 2020, the Swiss Parliament passed an important climate law, only to have 51% of those voting in the referendum reject it. In 2022, Parliament passed a new climate law. Another referendum. If it loses in June, it’s on us. If it loses because not enough people bother to vote? On us.
The new law does three things, each important. First, the law sets a legally binding pathway to net zero emissions by 2050, joining the rest of Europe and a few other countries elsewhere, from Canada to Chile to New Zealand. What does legally binding mean? It means that every administrative agency, every Canton and community, must plan around the targets, every action they take moving us forward towards net zero, instead of standing still or moving backward. Second, the law requires businesses in every economic sector – including industry, banking, and tourism – to spell out before 2030 exactly how they will eliminate their emissions by 2050. That will give the government enough time to provide them with the support they need. Third, the law provides a short-term boost of finance for building retrofits like insulation and heat-pumps. Buildings are the single largest source of Swiss emissions, and the place where we can do the most right now.
This will hurt the fossil fuel industry, so they are trying to scare us. They tell us there isn’t enough renewable electricity to replace the oil and natural gas. They are right. The only way there will be enough electricity is if we build it. To build it, businesses need the long-term planning security that this law provides. They tell us the switch to renewable energy will hurt the economy, making us all poorer. They are wrong. Study after study shows that an energy supply based on solar, wind, and hydroelectricity will be less expensive than what we have now. They tell us we don’t need a law, and that businesses will do all this on their own, anyway. Maybe they are right, maybe they are wrong. With this law, we aren’t leaving it to chance.
Winston Churchill once said: «Failing to plan is planning to fail.» He planned then, and so must we, now. This law creates our plan for a carbon-free future. Vote, and vote yes.