The Swiss took part in a referendum on Sunday in favor of achieving carbon neutrality by 2050, in a country that is experiencing the impact of global warming in the melting of its glaciers. Early estimates show that 58% of voters backed the new law, which will force Switzerland to drastically reduce its dependence on imported oil and gas.
The new regulations also promote the development of greener alternatives and domestic production. In another referendum, citizens also supported by 79% the introduction of a 15% tax on large multinational companies, according to initial exit polls.
Despite warnings from the right-wing Swiss People’s Party that this law could harm the economy, polls showed strong support for the carbon neutrality proposal. Proponents of the “Federal Law on Climate Protection Targets, Innovation, and Strengthening Energy Security” argued that it was needed to ensure energy security and address the impact of climate change, especially evident in the dramatic melting of Swiss alpine glaciers, which have lost a third of their volume between 2001 and 2022.
Switzerland imports about three-quarters of its energy, including all of its oil and natural gas. Initially, climate activists pushed for a total ban on oil and gas consumption by 2050, but the government presented an alternative proposal that discarded such a ban and included some measures from the original initiative. The proposal offers financial support of 2 billion Swiss francs over a decade to promote the transition to climate-friendly heating systems and encourage green innovation in businesses.
Almost all major parties supported the bill, except the Swiss People’s Party, which argued that achieving carbon neutrality by 2050 would mean banning fossil fuels, jeopardizing energy access, and making electricity more expensive. However, observers noted that it would be more difficult to convince citizens this time, given the people’s efforts to reduce their dependence on foreign energy sources in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
On the same day, the Swiss also voted on a tax increase on large corporations. The new legislation would allow the constitution to be amended to allow Switzerland to join an international agreement led by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) that seeks to establish a minimum global rate of 15% for multinational corporations. The Swiss government estimates that this new tax will generate between 1 and 2.5 billion Swiss francs in the first year.