Switzerland, feeling the effects of global warming on their rapidly melting glaciers, are voting Sunday on a new climate bill aimed at moving the country towards carbon neutrality.
Recent opinion polls indicate strong support for the proposed legislation, which would require Switzerland to reduce its reliance on imported oil and gas, spur growth and use of greener and more domestic alternatives.
But support slipped in a recent poll by pollster gfs. bern, with 63 per cent remaining in favour amid claims by the populist right-wing Swiss People’s Party (SVP) that the law, which would commit the country to become a carbon neutral economy by 2050, Can damage.
Polling stations were due to open for a few hours on Sunday morning before closing at noon (1000 GMT).
But most votes are normally cast in advance for popular votes held under Switzerland’s famously direct democratic system, and preliminary results were expected by mid-afternoon.
Proponents say the proposed “Federal Act on Strengthening Climate Protection Goals, Innovation, and Energy Security” is needed to ensure energy security.
They say it will also help offset the ravages of climate change, highlighted by the dramatic melting of glaciers in the Swiss Alps, which lost a third of their ice volume between 2001 and 2022.
Switzerland imports about three-quarters of its energy, with all oil and natural gas consumed from abroad.
Climate activists initially wanted to push for a complete ban on all oil and gas consumption in Switzerland by 2050.
But the government baulked at the so-called Glacier Initiative, producing a counter-proposal that scrapped the idea of a ban but included other elements.
Text pledges two billion Swiss francs ($2.2 billion) of financial aid over a decade to promote the replacement of gas or oil heating systems with climate-friendly alternatives, as well as help drive businesses toward green innovation.
Almost all of Switzerland’s major parties support the bill, except for the SVP – the country’s largest party – which launched a referendum against rejecting it as “laws that waste electricity”.
SVP says the bill’s goal of achieving climate neutrality in a quarter century would effectively be a fossil fuel ban, which it claims would threaten energy access and increase household electricity bills.
SVP leader Marco Chiesa last month criticized the “utopian” vision behind the bill, maintaining it would increase energy costs by 400 billion Swiss francs ($448 billion) while having basically “no effect” on the global climate.
The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said in April that melting alpine glaciers would have economic impacts in the short term – such as natural disasters and loss of tourism revenue – and in the long term, as they feed rivers and supply hydroelectricity. power plants.
Corporate tax hike
In 2021, SVP successfully lobbied against a law that would have curbed greenhouse gas emissions.
But observers say it will be tougher for him to convince people of his message this time.
There is growing pressure for Switzerland to reduce its dependence on foreign energy sources as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine raises suspicions that the Swiss have access to much of the foreign energy it uses.
Also on the ballot, Sunday will be a referendum on whether to increase the tax rate for large businesses.
The government wants to amend the constitution so that Switzerland can join an international agreement led by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) to introduce a global minimum tax rate of 15 per cent for multinational corporations.
The latest opinion poll indicated that 73 per cent of Swiss voters supported the plan, which would impose the new rate on all Swiss-based companies with a turnover of more than 750 million euros ($808 million).
So far, many of Switzerland’s 26 cantons have implemented some of the lowest corporate tax rates in the world, which is often said to have been needed to attract businesses because of higher wages and location costs.
The Swiss government estimates that revenue from the supplementary tax will be between 1.0 and 2.5 billion Swiss francs in the first year alone.