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Executive Summary

Some abbreviations are used in this chapter. You can find explanations of all abbreviations in the glossary.


Switzerland accepts its global climate responsibility; Swiss [climate et al.] policy and action is based on science and Switzerland’s [total / historic] climate impact. This implies the inclusion of consumption based GHG emissions, the investments and direct business operations in fossil fuel extraction projects, deforestation operations and other environmentally destructive projects.

This means that

  1. Swiss climate policy is oriented at the consumption-based ecological and climate footprint that includes all GHG emissions being caused directly or through consumption of imported goods and services by Swiss residents or [organizations].
  2. To achieve the science-based emission reduction necessary to avoid overshooting of 1.5 °C, Switzerland aims at reducing its footprint by 13% per year both domestically and abroad; the latter means through adequate additional measures over and above domestic measures, without aiming to add the ITMO to the domestic emission goal.
  3. To support the poorest and most affected societies in the Global South, based on the polluter-pays principle and in line with the Paris Agreement, Switzerland contributes at least CHF1 billion per year to international climate finance. For this, Switzerland mobilizes new [public & private] financial means, in addition to fulfilling its obligation to provide 0.7% of GDP to development assistance.
  4. [Loss & Damage Vision] With its climate footprint, Switzerland contributes more appropriately to the support of L&D affected people in developing countries.
  5. In multilateral bodies and in the global climate debate, Switzerland is committed to the consistent and timely implementation of the Paris Agreement. The Federal Council is working in particular to ensure that the rules and criteria for mobilizing and crediting international support and climate financing are interpreted in the spirit of the 1992 Framework Convention on Climate Change. This means first and foremost taking the precautionary, polluter-pays and other relevant Rio principles as a basis and promoting effective policies to support those most affected by the climate crisis.

Current situation

Anyone who takes climate responsibility seriously knows that our climate footprint also includes GHG emissions caused by the consumption of imported goods and international flights outside our national borders. In the sense of polluter-pays justice, it is a matter of assuming responsibility for the consequences of one's own emissions for third parties: If, of all people, the poorest in the world, who themselves have contributed least to climate change, are hit hardest by its effects, those who are mainly responsible for them must make a financial contribution. Climate justice therefore also means that the consequential costs of the climate change caused by our consumer behavior must be adequately borne.

In accordance with the territorial principle underlying the UNFCCC Kyoto Protocol, however, the targets in the existing CO2 law only refer to emissions from transport, housing, agriculture, waste and industry within Switzerland's borders. Swiss climate policy thus excludes additional emissions of over 1,150 million tons of CO2eq per year caused by persons or companies’ resident in Switzerland outside the country's borders. This includes emissions generated abroad during the production of goods and services destined for Switzerland. According to the residence principle, the Swiss Federal Statistical Office estimates these foreign emissions of Switzerland to be 76.1 million tons CO2eq in 2015, which is almost two thirds of Switzerland's total consumer-related footprint of 116.2 million tons CO2eq per year.
This figure does not include emissions caused by the Swiss financial center's facilities and investments. According to the Swiss Climate Alliance, these emissions are several times higher than the domestic GHG emissions. The question is: Who bears the (climate) responsibility for this?

The consideration of global responsibility plays no role in Switzerland's current view and policy. This must change: Switzerland must take its influence on the global climate crisis seriously, and assume its responsibility with regard to emissions triggered worldwide by its consumption and behavior and the resulting effects.
The Federal Council also wants to claim additional foreign certificates amounting to 10.8 million tons of CO2eq per year as domestic reductions. Measured in terms of domestic emissions, domestic and foreign reductions are to be reported together as a total reduction of -50%. Measured in terms of Switzerland's total footprint, however, total emissions are only 2.2% lower than in 1990.

Climate justice

Climate justice means choosing a political approach to man-made climate change that meets ethical criteria, not only with regard to future generations, but also in the historical-geographical context: some are responsible or profit, others feel the consequences or have to pay for them. It is therefore not acceptable to consider the dramatic consequences of global warming as a purely technical environmental problem. That would be unfair.
Climate justice as a concept includes not only the generational (justice) question - "you are leaving us a world at the abyss, you have created a problem that we must solve" - but also global distribution and equality issues.
In its origins, the term "climate justice" goes back to the drafting of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 1992, when the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions was negotiated for the first time. It was shaped by human rights and equality considerations and the demand that every inhabitant of the earth should be entitled to the same limited "emissions budget". Because the wealthy countries of the Global North had built their prosperity in the 20th century on the burning of cheap fossil fuels, it is a priori unfair to deny the Global South the same now. In the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, for example, the countries of the Global North were required to reduce their emissions; countries of the Global South should be allowed to continue using fossil fuels for the time being.

In the face of progressive climate change, the demand for global equal treatment must be reinterpreted from a right to a duty: Everyone must make an equal effort to reduce their climate footprint. This means that large emitters such as Switzerland must contribute much more to the global reduction of man-made greenhouse gases than the countries of the Global South who are responsible per capita for far fewer emissions. As a principle, this view was already anchored in the 1992 Framework Convention in the approach of "common but differentiated responsibilities". In plain language, this means that if the global community wants to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions quickly, the wealthy industrialized countries - and increasingly also the emerging economies - must not only reduce their own, far too large CO2 footprint, but also support developing countries in their efforts to develop with as few greenhouse gas emissions as possible.
However, climate justice as a normative concept needs to be thought of further today, beyond the question of reducing greenhouse gas emissions: Basically, it is about the unequal distribution of cause and effect of the climate crisis. The ongoing climate crisis manifests itself in very different ways in different parts of the world. And the means of containing climate change or guarding against its negative effects are distributed very differently.
Put simply, climate justice culminates in the imperative that every person, every country, but also every corporation assumes responsibility for the climate; to participate responsibly and responsibly in the joint solution of the global climate problem according to the respective means and responsibilities.

Climate Finance

Tasks for poor countries used to focus primarily on the social and economic dimensions. Developing countries need to increasingly protect their population and invest in infrastructure to prepare for, and cope with, the impacts of climate change. Yet these countries in particular have hardly contributed to the climate crisis. However, in the Paris Agreement of 2015 - together with wealthy and bigger CO₂-emitting states such as Switzerland – they also committed themselves to reducing emissions.

In the Paris Agreement, the industrialized countries reaffirmed their commitment to jointly provide international climate financing of USD 100 billion per year - from public and private sources - for mitigation and adaptation measures in developing countries from 2020. The agreement does not prescribe how high the individual country contributions should be but calls on the industrialized countries to make a fair contribution based on the principles of the Framework Convention on Climate Change (responsibility and economic performance).
Contrary to international development cooperation, international climate financing is not aimed at combating poverty nor promoting prosperity but is intended to support developing countries in preventing and coping with climate change. For that, new and additional public funds are needed. Using the already limited resources of official development assistance (ODA) for this purpose – or merely claiming them a second time as international climate finance, as is sometimes the case today – is cynical and counterproductive.
In terms of climate financing, global climate justice means that the obligation of the industrialized countries under the Paris Climate Convention to jointly provide USD 100 billion per year for climate protection and adaptation measures in developing countries must be scaled down to Switzerland on the basis of global climate responsibility.
To date, Swiss spending on international climate protection amounts to around CHF 300 million per year. This sum consists primarily of credited "climate-relevant activities" of regular development projects. Just under CHF 100 mio is paid annually to the multilateral climate financing instruments provided for this purpose. These contributions are financed from the framework credits of international cooperation – accordingly less money is available for existing development projects. The proportion of mobilized private funds is low.
For the period after 2020, the Federal Council (2011) assumes in its report on international climate financing of 10 May 2017 that "Switzerland's fair share of the common financing target of the industrialized countries [from 2020] should amount to USD 450 to 600 mio per year.

Alliance Sud and the more than 80 organizations of the Swiss Climate Alliance, on the other hand, state that a fair share of Swiss climate financing contributions must be at least CHF 1 bn per year (Jürg Staudenmann 2013), in line with the criteria of the Framework Convention on Climate Change: This is because both global climate responsibility and Swiss economic output are around 1 percent compared to all industrialized countries.
While it is true that development and climate measures in developing countries can complement each other in a certain way, Switzerland must not finance this "climate billion" at the expense of existing development cooperation. This is all the truer as the funds for development cooperation still fall well short of the long-promised 0.7% of gross national income (GNI). Switzerland must fulfill its international (financing) obligations in both areas on its own and on an equal footing.

Nevertheless, the Federal Council's 2017 report proposes "to achieve the Swiss share [...] public funds from existing sources and a significant proportion of mobilized private funds. [...] The public funds for Switzerland's international climate financing should continue to be financed primarily from the framework credits for international cooperation and, as before, from the framework credit Global Environment. The Federal Council wants to "examine to what extent Switzerland's international cooperation should make greater use of instruments to mobilize private funds or whether new partnership models with the private sector are possible that would favor the mobilization of private funds.” The report leaves open the question of how Switzerland intends to mobilize such financial resources within the framework of its climate financing commitment from 2020.

However, climate financing must not be at the expense of development cooperation. Supporting the poorest and most vulnerable populations in the Global South in the fight against climate change is not the same as fighting poverty or reducing inequality. The reduction of greenhouse gases (mitigation) and protection against the effects of progressive climate change (adaptation) can complement development cooperation, but never replace it. It is therefore cynical when Switzerland and other countries want to sell the same franc to developing countries twice; once as official development assistance and a second time as climate financing.

Figure 10-1: International Climate Finance needs to be mobilized in addition to already existing development assistance (ODA) (Alliance Sud 2019, 16).


Policy 10.1: Switzerland contributes CHF 1 bn in climate finance each year


Collection of Funds
The mobilized funds are pooled and prepared for payments or transfers (treasury, fund, program, foundation, etc.).

Finance Programs
The available funds are transferred to institutions, funds or programs to finance measures in the target countries (e.g. Green Climate Fund, direct investments in countries through bilateral [SDC/SECO/FOEN] or multilateral [World Bank or similar] development cooperation, etc.).

Use of Funds
The funds are invested in various projects, regions and sectors (e.g. in particularly poor developing countries or in island states, for mitigation or adaptation, etc.)


The Alliance Sud position paper "Climate justice and international climate financing from a development policy perspective" (Alliance Sud 2019) explores the link between climate and development tasks and proposes concrete solutions as to how CHF 1 bn can be mobilized annually in addition to development cooperation to support climate measures in developing countries in a way that is fair to the polluter.
Money is mobilized or generated through taxes, sanctions, levies, voluntary contributions, etc.

ITMOs and “Compensation” Abroad

The facts are clear: In its special autumn 2018 report, the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) stated that if global warming of more than 1.5 °C is to be avoided, then at most we can put only 420 billion tons of CO2eq into the atmosphere. If this "residual budget" is exhausted, then every additional ton of CO2eq emitted must again be extracted from the atmosphere. In purely mathematical terms this would require a 5% annual reduction in emissions compared to today. In this way, global greenhouse gas emissions could be halved by 2030 and reduced to net zero by 2040.

In August 2019, Switzerland joined the countries aiming to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions to net zero. The Federal Council left open the measures through which Switzerland has to become climate neutral, in particular how it plans to offset irreducible emissions for example from agriculture. Instead, it continues to opt for CO2 offsets abroad. If the Parliament continues to support this approach, Switzerland is heading for a series of major self-inflicted problems.

International law still offers no clarity how cross-border compensation projects are to be regulated after the entry into force of the Paris Agreement in 2021. Article 6 of the Agreement does indeed envisage the possibility for contracting states to exchange or trade certificates among themselves representing their effective emission reductions. The details regarding the manner in which the so-called Internationally Transferred Mitigation Outcomes (ITMO) are to come about and properly calculated are the subject of the last chapter of the Paris rulebook, which is still pending approval.

"Negative emissions" and afforestation
There is still the possibility to use "negative emissions" to offset greenhouse emissions where there has been no reduction, in other words, capturing and removing excess greenhouse gases (especially CO2 from the atmosphere and returning it to the soil or biomass for long-term storage. Very high-tech methods are already being tested for this purpose, though their practicability, economic efficiency and scalability are yet to be clarified. A more forward-looking solution, on the other hand, would seem to be the production of plant coal as a by-product of energy production from wood or biomass waste. Plant coal can in fact be absorbed into agricultural land over the decades, with proven positive effects.
At the heart of the debate are the "green" approaches to CO2 storage in the biomass or the soil. This ranges from (re)forestation of cleared land to the build-up of CO2 in the form of humus in agricultural soils. Reforestation is extolled largely uncritically as a key approach to solving the climate crisis. While even the experts themselves disagree as to the true absorption potential of newly replanted forests, some developmental objections should also be considered. The question arises, from a moral standpoint, as to the justification of rich countries with far above-average per capita carbon footprints for targeting developing countries as alternative locations for climate measures that they themselves have neglected to take. It cannot be that we are unwilling to seriously reconsider our lifestyle, while simultaneously demanding that the emissions it generates are economized far away from home. And there are still the complex issues surrounding the question of where exactly this massive reforestation is to take place. The displacement of people, very often indigenous people, for afforestation projects must be strongly condemned as it reinforces imperial practices. For further discussions on negative emissions see the corresponding chapter.

Measures Abroad are Needed - in addition, not instead of Domestic Measures
To avoid misunderstanding, there is no objection whatsoever to the conduct of effective climate projects outside of Switzerland in keeping with the principles of good international cooperation. On the contrary, the Paris Agreement expressly calls for support to developing countries in combating the climate crisis. But besides emission reduction, this also entails measures to adapt to climate change, which began a long time ago.
This is precisely the rationale of international climate funding, in which Switzerland must participate to the tune of at least one billion francs annually. Instead of supposedly "offsetting" the climate protection measures that we ourselves have failed to take, there should be additional international climate funding projects designed to benefit the local people directly.

It appears as an aberration to spend millions outside our national borders to purchase cheap reduction certificates. Instead, these funds should be available to protect the people in the Global South from progressive climate change through disinterested, effective reduction measures. This does not of course release us from the duty of simultaneously reducing our own carbon footprint.

The net effect of relying on negative emissions and purely mathematical "climate neutrality" is inevitably to postpone climate measures here at home. Not only is the outsourcing strategy unsafe, it is also morally dubious and economically short-sighted. But more than anything else, it cements a selfish climate policy that fails to challenge our lifestyle and its disastrous impacts on people in the Global South who are already suffering.

Policy 10.2: No Externalization of GHG Emissions


According to the Federal Council and Parliament, only three-fifths of the desired halving of Switzerland's domestic emissions by 2030 will actually take place here at home. Switzerland, like a handful of other rich countries, wishes to "offset" the remainder by purchasing ITMOs. Switzerland is therefore a leading advocate for the early conclusion of the arrangements on offsets under Article 6 of the Paris Agreement.


It seems appealing at first glance to offset emissions abroad, for it is cheaper, at least for now. A second look however raises the question of why increasing amounts should be spent each year to buy foreign emission reduction certificates whose additionality is questionable and cannot be guaranteed, instead of those millions being used locally to convert domestic structures to emission-free technologies and practices. It is simple logic that the strategy of outsourcing is destined to fail over the short or long term. Because all countries must reduce their emissions to net zero, foreign emission certificates will quickly become scarce. At the same time, demand will rise, and hence prices will increase accordingly. After the low-hanging fruit have been picked, there will soon be no more countries prepared to cheaply sell off the increasingly hard-won progress they have made towards climate neutrality. Switzerland will thus no longer be able to avoid having to eliminate its own emissions, and this irrespective of whether we have already paid for reductions abroad, that largely exist on paper only and contribute in actuality to less reductions than is officially declared and certified, if any at all.

Questions and Uncertainties

In order to ensure that offsets reflect credible emission reductions, the following key conditions would need to be met:

  • Additionality, i.e. the activity generating the offset cannot be business as usual
  • Conservative baseline: the aggregation of all country baselines that determine the volume of offsets needs to be consistent with a 1.5 °C mitigation pathway
  • International oversight of offset creation needs to be assured. Non-controlled voluntary markets shall not be able to generate offsets.

However, currently none of these conditions are met and it is beyond the power of the Swiss state to decide upon these issues solely. Offsetting emissions is therefore no option at the moment.

Climate Diplomacy and Collaboration

Policy 10.3: New Interpretation of International Trade Agreements


Switzerland declares that the respect for human rights and international agreements on climate protection clearly take precedence over the provisions of other international treaties, particularly trade agreements. In case of doubt, it suspends the application of provisions in trade agreements if they make it impossible to achieve the climate agreements and/or are contrary to human rights, and it refrains from demanding compliance with such provisions from other countries and therefore from resorting to arbitration. This applies, for example, to investor-state dispute settlement agreements that grant non-governmental arbitration tribunals the power to decide on national laws to protect the climate and achieve climate justice.


With this policy, Switzerland is providing the international impetus for this. As the location of many UN bodies and as an international trading power, Switzerland can use this policy to quickly and effectively set international policy in motion.
Each concrete case would then have its specific impact. Example: Subsidies for solar power installations produced within Switzerland could be important to build up competences and capacities within Switzerland. Such subsidies could be interpreted as a violation to WTO-rules asking for equality of treatment. Other example: Switzerland bans certain products for their inbuilt obsolescence. If these products are only imported, this could again be interpreted as a violation of equality of treatment.


If there are any financing effects, they depend on each concrete case.

Social Compatibility

Again, effects depend on each concrete case. Should for instance a border tax adjustment be brought to an arbitration tribunal, effects would be completely different from a case concerning product-based rules.

Questions and Uncertainties

The policy can create conflicts with other countries or with the institutions linked to trade agreements. But if we seriously want to reduce GHG-emissions, such conflicts cannot be avoided. Instead, movements, NGOs and public entities must offensively make clear that human rights and climate protection agreements must be given priority over trade agreements. They must fight together on an international level for such a policy change.

Policy 10.4: Prioritizing Human Rights, Peacekeeping, Climate Protection and Climate Justice in International Law


Within the UN framework, Switzerland proposes the creation of a clear order of priorities. In this context, agreements on international law, human rights, peacekeeping, climate protection and justice should be given priority over all other international treaties, particularly trade agreements. Thus, provisions in international agreements that contradict these priority agreements are suspended. Violations of the priority law should also be sanctionable.
Switzerland is setting up a coordination office in order to win over as many partners as possible at all levels for such a project and is making available an annual sum of CHF 5 million for this purpose. Partners should not only be states, but also NGOs, social movements, municipalities and so on.


This policy can focus on the will of the international community to make decisive progress in climate protection, justice in the media and human rights and to create clarity about the order of priorities in international treaties.
A resolute initiative by Switzerland for a global constitutional law alone will bring movement to global politics and make it possible to bring new alliances into play.


Five million francs per year from the confederation's general financial resources.

Social Compatibility

The combination of human rights and climate policy promotes the orientation towards global climate justice and social compatibility of climate policy.

Policy 10.5: The Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty (FF-NPT)


The idea behind the FF-NPT is simple: Its goal is to phase out fossil fuels through a legally binding treaty. As outlined by Newell and Simms (2020) the FF-NPT would contain three pillars: non-proliferation, disarmament and the promotion of peaceful use of technology. ‘Non-proliferation’ refers to the prevention of exploitation of new fossil fuel resources. ‘Disarmament’ means the coordinated, managed and accelerated decline of existing fossil fuel infrastructure. For the third pillar Newell and Simms (2020, 1047) suggest to massively expand “existing initiatives to provide poorer countries with access to low carbon and non-fossil-fuel clean energy and transport, and the technology needed for its development.” To finance these projects, they propose to reuse former fossil fuel subsidies.

The FF-NPT is based on the existing example of the Non-Proliferation Treaty of nuclear weapons which was negotiated in the middle of the Cold War. The big difference to the Paris Agreement is it being legally binding with member states having the tool to impose economic sanctions on a party violating the treaty.

The role of Switzerland would be to bring this up in international climate negotiations and to take up a leading role in the negotiations, however, the UN needs to be the neutral party organizing the negotiation rounds. In a first step, the state of Switzerland gets in contact with the steering committee behind the FF-NPT and further explores how such a treaty can be implemented.


The authors propose for financing the third pillar that “[f]unds could be redirected from fossil fuel subsidies which make up the equivalent of 6.5% of global GDP, as well as generated through a global carbon tax and potentially held in [a] Global Transition Fund” (Newell and Simms 2020, 1047).


In the long-term the treaty will lead to the phase out of all fossil fuels on a global scale.

Social Compatibility

The central aspect of the second and third pillar are to ensure a just transition of the phase out of fossil fuels which includes a massive expansion of renewable energy sources in particular in the Global South.

Questions and Uncertainties

It is quite unlikely that a NPT for fossil fuels can be brokered as easily as the one for a nuclear NPT because of the much greater importance of fossil fuels in the economic system.