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Executive Summary

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


In our vision of a climate-neutral future, not only the existing buildings will be converted to being climate-neutral in terms of energy. The society will be reorganized in such a way that a life without greenhouse gas emissions is natural, that gives more joy and creates more purpose between us humans in comparison to our present, often loud, ruthless and rushed "being driven".

In the buildings sector, greenhouse gas emissions and other waste are prohibited, both during construction and operation. All materials and resources are recycled, reused or can be returned to nature. Property and ownership rights are also adapted in such a way that the residents have a much greater say in the design of their living environment. Wherever possible, living is organized non-profit (e.g. cooperatively) because with real estates no profit is made any longer: Living is a basic right, not a commodity. All new buildings are built as plus energy houses and serve at the same time as CO2 storage.

Wherever constructional development is necessary, it is condensed in places that are well connected to public transport - preferably in the cities. However, very few additional buildings are needed, since both commercial properties are used more efficiently through new ways of working and the amount of private space per person is decreased. This is because diverse neighborhoods (for 300 - 800 people) are being created in the cities and in the villages, whereas as many things as possible such as rooms, infrastructures, workshops, services for daily needs are shared and maintained together (commons). Needs that do not have to be satisfied in every neighborhood are organized in community centers, district centers or citywide. This joint organization makes living affordable for everyone, significantly reduces the amount of private space needed and makes everyday life much easier. Much is also changing at the regional level: Workplaces are far less concentrated in the large agglomeration centers such as Zurich, Basel, Bern, Lausanne or Geneva, but are more evenly distributed throughout the area (and of course well served by public transport) - in keeping with the credo of a city of short distances. On average, the daily commuting distances are in this way becoming shorter. Where many commuting distances are within walking or cycling distance, the streets are also becoming a place to live and to meet. Because local life is so exciting, varied and worth living, recreational traffic is also decreased. Our cities and villages are less sealed and better adapted to global warming. Trees, green roofs and facades, as well as water elements such as streams and ponds, contribute to cooling the local climate and food is planted in the heart of our settlements as a supplement. In general, there are more synergies between urban, peri-urban (around the cities) and rural areas. The potentials of the different areas of action are well utilized everywhere: Climate neutrality is lived everywhere - although in very different ways according to the respective local conditions.

All developments that were still necessary are extremely economical in their use of soil: Valuable soils remain unsealed, so that they are not only available for food and goods production but can also resume their role as carbon sinks once agricultural practices have been adapted. Diversity in flora and fauna is increased significantly as a result of greater structural diversity in the entire settlement area, whether built on or in the landscape. Nature is healthy and is becoming increasingly richer, more beautiful and more climate resilient itself, thus - together with us - reducing CO2 on a large scale!

Our quality of life will increase due to the better climate-neutral buildings, the solidarity in the neighborhoods and the new connection to nature and agriculture. Our living is happier, more active, more communal and healthier. - Many people used to associate the terms "sustainability" or "net 0" with "less allowed" and "more musts". Today we understand: Our consumption-intensive, structurally conditioned individualism actually meant above all great loneliness, pressure or stress to raise funds and exhaustion of resources. We are all more relaxed now, because the necessary material "less" has become a life-enhancing "more". We recognize that we can create, share and enjoy many things together, instead of despairing and relinquishing in solitude.

Figure 3-1: In a condensed perimeter block neighborhood (approx. 100 x 100 m floor space, up to 8 floors), approx. 500 people can live and partly also work.

Current situation

Buildings and Architecture


The construction, renovation and operation of buildings are responsible for around 30% of all CO2eq in Switzerland, 40% of which is caused by the building materials used and around 60% attributable to operations (Gauch et al. 2016).
About two thirds of building emissions come from private households (heating and hot water), one third from industry and commercial buildings. Although the energy demand per capita for heating and hot water has fallen continuously (Roost et al. 2018), Switzerland has still very high per capita emissions in the building sector.
A large proportion of this is heating and hot water, which, despite a decline in the use of fossil fuels, are still powered mainly by oil and gas (60%). Even today, defective heating systems are often replaced by new oil heating systems. Overall, around 60% of all newly installed heating systems are still based on fossil fuels (Federal Statistical Office).

Grey Energy

Grey energy is the amount of primary energy required for all upstream processes, from raw material extraction to production, processing and disposal, including the necessary transport and auxiliary materials. The resulting greenhouse gas emissions are significant. In today's new buildings, grey energy accounts for approximately one quarter of the total primary energy used for construction, operation and mobility. At 40 to 50 kWh/m2 , this is a large share in the energy balance compared with the energy required for space heating and hot water (Energie Schweiz 2017).

In the case of zero- or plus-energy houses, the share of grey energy is of course even more significant and must also be significantly reduced for a real net zero solution.

Construction activity

Although Switzerland is already very densely built-up, there is still a lot of building activity, driven by population growth and a changed amount of space used per inhabitant. This is mainly due to more individual dwellings and older people who have a higher demand for space. The average living space per person in 2018 was 46m2 (FSO 2018), for persons over 65 years even at 70m2. Construction activity is expected to remain at a high level in the coming years (approx. 45.0 million m3 per year).

Although today's standard for new buildings is much stricter, especially in terms of thermal insulation and energy consumption, building permits will continue to be issued for buildings without renewable energy production and with fossil fuel heating systems. The CO2eq emissions caused by construction are usually not even included in the energy balance of the houses, so that concrete, metal and glass continue to dominate, causing excessive CO2eq pollution.

Refurbishments and Renovations

The rate of energy-related refurbishment of existing buildings is currently around 1%. In order to achieve the climate targets, the rate would have to be significantly higher, at around 10% per year from 2021 to 2030.

It should also be noted that building components have different lifetimes and need to be replaced at different times during the entire life of the building. There are no meaningful statistics on the amount of grey energy used to replace building components. In addition, the annual amount of demolition material from buildings is also important, which is currently estimated at around 16 million tons and is expected to increase further.

Legislation and Standards

More than 140,000 paragraphs and over 20,000 EN standards and recommendations and, respectively, guidelines regulate construction activities and buildings at federal, cantonal and municipal level or through associations and clubs. For example, the CO2 Ordinance is at federal level and zoning is regulated at municipal level. Emissions can be influenced by legislation, e.g. through SIA 2040 Life Cycle Assessment or the CO2-levy on fuels, which has been increasing the price of fossil fuels since 2008. The levy currently stands at CHF 96 per ton CO2eq and could rise up to CHF 230. Two thirds of the proceeds of the levy will be redistributed to the population (via health insurance) and the economy, whereas one third will be used for innovation . However, the measures did not really lead to a significant reduction in emissions.

Due to this structure, changes in the law are very laborious and rarely fast. Therefore, a number of voluntary measures and incentives for rehabilitation have been introduced and more are planned. In addition, regulations from the financial industry could also have an impact on real estate, as the largest real estate owners in Switzerland are pension funds that have clear guidelines for their investments. On the other hand, it is often precisely pension funds that only build exactly according to regulations and do not incur additional costs for energy-related renovations.

Planning Phase

The tendering and planning of construction projects takes a long time, so much so that today's construction sites are based on plans that did not take climate change into account. However, it is precisely in the early planning phases that the framework conditions for the construction project are defined and the strategic decisions are made, which are also decisive for the expected CO2 direct and indirect emissions.

In addition, construction methods and housing structures have a major impact on local ecosystems and mobility. Here too, we are still not thinking in terms of systems, but are looking at each building and each construction phase isolated. This chapter has the aim to show how the construction and operation of buildings need to be changed in such a way that houses and cities are transformed from CO2 emitters to CO2 sinks, having an additionally positive impact on our environment and way of life and are also available and affordable for all sections of the population.

Spatial Development

Land use

The recent decades have been characterized by strong urban development in Switzerland. Land use statistics reveal that between 1985 and 2009, settlement and infrastructure areas increased by 23%, leading to the conversion of 584 km2 of open land into newly built-up areas. This corresponds to a surface larger than the total area covered by Lake Geneva, or an increase of 0.8 m2 per second (FOEN 2017). This evolution took place mainly at the expense of agricultural areas, which decreased by 5.4% in the meantime. This means that over these three decades, roughly 1.1 m2 of agricultural land disappeared every second (Fig. 3-2). This implies that less and less agricultural land is available for local food production. Should this situation lead on the long run to an increase in food imports, it could possibly affect Swiss carbon emissions. In fact, food imports account yearly for 9.3 million tons of CO2eq and represent about 60% of the total greenhouse gas emissions of the Swiss agricultural and food industry (2011 data, (D. Bretscher et al. 2014)).
Figure 3-2: Evolution of land uses 1985-2009 (in m2/s) (FSO 2019a).


Fertile soils are a prerequisite for the production of low-carbon local food, and it is essential to ensure their long-term protection. However, soils are more than two-dimensional surfaces supporting food production and the construction of roads, buildings and other infrastructures. They represent invaluable ecosystems and provide numerous lesser-known services such as e.g.: Carbon sequestration, water filtration and nutrient retention (Baer and Birgé 2018). In particular, soils are a key component of the global carbon cycle, since they regulate carbon exchanges between plants, the atmosphere and the pedosphere. Depending on climatic conditions, soil properties and land uses, soils may in fact act either as sinks or as sources of greenhouse gases (GHGs) (Ng 2019). In Switzerland, for example, the national research program NFP 68 recently concluded that Swiss soils store about 7 times more carbon than the atmosphere (Hagedorn et al. 2018). However, it also states that the carbon content of arable land has been decreasing over the past decades because of land use changes and agricultural management practices. In the same vein, a publication of the European commission recently stated that “if current trends continue, soils are likely to go on releasing large amounts of CO2 in the atmosphere, adding to ongoing climate change and cancelling out savings in emissions made by other sectors, such as industry or transport” (European Commission 2011).


In order to limit soil consumption and promote inward urban development, the federal law on spatial planning was partially revised in 2014. The new legislation is currently being implemented at municipal level: Compact urban development is implemented through infill redevelopment and densification, and developers as well as landowners are encouraged to use land more economically through a new tax levy. Concurrently, undeveloped building zones are reduced in size and reallocated between urban and rural areas.

In parallel, new instruments have been developed to encourage regional cooperation and cross-sectoral planning. For instance, agglomeration programs aim to better coordinate urban and transport development in order to reduce traffic load. However, much remains to be done in this respect. To name but one example: Around 4 million Swiss people commute daily between their home and their workplace (FSO 2019c). In doing so, they travel 30 km on average (round trip), and 52% of them use their private car to this purpose (FSO 2019c). Unfortunately, current policies tend to involuntarily increase commuting patterns by concentrating new infrastructures in agglomeration centers. Therefore, the ratio between job and housing opportunities (employment density, i.e. number of jobs per 100 inhabitants) tend to be higher in urban core areas than in smaller urban centers and suburban locations (Setz, Frank, and Suter 2019). Consequently, a large proportion of workers are forced to commute every day between their suburban homes to their workplaces in agglomeration centers. New approaches are urgently needed to reduce these commuting movements and their associated CO2 emissions by better balancing the job/housing ratio within agglomerations.


Policy Measures Buildings

We propose a package of different measures for the building sector. At the same time, the CAP also proposes cross-sectoral policy instruments that will also contribute to decarbonization in the building sector. They are explained in detail in the chapter Cross Sectoral Policies.

Policy 3.1: Ban and Replacement Obligation for Fossil & Electric Heating Systems


Still 60% of residential buildings are heated with oil or gas and fossil heating is still widely used in industry. At the same time, not all fossil heating systems are replaced by renewable energy systems at the end of their service life. And even if this were the case, it would take about 20 years (average life span of heating systems) until the building sector would be largely CO2-free in operation. Previous control instruments such as the CO2 tax and the building program were based almost exclusively on financial incentives. They were and are not able to ensure the necessary rapid transformation from fossil to renewable heating systems. It is therefore imperative that there are regulatory requirements for changing heating systems.

If politics had not ignored climate science for 30 years, it would still be sufficient to establish a gradually decreasing emission limit value (kg CO2 per m2 of energy reference area), which would apply at the time of the heating system change. (This approach is being pursued with the current revision of the CO2 law and is also the basis of the REDEM initiative.)

However, if decarbonization is to be achieved by 2030, we must ensure that:

  • Fossil and direct-electric heating systems from 2011 onwards will be replaced by a renewable system before the end of their roughly 20-year service life;
  • Fossil and direct-electric heating systems built before 2011 should be replaced by a renewable system at the end of their service life (but no later than 2030);
  • Every heating system installed in a new building is renewable;
  • In the case of particularly high thermal energy or heat output requirements (old, uninsulated buildings), additional renovation measures are triggered on the building envelope and/or heat output in order to limit the waste of scarce and valuable renewable energy sources.


This can only be guaranteed to be effective with a regulatory legal requirement with the following key points, which come into force on 01.02.2021.

  • Legal obligation to replace all or part of fossil-fueled and direct-electric heating through a renewable system in the building stock for all types of buildings
    • favored variant a) for all heating systems equally by 31.12.2030 at the latest; an equal utilization of capacity by trade, manufacturers and suppliers is guaranteed by financial incentives (see below)
    • alternative variant b) for all heaters graded according to service life (heaters built up to and including 2000 must be replaced by 2021, 2001-2002 by 2022, 2003-2004 by 2023, etc.)
    • alternative variant c) a combination of the two, which is more regulatory than a) and allows more individual flexibility than b) with financial incentives (e.g. a three-year window for each heating system, depending on the age of the building, with decreasing compensation the longer the heating system is in operation)
  • Legal prohibition of new heating systems based entirely or partially on fossil fuels in new buildings of all types (renewable heating requirement)
  • Legal requirement to reduce the final energy demand of particularly inefficient buildings by energetic renovation of the building envelope (e.g. to at least GEAK/CECB/CECE class E) and/or - if an air-to-water heat pump is to be used - by replacing/expanding the heat output system to reduce the flow temperature to max. 40°.
  • Hardship clause for the obligation to replace existing systems and renovate the building envelope: If it turns out to be technically almost impossible or financially absolutely unreasonable to fulfill the above conditions, then exceptions can be granted and/or additional subsidies can be granted.
  • Heating financial compensation for system replacement costs and non-amortizable investment (NAI) due to premature replacement of the heating system through a subsidy amount graduated according to the age of the heating system (the younger the heating system, the higher the NAI and the higher the subsidy amount); for details see Policy 3.2.
  • Financial compensation building envelope for the partly high investment costs and non-amortizable investments (NAI) due to premature renovation of a building component; for details see Policy 3.2.

Which energy source is really sustainable?

Wood releases just as much CO2 during combustion as was bound during the growth of the tree. However, it is not sustainably available in unlimited quantities and must therefore be used primarily for applications where few alternatives to decarbonization are available (e.g. high-temperature processes in industry). Furthermore, the thermal use of wood, e.g. in EFH wood pellet heating systems, results in comparatively high emissions of pollutants. Wood heating systems are therefore not very suitable for densely populated areas. In any case, the best use of wood for climate protection is material and not energetic - e.g. as construction or furniture wood. Because this way the bound wood remains as long as possible far away from the atmosphere. Energetically only wood should be used, which is not or no longer materially usable or arises as waste, e.g. in sawmills.

For biogas and renewably produced gas (methane, hydrogen) the same applies: It should be used primarily for material and energy uses for which there are few decarbonization alternatives available so far (e.g. industrial processes, ocean shipping, etc.). For space heating and hot water, we must hardly waste the very limited quantities available for the time being.

Heat from waste incineration is only climate-friendly if it is non-fossil waste. A net zero heat supply can no longer take into account waste heat from the incineration of fossil waste from 2030 at the latest, because the fossil share in waste must be reduced to almost zero in the interests of climate protection and the circular economy.


This compilation serves as a very rough estimate of the additional financial requirements (compared to business-as-usual) to cover the upfront costs and non-amortizable investment costs for heating replacement:

  • 1.2 million fossil and direct electric heating systems across all sectors/building types (very rough estimate)
  • additional investment costs compared to a pure 1-to-1 replacement of CHF 30,000 on average across all sectors or building and heating types (very rough estimate)
  • in addition, investment costs that cannot be amortized due to premature replacement of heating in half of all heating systems amounting to CHF 10,000 on average across all sectors or building and heating types (very, very rough estimate)
  • Total: CHF 48 billion for the ten years from 2021 to 2030 (around CHF 5 billion p.a.)

For counter-financing or financial support for building owners see Policy 3.2.


The introduction of the above measures would reduce current emissions from the building sector from 12.6 Mt CO2eq/a to almost completely by the end of 2030. The other policy instruments in this chapter - such as the Climate Fund are mainly of a flanking character: They increase acceptance and social compatibility and/or reduce the costs of regulatory requirements. They only have a CO2 reduction effect of their own if they lead to climate protection measures that are not required by law or before they become mandatory.

Social Compatibility

About half of the owners of buildings with a fossil fuel heating system (businesses as well as private households) have to replace it prematurely, which means that investment costs cannot be amortized and have to be written off prematurely. In the interests of fairness, these additional costs should be largely covered by the general public (e.g. through the GHG-levy). In addition, there are investment costs for the system changeover to a renewable heating system, which are usually higher than a one-to-one replacement (i.e. from oil to oil, from gas to gas). These are usually more than offset over the life of the heating system by the lower operating costs but can be a challenge in terms of liquidity and willingness to pay. This also applies to the high costs of a building envelope renovation. In both cases, there is a need for funding offers for particularly affected, financially weak households (and companies). For details see Policy 3.2.

Questions and Uncertainties

  • How do we minimize private and social costs through premature replacement of heating systems?
  • Do we need further flanking measures to limit the overuse of wood for energy purposes and to take account of the prospect of a decline in waste heat from waste incineration?

Policy 3.2: Climate Fund


The climate fund is similar to the existing building program in Switzerland, with improvements in the following aspects:

  • The total available funding volume must be significantly increased compared to today. It is not trivial to determine the required amount a priori. An estimate would be possible if plausible approximations of the additional financial requirements of the renovation measures were available (see “Financing” in Policy 3.1).
  • It is imperative that the funding criteria include those remedial measures:
    • Which have the greatest impact on climate protection in terms of quality assurance (above all changing the heating system from fossil to renewable) and
    • Which are prescribed by law (see Policy 3.1) and could cause social hardship (e.g. facade renovation due to high upfront costs), or
    • Which are not prescribed and are hardly ever taken voluntarily (due to a very long payback period or lack of cost-effectiveness over the lifetime of the component) and
    • Which do not involve any counterproductive uses in the overall system (e.g. scarce biogenic energy sources for space heating/hot water, where other solutions would also be possible).
  • The support rates for the various rehabilitation measures must be increased. They should be based on the following criteria:
    • In the case of compulsory refurbishment, they must take into account the age of the systems concerned in the case of early replacement of heating systems/components: For instance, the younger the heating system to be replaced early, the higher the Investment costs that cannot be amortized and the higher the aid rate.
    • In the case of voluntary refurbishments, the subsidy rates must be so high that the owners subjectively perceive them as a relevant subsidy contribution. Only then will they act as a de facto incentive for those who would not have carried out energy efficiency improvements anyway. (This also reduces the deadweight loss effect, because with low subsidy rates only those who would have renovated anyway due to other reasons (e.g. climate protection) will take advantage of the subsidy.
    • In both cases, the rates could also be graduated to a certain extent according to the respective climate protection effect: The higher the effect on reducing the final energy demand and the lower the life-cycle emissions of the new component, the higher the subsidy rate.
  • In addition, hardship clauses (or similar) are needed to ensure that in technically difficult cases and where the costs are not socially acceptable, the support rates can be increased further.

It makes sense for the Climate Fund to remain at federal level, as this is where the revenues from the GHG-levy are pooled. Building owners should have access to the same promotional offers regardless of the canton in which they are located. In particular, the level of subsidies should not depend on the extent to which the canton in question provides additional funds of its own (see Financing). The above changes should take effect simultaneously with the entry into force of the regulatory requirements (see Policy 3.1).


The funds for the buildings program should continue to be financed to a large extent by the proceeds of the further increasing CO2 levy, because this is in line with the polluter-pays principle and is budget-neutral. For this reason, it does not seem appropriate to continue the existing mechanism (basic amount from the confederation from the CO2 levy, supplementary amounts from the cantons from their respective budgets). In the past, this has led to very low promotion budgets in many cantons and a lack of constancy in the promotion offer. It would seem sensible to set the share of subsidies from the federal CO2 levy at a level that, in combination with the other instruments, would allow the remediation and climate protection goals to be essentially achieved, so that there would be no dependence on the fluctuating willingness and ability of the cantons to provide subsidies. The additional funds required for this purpose can (hopefully) be generated from the rising revenue from the increasing CO2 levy. For social equalization, a large proportion of the tax revenue (⅔?) must continue to be redistributed to the population and companies.


The climate protection effect directly attributable to the support program will probably be quite small. This is because, essentially, financial support is provided here for remediation measures that are prescribed by the above-mentioned regulatory requirements and therefore have to be carried out anyway. The funding instruments are primarily of an accompanying nature: They increase acceptance and social compatibility and/or reduce the costs of the regulatory requirements. They only have a CO2 reduction effect of their own if they lead to climate protection measures that are not prescribed by law or before they become mandatory.

Social Compatibility

In principle, the funding instruments serve to increase the social acceptability of other instruments (among others Policy 3.1).

Questions and Uncertainties

No open questions.

Policy 3.3: Promotion of Bio-Based Building Materials


To promote production, supply chain and usage of bio-based construction materials, in alignment with a recent proposal from the French government (Nelson 2020), any new construction project in Switzerland must contain at least 50% wood or other organic materials like hemp or straw by 2022.

By employing bio-based materials, technologies and construction assemblies with high carbon storage capacity and low embodied carbon emissions, we can create a durable, human made, global carbon pool while simultaneously reducing GHG emissions associated with building sector activities. Cities built from bio-based materials, such as engineered timber and bamboo, can serve as constructed carbon sinks (Churkina et al. 2020). Storing and maintaining carbon in these densely constructed carbon pools will help replenish the terrestrial carbon storage, thereby reducing current atmospheric CO2 levels and offsetting future emissions. Primary building superstructure is the heaviest share of overall building weight and therefore has the greatest capacity for carbon storage. Redirecting roundwood from use as a fuel to long-lived products would be the most beneficial for climate change mitigation. Bio-based building materials can also be readily applied to other components and systems that make up contemporary building assemblies such as interior finishes, thermal insulation, and interior and exterior furnishings (Wiprächtiger et al. 2020). Fast in growing bio-based materials, e.g. hemp and straw, have considerable potential for temporary carbon capture and storage when used as thermal insulation for the renovation of existing facades as well as in new constructions (Pittau, Habert, and Iannaccone 2019). Besides being less impact-intensive in production, wood and cellulose fiber insulations have the additional advantage of being made of waste materials. In comparison to other engineered carbon sinks, the option of storing carbon in buildings has obvious benefits. It takes advantage of evolving construction processes that will occur in any case and serves as a substitute for mineral-based structural materials causing high CO2 emissions.

The share of bio-based materials in construction in Switzerland is currently low. Only 14% of all primary building superstructure is being built of wood (Holzbau Schweiz, n.d.). Insulation materials are dominated by oil-based and mineral-based materials with bio-based insulation materials as niche applications.


Materials from renewable sources are in Switzerland generally more expensive than mineral and oil-based materials. Using materials with lower environmental impacts is therefore currently often related to higher costs. With increasing expertise as well as demand and supply chain of bio-based materials, it is expected that bio-based materials become cost-competitive with other non-bio-based materials as seen in other countries, e.g. Sweden, where wood-based constructions are cheaper compared to steel/concrete-based constructions.


In addition to the availability of forest resources, this transition will require changes in building codes, retraining the construction workforce, expansion of manufacturing capacities for bio-based products, and downscaling production of mineral-based materials. The transition will lead to downscaling of cement, steel, aggregate, limestone, and iron ore mining and production.

Social Compatibility

A precondition for achieving higher harvest levels and maintaining carbon storage in forests is preserving forest sustainability and continuing re-forestation efforts. Increased demand for timber in construction would have to be supported by a strong legal and political commitment to sustainable forest management and robust forest certification schemes.

Biogenic materials, if not produced from waste, may however produce adverse impacts with regard to land use and eutrophication.

Questions and Uncertainties

The fundamental difference in using timber for long-lived products rather than biofuels is the fate of carbon after timber harvest. While all carbon contained in 1 t of timber is emitted to the atmosphere when timber is burned, this carbon will be retained on land if timber is converted to long-lived wood products. In the latter case, carbon has a potential to be stored on land indefinitely once technologies are developed to process and safely landfill unrecyclable wood from demolished buildings.

Policy 3.4: Expert Commissions to Develop the Net Zero Compatibility of Existing Laws and Building Regulations


Building regulations today sometimes make it difficult to build and renovate with climate-friendly and sustainable technologies and materials or indirectly prevent better solutions. Examples are regulations on the minimum number of parking spaces for individual traffic, insufficient consideration of life cycle analyses for specifications in the insulation sector, or the existence of single-family house zones (see info-box).

Building laws should be adapted at the national, cantonal and municipal level to allow net zero to be reached quickly. In order to work out which regulations need to be adapted, expert commissions (architects, builders, executors and, if necessary, administrative representatives) should be formed at national, cantonal and communal level to make proposals for the necessary changes.

Such revisions would then have to be incorporated into the respective legislation via political processes.


Minimum number of parking spaces for individual traffic
In Basel-Land, there is a requirement for 1.3 parking spaces for apartments and 0.5 for workplaces. Such regulations result in the promotion of individual transport with private cars and prevent the realization of innovative mobility concepts aimed at reducing CO2 emissions. In addition, they also increase the energy-intensive excavation volumes caused by the underground car parking that has become necessary.

Cantonal energy laws

Based on the SIA 380/1, cantonal regulations which set requirements for components of the building envelope are issued. The requirements relate to the energy transmission, and this in turn influences the heating and cooling needs during operation. Since the focus is on heat transfer coefficients and not the entire life cycle emissions are considered, sometimes false incentives are given for materials. More attention needs to be paid to the energy input for product manufacturing and its lifetime as well as its recyclability or CO2 storage capacity. 

Guidelines and recommendations of private organizations
Information sheets and recommendations from organizations can be used to enforce private interests in a non-democratic way, if they are linked to security aspects. For example, the Advisory Center for Accident Prevention (insurances) can define massively stricter regulations through its leaflets on railings, without weighing up the goods. Or the SIGAB guideline 002 (glass industry) defines where LSG/tempered glass should be used. These recommendations (and many others as well) must now be implemented, as courts will refer to them in case of doubt. If owners do not want to take any risks, some buildings have to be retrofitted intensively.

Tax incentives
Vacancies are subsidized in certain cantons through tax breaks.


Expert commissions could be set up at the respective level without high costs.


No directly measurable effect on greenhouse gas emissions would be possible here. However, the measure is nevertheless necessary and helpful to promote sustainable decarbonization.

Social Compatibility

This measure should have no negative effects.

Questions and Uncertainties

How can it be ensured that the proposals are also promptly implemented politically?

Policy 3.5: One-Stop-Shop Advice Centers


In order to achieve decarbonization of all buildings by 2030, extensive retrofitting of the existing building stock is required. Many homeowners and tenants will be affected by this. In order to facilitate the conversion to carbon-free buildings, independent one-stop-shop advice centers should be set up for those wishing to retrofit, with information on technologies, measures, procedures, costs, financing and subsidies. Such advice centers must be set up in all cantons and larger cities. Several cantons already have such centers, but they should orientate them more towards climate compatibility.

The canton of Aargau can serve as a model: Under the name "energieberatungAARGAU" (Energy Consulting Aargau), the canton operates a central contact and information point to answer questions and offers support on topics such as energy efficiency or enforcement of cantonal energy legislation. The consulting services are divided into 3 areas:

  • Consulting for individuals, industry, businesses and service sector
  • Consulting for communities
  • Information events

Private individuals thereby have the possibility of getting a rough analysis and rough answers to questions within the range of the building technology and/or the building envelope by means of a consultation. In order to ensure the correct realization during planning as well, a planning consultation is offered: Before the planned project comes into the detail treatment, respectively to the execution, together with their partners like architects and/or building services planners, owners can have their project checked by energy consultants for energetic optimizations and the efficient and sustainable use of energy. The impulse consultation "renewable heating" shows how heating systems in residential buildings can be replaced by sustainable and ecological heating systems. And with the GEAK/CECB/CECE. Furthermore, property owners receive an analysis of the energy status and efficiency of their building. The condition is indicated on the energy label in classes A (very efficient) to G (low efficiency). Thanks to this wide range of services, all questions of homeowners and tenants can be answered professionally.


In principle, consultations that result in the reduction of CO2 emissions in the building sector are already subsidized by the confederation from the revenues of the CO2 steering levy. In addition to a basic contribution to the cantons, the latter finances the services with ⅓, the remaining ⅔ are reimbursed by the federal government. All of the above-mentioned offers are already financially supported in the canton of Aargau. Additional funding or coverage of the total costs would further encourage this.


Information is key to the success of a rewarding implementation. It is important that homeowners and tenants know their options so that they can make the right choice at the right time. In addition, questions such as financing the implementation and legal hurdles can be addressed in advance.

Social Compatibility

It should not be expected that such a consulting offer is socially incompatible. Particular attention is to be directed towards the owner-tenant dilemma, whereby the tenants only retain an insufficient influence on renewals.

Questions and Uncertainties

No open questions.

Policy 3.6: Renovation Incentives in Rented Buildings


The owner-tenant dilemma (also known as user-investor dilemma, split incentive, or principal agent problem) describes the problem that investments are not made because the investor cannot achieve a reasonable return on his investment in the long term. The user, on the other hand, would profit from the (lacking) investment, but does not have to pay for it. However, because the landlord can largely pass on his investment costs under Swiss tenancy law (see above), the owner-tenant dilemma is not a direct obstacle to retrofitting. However, the cost-benefit constellation leads to landlords not feeling a strong retrofitting incentive even with strongly rising energy costs (e.g. by a CO2-tax, see Policy 1.2).

In order to change this - i.e. also to promote energy-efficient refurbishments that are not required by law (see Policy 3.1) and at the same time provide tenants with protection against excessive energy costs, corrections need to be made to the extent of which energy costs are passed on to tenants (see below).


Usage related allocation of energy costs

Currently the tenant bears the full costs for space heating and hot water. However, this is only partially on the basis of services used. Because not only his behavior, but also the building characteristics (which can be influenced at best by the landlord) affect at least the space heat requirement - on average similarly as strongly as the behavior. A solution in which the tenant pays only a part of the room heating costs (e.g. 50%) depending on the energy consumption and the rest (e.g. 50%) is paid as a lump sum. The lump sum is based on the room heating requirements of an average building. It should be gradually reduced in order to reflect the increasing public expectations regarding the efficiency standard of buildings. The owner of a building that consumes an above-average amount of energy or does not meet the respective efficiency standard (e.g. a certain GEAK/CECB/CECE class) pays a higher contribution to the room heating costs than he receives from the tenant as a lump sum. This gives him a direct incentive to reduce these costs through energy-related renovation measures, as he can keep 50 centimes of every franc saved in energy costs for himself. The tenant benefits of this because he or she no longer has to bear the full energy costs for particularly inefficient buildings. At the same time, he or she retains a certain financial incentive to reduce the energy consumption that he or she can influence by making changes in behavior (ventilation, room temperature, etc.). The previously applicable provisions in tenancy law (OR Art. 257b (Bundeskanzlei, n.d.) and VMWG Art. 4 (The Swiss Federal Council 2018)) must be adapted accordingly.

Further Measures

A number of measures are equally suited to protect the interests of tenants and to increase the rate of energy efficiency retrofitting (in this way reducing GHG emissions). However, they would have to be worked out in detail before they could be implemented. This includes:

  • The increase of the funding rates in the buildings program (see policy 3.2): This makes the buildings program attractive also for those owners who do not want to retrofit anyway. They are now also taking energy-related retrofitting measures. The subsidies reduce the allocated costs and are thus passed on to the tenants.
  • A GEAK/CECB/CECE obligation for new rentals: This gives tenants transparency about the energetic quality of the apartment and the approximate expected service charges (whereby the latter are of course additionally determined by user behavior). In this way, landlords get a reason and an incentive to think about energy improvements of the building.
  • An extension of the consumption-based heating and hot water cost accounting ("VHKA") to all new buildings as well as all existing buildings where the heating is being renovated: It strengthens the polluter-pays-principle in the allocation of energy costs, because thereby the influence of the user behavior can be taken into account. At the same time, it serves as an incentive for the tenant to save energy. Ideally, the energy cost billing is designed in such a way that the tenant partly pays it according to consumption, size and location of the apartment and partly as a gradually decreasing flat rate (see above).
  • A rent reduction right in the event of failure to renovate: This would have a de facto effect similar to the above-mentioned flat-rate energy cost allowance, which is based on a high efficiency standard.

A claim for retrofitting on the part of the tenant if a gradually decreasing upper limit for energy costs is exceeded. This could - in addition to the regulatory requirements discussed in Policy 3.1 - act as a private law retrofitting requirement for rented buildings.


Most of the measures mentioned are associated with little (or no) additional investment costs. In some cases, such as the expansion of the VHKA/DIFC/CISR, the additional costs for equipment, maintenance and annual billing are covered by the savings in energy consumption. This is shown by before/after comparisons of buildings retrofitted for VHKA/DIFC/CISR, which show a significant reduction in consumption due to the VHKA/DIFC/CISR savings incentive.


The additional climate protection effect of the various measures cannot be quantified without precise knowledge of their exact design and the framework conditions (what other instruments are in effect). In principle, the same applies as for the funding instruments (Policy 3.2): The climate protection effect that can be attributed to the incentives under the tenancy law will probably be quite small. This is because most clean-up measures will be based on regulatory requirements. They will have their own CO2 reduction effect if changes in behavior are encouraged and investment climate protection measures that are not (yet) prescribed by the regulatory framework are initiated.

Social Compatibility

General remarks

In Switzerland, the landlord is allowed to allocate most of the expenses for energy-related retrofitting to the rent. Energy-efficient retrofitting of buildings often results in the rent increasing more than the ancillary costs decrease. The consequence is that the cost of living rises. It is true that tenants benefit from a professionally carried out energy-efficient retrofitting mostly through higher living comfort (less draught, no mould growth, better sound insulation). But that does not help those tenants, whose living costs are at the limit of the socially acceptable. It is therefore an important concern to make the framework conditions for energy-efficient buildings retrofitting to a level as socially acceptable as possible, without compromising climate protection goals.

The greatest socio-political relevance is probably the phenomenon that real estate is often emptied of its tenants when it is completely retrofitted, and in this case the rent can be freely determined after the retrofitting, so that - depending on the market situation - it is significantly higher than the old rent. In such cases the housing costs increase the most. However, this correlation is not primarily linked to energy-related building retrofits. Especially retrofitting for energy efficiency can usually be carried out without having to empty the building. It is rather the "luxury renovations", which concern bath, kitchen or even the living space division, which require a notice of vacancy. Those have little to do with energetic retrofitting, but rather represent some landlords’ strategy in order to be able to implement disproportionate rent increases even under the current tenancy law. If energetic retrofittings usually do not require emptying a building, it is of little use to disburse subsidies for energetic retrofittings (see Policy 3.2) only if the building has not been emptied. This would probably only prevent a few emptyings.

In principle, the tenancy law measures serve, among other things, to increase the social acceptability of other instruments (including Policy 1.2 and Policy 3.1). Some measures relieve tenants of some of the financial burden, while others are more likely to place a burden on landlords.

Questions and Uncertainties

No open questions.

Policy 3.7: Digital Material Archive and Component Market to Support Circular Material Cycles


Sustainable infrastructure must be built in such a way that all resources needed for production are fully reusable. This means that the materials used should no longer just be used and then disposed of, but should be reused, recycled, composted, etc. ("urban mining and recycling"). In this way, the share of grey energy can be significantly reduced. In order to promote carbon-neutral and carbon-storing constructions, instruments that enable circular material cycles are needed, such as building component material markets and digital building component archives.

  • Component markets and storage halls should be built regionally at logistically sensible locations. This could be done on a cantonal level.
  • A national digital building component archive can link the markets and provides a good overview of supply.

There are already such platforms and facilities for recycling of building materials (e.g., or A Swiss platform could therefore be created based on the experience of existing initiatives. Such a digital archive of building components could be created by the public or private sector.

Fundamental changes are needed to enable comprehensive circular material cycles for building construction and civil and underground engineering:

  • Planning for use and reuse, including recording of components and materials. The information stored today (construction plans, cadastral plans) is not sufficient to enable the recycling of building materials in the sense of a circular building economy,
  • Modularization and grade of purity, i.e. new materials and new designs will be necessary.

A digital building components archive and component markets are not sufficient for this fundamental renewal of the building industry, but together with other policy measures (e.g. standards, purity and documentation, as well as research and promotion of new sustainable building materials and techniques) they can make an important contribution to this transformation.


The costs of creating and operating a digital building components archive are manageable.
The costs of setting up and managing storage halls could be financed from the revenue of the products sold.
The costs of registering the components and reusing them could lead to additional costs for the building owner. These could be compensated however at least partly by the sales and/or use of existing construction units.


The grey emissions from buildings are considerable. Recycling reduces the demand for raw materials and consequently the grey emissions as well.

While the average share of embodied GHG emissions from buildings following current energy performance regulations is approximately 20–25% of life cycle GHG emissions, this figure escalates to 45–50% for highly energy-efficient buildings and surpasses 90% in extreme cases (Hondo 2005)

Social Compatibility

A digital material archive and component markets would not have any significant negative social impacts.

Questions and Uncertainties

No open questions.

Policy Measures Spatial Development

Any social action has a spatial dimension. Conversely, spatial development and spatial planning only indirectly influence greenhouse gas emissions. For instance, although good coordination of settlement and transport development aims at a society with less traffic, the possible savings effects cannot be quantified directly. Rather, spatial development is concerned with qualitative questions, which are, however, highly relevant for the discussion of a climate-neutral future (cf. Vision): How do we organize ourselves as a society in space, how do we shape it, what ideas, hopes and expectations do we attribute to it? Practically all of the policies related to spatial development are directly related to policies from other subject areas (e.g. mobility, economic and political structure, agriculture, etc.) or are described in the specific chapter instead of here.

Spatial development is relevant at all levels of scale. Today, the design of development processes in spatial and urban planning has a great responsibility for the production of space. Such development processes are generally coordinated by the planning authorities (e.g. for cantonal and communal structure plans, zoning plans, proposals maps, as lead authorities for infrastructure planning, etc.). Since the 1990s, there has been a strong strategic tendency towards project-based planning. Hence important planning decisions are often not taken at the higher levels of society (confederation, cantons, city-wide) – they often remain merely vague here – but are (spatially) shifted backwards, e.g. to the level of site development. However, it is precisely here, at the level of concrete local development, that major restrictions on innovative approaches are applied as well (e.g. alternative traffic organization, massive reduction and re-organization of parking spaces etc.), as isolated solutions do not seem feasible in the context of competing cities and a lack of legal prerequisites. On the other hand, solutions at spatially superordinate level (community-wide, canton-wide) that attempt to counter the prevailing way of life, do quickly fail due to the competition among cities, too. Nevertheless, the local level plays a central role in social transformation – since it is only here, at the level of encounters and everyday life of people, that practices can be reinvented and lived. Whether in neighborhoods, in (car-free) districts, but also in the entire city with its surrounding countryside and its importance not only for recreation and leisure, but also for the production of agricultural goods for the cities.

The policies listed below address the facets of climate protection, climate adaptation and climate justice in different ways. On the one hand, they have a rather restrictive character (e.g. Climate Impact Assessments for Planning, Projects & Stock Development), on the other hand, they have an enabling character (e.g. Creating frameworks for development processes towards climate neutral cities and communities).

In addition, for a climate-neutral Switzerland, a number of other policies in the area of spatial development are beneficial or necessary, but since their effects are rather indirect, they are not described in detail here. The following are examples of such policies:

  • Enabling the re-localization of today's (globalized) production processes by securing land for commercial and industrial production: This will facilitate, for example, the re-appropriation of production-consumer relations and increase social resilience by reducing global dependencies. Last but not least ⅔ of Swiss CO2 emissions are imported into Switzerland as "grey emissions" in the form of goods, services and products.
  • If additional living space is required to counteract any housing shortage – and other mechanisms for moving closer together or reducing the specific living space requirement have been exhausted (cf. other policies, as well as: conversion of office workplaces, housing exchange, relocation assistance, etc.) – then it is important to build on the existing buildings (re-densification and interior development). High building density creates the conditions for good pedestrian accessibility, as well as for high density of encounters and experiences, which contribute to the creation of attractive and livable urban spaces and neighborhoods.

Spatial development measures for adaptation to climate change (from the danger of landslides due to permafrost’s thaw to heat stress in cities) are not discussed further here. A policy merely refers to the synergies with climate mitigation measures.

Policy 3.8: “Soil Index Points” to Secure High Soil Quality for Local Food Production and for a Limitation of Carbon Loss


Spatial planning aims to coordinate and operate a trade-off between different land uses, in order to steer spatial development. Municipalities and cantonal authorities apply the instrument of soil index points to ensure that new infrastructures are built primarily on low-quality or already degraded soils. By doing so, soil quality becomes a key driver of planning decisions and high-quality soils stay available for the local production of low-carbon and renewable goods (e.g. food, raw materials, building materials, fuels). In addition, carbon-rich soils remain unsealed and can be managed in order to limit carbon loss or even act as carbon sinks in the long run. Where necessary, the legal basis is adapted accordingly.

Goal and procedure: Soil index points allow to consider soil quality in spatial planning decisions, secure local food production, limit carbon loss, and foster inward urban development. The instrument works as follows (Grêt-Regamey et al. 2018):

  • A soil index is developed to assess the quality of the unsealed land across the country. Different criteria are considered and aggregated in this index, such as for example: "suitability for agricultural production", “carbon content”, "potential for carbon sequestration"
  • At cantonal level, the sum of the soil index points is then calculated. An annual cap is set to limit the yearly consumption of soil index points on the cantonal territory.


Until now, the legislation has rather focused on the quantitative aspect of soil protection (i.e., on the reduction of land consumption) and on the preservation of the most fertile soils through the designation of crop rotation areas. Few guidelines exist to account for soil quality in cases where land development is unavoidable or paramount for the general interest (e.g. to build infrastructure for the production of renewable energy). Soil index points aim to tackle this issue and include soil quality in spatial planning decisions in order to protect high-quality soils. However, soil index points should not replace other important criteria (e.g. accessibility, proximity to already built-up areas) to decide on the location of new building zones. Rather, this instrument should allow soil quality to be taken into account along with quantitative criteria (e.g. total area in ha) when weighing up the interests at stake (Grêt-Regamey et al. 2018).

Justification and link to other policies: The Climate Action Plan provides for a moratorium on new infrastructures until 2030 (see chapter Cross Sectoral Policies, Policy 1.1). However, exceptions are planned for key infrastructures that support decarbonization. Such facilities include, for example, renewable energy power plants. The construction of these infrastructures will require the building-over of additional land area and it is thereby crucial to ensure the protection of the qualitatively best soils.

Responsibilities: The instrument was originally developed to be implemented at municipal level. To ensure stricter implementation, the management of the soil index points could be delegated to the cantons, under supervision of the confederation.

Time period: As soon as possible. The instrument requires nationwide soil data and the aggregation of soil function maps into a soil index (Gmünder 2016). Such decision-making tools are not yet available and have to be developed first.


The development of soil index maps will be supported by the federal government and the cantons.


  • Preservation of soil quality (Gmünder 2016). By doing so, it ensures that high-quality soils remain available in the long run for the local production of low-carbon and renewable goods (e.g. food, raw materials, building materials, fuels). In addition, carbon losses are reduced, and soils may be enabled to act as carbon sinks in the long run;
  • Economical and sustainable use of the soil by using both qualitative (e.g. suitability for agricultural production, carbon content, potential for carbon sequestration) and quantitative (e.g. total area in ha, proximity to other developed areas) criteria to select the location of new building areas.
  • To reduce soil carbon emissions and even enable carbon sequestration, new land management practices such as the rewetting of peat soils or residue management are urgently needed (see Policy 6.31) As a prerequisite to such actions, the use of soil index points in spatial planning decision-making is key to prevent high quality soils from being built over and to concentrate new building zones on already degraded soils.

Social Compatibility

In order to meet the growing demand for living and working space without a massive extension of urban areas, spatial planning should aim at high-quality inward urban development.

Questions and Uncertainties

Soil index points are not yet used in Switzerland. However, the implementation of the instrument is currently being discussed in specialist circles. Abroad, soil index points have been used successfully for several years, e.g. in Stuttgart (Grêt-Regamey et al. 2018).

Policy 3.9: Implementation of Climate Impact Assessments for Planning, Projects & Stock Development


The goal of 2030 net-zero-compatibility is to be demonstrated by the planning authorities by means of climate compatibility tests for all current and future spatial planning projects in accordance with the polluter-pays principle. The same applies to essential structural developments within the framework of existing planning laws - whether in existing building zones or in areas with development plans / special building regulations.

For the implementation, the possible legal leeway is to be fully exploited or the necessary legal and regulatory prerequisites are to be created (e.g. in the Environmental Protection Act and the Ordinance on Environmental Impact Assessment); in particular, besides assets, planning must also be taken into account.

Existing environmental law already provides for the option of tightening existing emission regulations if it is clear that they are harmful (Art. 11) (The Federal Assembly of the Swiss Confederation 1983). With regard to the climate emergency and its urgency, the existing procedures of environmental impact assessment are to be extended or supplemented in such a way that

a) CO2 is substantially and comprehensively considered as a significant emission (including grey emissions and emissions from site-related mobility),

b) the reference to installations is extended to include planning (as known for years in Europe as Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) and discussed in Switzerland as "environmental impact assessment" ("Wirkungsbeurteilung Umwelt") and in some cases already binding at the cantonal legal level.

c) the threshold values are lowered (e.g. System sizes not only from 500 parking spaces upwards) and

d) the realization of projects under existing planning law is also subject to an examination in the context of approval procedures with regard to climate impacts.

For smaller projects, the climate compatibility assessment does not require a complete material-law examination of all other environmental issues. It must be proven under material law that effective climate protection (2030 net-zero-compatibility) is achieved with planning and project and is not undermined. Corresponding legal bases (lowering path / CO2 budget) are to be created for this.

In order to be able to carry out the verifications in a simplified way, it is recommended to provide appropriate planning and calculation aids.

Justification and link to other measures: The CAP plans a moratorium on new infrastructure until 2030 (see Policy 1.1). Exceptions are planned, however, for certain new buildings and facilities that promote decarbonization, as well as for developments in existing infrastructure (renovation and conversion). Here - as well as where any legal claims should stand in the way of the implementation of the moratorium - climate compatibility assessments are required to ensure that such projects are 2030 net-zero compatible.

The planning law currently applied in Switzerland permits a wide range of constructional developments. However, at the time of the adoption of the respective planning laws (zoning regulations, special building regulations) by the political bodies or the sovereign, the question of 2030 net-zero-compatibility of the plans was not included in the consideration processes. On the one hand, there is a lack of political awareness of climate issues, on the other hand, there is a lack of legal foundations.

Responsibilities: It is of the Federal Council: Adaptation of legal foundations and preparation of planning and calculation aids; planning authorities for the execution of the verification (planning authorities and applicants); enforcement authorities.

Time period: Immediately. The preparation of the documents will take some time. Until then, individual proofs can be used without the corresponding planning tools, or a certain moratorium applies until the corresponding proofs can be provided.


If interventions (planning or construction projects) affect the climate, the polluters are responsible for sufficiently demonstrating that the interventions are not harmful. The costs for the proofs are therefore to be paid by the intervening parties.


The climate impact of planning is increasingly acknowledged and is becoming a central criteria for it. Climate impact assessments provide decision-makers (in politics and public authorities, the sovereign) with the necessary basis for decision-making regarding greenhouse gas impact. Without them, it is not possible to make well-founded decisions about the climate compatibility of a project.

Social Compatibility

As long as it cannot be proven by climate impact assessments that projects are compatible with effective climate protection (2030 net-zero-compatibility), developments will be limited to existing buildings and infrastructure. (see Policy 1.1 "Moratorium on new infrastructure").

Questions and Uncertainties

How far does an appropriate adjustment of the UVPV/OEIE/OEIA (Verordnung über die Umweltverträglichkeitsprüfung/ Ordonnance relative à l’étude de l’impact sur l’environnement/ Ordinanza concernente l’esame dell’impatto sull’ambiente) by the executive alone already suffice? Which legal adjustments would have to precede this? How can a CO2 reduction path be specified in concrete terms: on a sectoral or subregional basis throughout Switzerland?

Policy 3.10: Creating Frameworks for Development Processes towards Climate Neutral Cities and Communities


Municipalities provide the necessary resources for socially initiated, local negotiation and design processes (rooms, material, possible information channels, possible remuneration, etc.) with the aim of implementing climate-neutral cities, municipalities, communities, neighbourhoods and public spaces. Where there is no initiative from the citizens for such design processes, the municipalities themselves become active in initiating these processes and, if necessary, accompanying them.

Justification and link to other measures: For the transformation toward climate-neutral cities, the initiatives emanating from existing institutions are obviously not yet sufficient. In particular, there has been too little willingness to take decisive action. It can also be assumed that the municipal administrations do not have the resources (personnel, knowledge, etc.) necessary for such processes. At the same time, the transformation will not be able to take place entirely without the existing institutions or completely bypass them. But how and with whom can the transformation to a climate-neutral future be shaped locally? How can neighborhoods, quarters, and public spaces be transformed so that they promote and encourage a climate-neutral life for all? In this context, the diversity of concrete situations in Switzerland will not allow for the one correct format or the one suitable form of institutionalization of alternative negotiation arenas. One could think of future workshops, climate assemblies or other cooperative discourses and large group-oriented processes. It is important, however, to establish and cultivate corresponding processes locally.

Municipalities - as bearers of the public interest - basically have a central function here. However, if they cannot (or do not want to) fulfill this function, they are at least obliged to provide the resources necessary for such processes. This can include - in recognition of their commitment - rewarding those who play a decisive role in shaping these processes.

Just as possible formats, settings and forms of institutionalization cannot be generally prescribed, the principles by which such processes are oriented cannot be generalized. Nevertheless, various principles can serve as orientation for such processes:

To be searched for / tried out are:

  • Dissent clarification
  • Consensus orientation (consensus: no serious, justified objection)
  • Discourses that are binding in terms of content and not arbitrary; commitment to a net zero orientation by 2030 and the consideration of climate justice. In addition, questions of climate adaptation and ecological functionality (protection of species) should be central.
  • Sufficient appreciation of the commitment (time / remuneration).

To be avoided are:

  • Forms of "strategic integration”. Bernd Sahler identifies them as follows: Discussion rounds are convened by government representatives; They select the facilitators, the mediators, the chairpersons of the meeting; The topics and discussion points are determined by the mediators; There is no "equality of arms" between the two sides from the outset; The persons and groups involved are not granted the right to make decisions (Wilk and Sahler 2014).
  • forms of a "simulative democracy" (Blühdorn 2013), which protects vested interest and with which the existing, unsustainable order of injustice is secured through democratic procedures.
  • Forms of selective democratization through which exclusively or predominantly groups with strong articulation (e.g. politically, financially, symbolically and culturally powerful groups) have their say and minority positions are structurally disregarded.
  • Strict orientation towards consensus, since this favors the danger of a unity of content, and marginalizes disputes; Deviating or weakly articulated positions through an implicit pressure of silence.
  • Solidification of processes due to permanent (paid) positions of power.

Responsibilities: Committed people / users (residents, businesses, etc.), communities.

Time period: Immediately; To be maintained


Different for each process. For small municipalities, it should be possible to apply for financial assistance (cantonal, federal). Funds are provided from climate funds or newly created transformation funds.

Municipalities and institutions must make rooms available free of charge (community rooms, schools, church rooms, etc.).


High; corresponding processes are to be designed in such a way that they have a multiplication effect on site as learning and design processes at the same time; innovation processes and municipal change management lead to the feasibility of solutions that previously lacked majorities.

Social Compatibility

Is among other things the result of these processes.

Questions and Uncertainties

It is currently not clear in what dynamics such processes will be implemented. They could be made a prerequisite for the approval of municipal planning guidelines; However, the focus should be less on formalization than on the quality of the processes. What incentives communities have for participating in such processes should be examined locally. One possibility is to link them to questions of climate adaptation, which is an effective method of bringing climate protection issues into focus. (Böschen et al. 2014)

Policy 3.11: Creating Frameworks for Walkable and Livable “Cities of Short Distances”


Municipalities and private individuals help to ensure that favorable conditions for livable "cities of short distances" are provided locally. They do this by creating suitable conditions on three levels: spatial planning (availability of land), infrastructure (inviting footpath networks) and supply-side (promotion of a variety of local service offerings). Here, walking is particularly encouraged ("walkable city").

Justification and link to other measures: The "city of short distances" provides the framework for an alternative (local) mobility culture by avoiding traffic (shorter distances), shifting it (compatible modes of transport such as walking / cycling) and improving it (greater urban compatibility than car traffic). Contrary to frequent assumptions, however, it is not primarily created by a mixture of uses, density, good public transport or attractive outdoor spaces, but rather by low speeds or high spatial resistance (see various policies of the WG Mobility, as well as Policy 3.13) (J. Müller and Lange 2016). Walking is not only the most climate-friendly form of mobility, it also has no negative consequences, neither for urban coexistence nor in terms of other effects on the "environment". Walking therefore plays a major role for a world that wants to get by with far less resource throughput for transport. In addition, walking is healthy in many respects, is available to everyone, costs nothing, brings people into conversation, etc. Walking is part of the promise that resonates in the model of the "city of short distances" - but it must be designed concretely. This requires measures on three levels: spatial planning, infrastructure and supply. These measures are intended to replace today's forced mobility in terms of the choice of means of transport with the possibility of walking. We speak of forced mobility when, for example, everyday mobility needs and routes cannot be chosen voluntarily due to the conditions of the area, but instead require certain means of transport.

  1. Spatial planning requirements: A large part of today's traffic volume is generated by leisure and shopping traffic (about commuting see especially Policy 3.13). Spatial planning can promote short distances. This can create favorable conditions for small-scale recreational activities, e.g. by providing a good quality living environment or good accessibility of recreational areas on foot, by bicycle and by public transport. Furthermore, shopping on foot is to be encouraged. To this end, the availability of space must be managed: on the one hand, by restricting large-scale (and usually decentralized) retail trade, and on the other hand by enabling and promoting small-scale or pedestrianized supply structures. The future use of family or leisure gardens (allotment gardens) - which today are often "only" used for leisure activities - must also be seen in the light of their importance for local supply. This does not imply that urban forms of future agriculture can contribute to a full supply, but it does mean that they will become more important in the future, also with regard to the knowledge of producing one's own food. Accordingly, spatial planning should aim for a perforation of the city in which areas for allotment gardens / common-gardening gardens are within walking distance (walkable perforation).
  2. Infrastructural requirements: High-quality places to stay and meet as well as attractive footpath networks will be created. For this purpose, people on foot are consistently prioritized (see WG Mobility, e.g. when crossing roads), in order to ensure a dense, coherent network of footpaths with few detours and obstacles for everyone.
  3. Supply-side requirements: A rich offer of local-community usages is created, which promote the social organization on site (village, city, district, quarter...) and in the neighborhood. Here are conceivable for example:
  • Exchange and loan stores;
  • Climate workshops or repair cafés (see Policy 9.2);
  • Co-Working jobs (which promote new working models);
  • Rooms for neighborhood, neighborhood-related and social organization;
  • Urban Gardening (commons; within walking distance).

Cycling is also central to the "city of short distances", which is not the focus here (see WG Mobility). However, the measures described here are almost always in line with a bicycle-friendly city.

Responsibilities: Public authorities; landowners. On the supply side, the public sector can contribute to and stimulate corresponding offers with funding programs, platforms, low-cost loans, financial/spatial support, etc.

Time period: As of now. The effectiveness unfolds over time.


To be clarified in individual cases.


The measure has a positive effect on different levels:

  • Reduction of emissions (CO2, noise, pollutants, fine dust, etc.) by promoting non-motorized traffic instead of motorized individual traffic;
  • Greater social resilience due to the possibility of satisfying needs locally, for which there was previously either no supply, or which were satisfied through consumption or at another location, as well as through smaller-scale structures (e.g. neighborhood stores), which lead to a greater structural diversity of supply;
  • Strengthening of sociality and community spirit on site;
  • Health promotion / health prevention through increased walking and cycling (counteracts diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, various types of cancer, depression etc.).

Social Compatibility

Given. Strengthens social cohesion / community building.

Questions and Uncertainties


Policy 3.12: Designing Development Processes to Develop the Specific Potentials of Peri-urban and Rural Areas


The transformation to a climate-neutral society must include not only urban, but also periurban and rural communities. All of them bring along different characteristics, challenges and potentials for the current and future climate-neutral functioning of society. In order to make the respective potentials known and useable, periurban and rural communities also start community development processes with a special focus on the aspect of climate neutrality and their specific spatial conditions.

Justification and link to other measures: Many of the challenges of a climate-neutral transformation are related to questions of the usage of space and the spatial division of labor within Switzerland. Different locations differ fundamentally in terms of building density, social density, use, availability and quality of open space, supply situation, social infrastructure, etc. A climate-neutral Switzerland will not be dissimilar to the present one in terms of the existing buildings simply because we do not have the resources to completely reconstruct the existing buildings. Functional and potential analyses can reveal the potential of the existing building stock, its (partial) conversion, rededication, renaturation, redensification, creative or social transformation, etc. Thus, even single-family home areas have their own potential compared to areas with high building density, such as the possibility of significantly increasing the degree of self-sufficiency - by means of food and the production of renewable energy. Cooperatively organized village shops, communal forms of care (old people, children), shared mobility, etc. are just some of the possible topics.

Community development processes must specifically sound out appropriate conditions in order to activate such specific spatial potentials, with the aim of increasing resilience in periurban and rural areas (e.g., to stabilize village structures) and readjusting the "urban-rural" relationship (model of solidarity-based agriculture, regional leisure activities, de-centralized economics).

Corresponding processes should also take into account questions of climate adaptation. Where actors become aware of their own potential exposure to climate warming, they are also more open to climate protection measures.

Responsibilities: Actors in peri-urban and rural communities

Time period: Immediately




The measure has a positive effect at various levels, albeit rather indirectly and in the medium term:

  • Raising awareness of climate issues in relevant communities;
  • Increasing social resilience in peri-urban and rural areas;
  • Strengthening of sociality and community spirit on site.

Social Compatibility

Given. Strengthens social cohesion / community building.

Questions and Uncertainties


Policy 3.13: Compensating the Unequal Workplace-Share to Create Regions of Short Distances


In their spatial planning policies, municipalities and cantons ensure that the number of jobs is balanced in order to counteract the current overhang of commuters into the dense urban centers of the agglomerations.

Justification and link to other measures: The employment rate describes the ratio of jobs to inhabitants or of employees to the working part of the population in a certain area. If this ratio is balanced (i.e. there are as many jobs as there are job seekers), then this favors a "traffic-saving" coping with everyday life - i.e. "short" distances. Today's commuter surpluses, however, necessarily mean "long" distances. In Switzerland today, all agglomeration centers (especially the big cities) have a significant surplus of jobs (in the order of 10,000 to 100,000 people/day), which means that commuting distances are long. A considerable proportion of these commuting distances are made by car (Federal Statistical Office (FSO) 2017). Polycentric distributions of workstations lead to shorter distances on average (Einig and Pütz 2007).

In this respect, two aspects are important with regard to a "city of short distances":
a) It does not result from a mixture of small-scale uses, even if this is often but incorrectly argued in area or district developments;

b) The far more relevant factor for short distances is the spatial resistance: The higher the resistance, the shorter the distances (cf. various policies in chapter Mobility aimed at reducing speed, stopping the expansion of the national highway, etc.).

For large cities with a commuter surplus, a development in the direction of equalizing the number of jobs means a stop to the establishment of further jobs in these cities. There are also locations outside of large cities that are well served by public transport and that may offer additional jobs.

A shortening of distances can also be achieved by exchanging jobs within the current settlement structure (job exchanges already exist for this purpose). However, this does not compensate for the structural surplus of commuters caused by the unbalanced employment situation.

Responsibilities: Planning authorities (municipalities, cantons); If necessary, the federal government within the framework of approval procedures for cantonal master plans.

Time period: Immediately.


None, since this is an ongoing planning task.


The measure has a positive effect on different levels:

  • In tendency decreasing traffic volume for commuting to work
  • In relieving the pressure on the housing market

Social Compatibility

Is given; defuses social tensions by easing the pressure on the housing market.

Questions and Uncertainties

No open questions.

Policy 3.14: Establishing Housing-Policies to Enable a “Just Transition”


The housing and rent policy actors implement appropriate packages of measures to ensure that the transformation to a climate-neutral society is not slowed or even prevented by the effects of low-carbon gentrification. This includes measures such as:

  • Regulations to curb unjustified rent increases;
  • A tenant protection clause in case of housing shortage;
  • The financing of retrofits by owners, not by tenants, in combination with public funding (see e.g. the successful "Vienna Model"),
  • The inclusion of the tenants for retrofitting measures;
  • Regulations on cost transparency for rents and land/property prices;
  • Efforts for a municipalization of the housing stock, and/or promotion of cost rent by building cooperatives (transfer of municipal land in the building law);
  • Advantages for those players in the housing market who newly commit themselves to a public welfare orientation (cf. the approach of a "New Common Public Benefit" discussed in Germany);
  • Regulations for shares in socially responsible housing prices.

Justification and link to other measures: A sufficiently good housing supply of the population stands in a multiple tensions field to questions of carbon neutrality and spatial planning.

  • Building retrofitting: Energy-related retrofitting measures can be used by the landlord to directly displace the original resident population (through complete renovation and new occupancy by people from a different socio-cultural context).
  • Rising mobility costs: Tense situations on the housing market can lead to further displacement effects - not only in high-priced cities such as Geneva, Zurich or Lausanne - as soon as previous commuters want to move back to the conurbation centers because the costs of commuting are rising.
  • Increased attractiveness of urban living environments: The re-urbanization that has been observed in the urban housing market in recent decades due to increased (inner-)city attractiveness (urban renaissance) can be further intensified by measures for climate neutrality (e.g. by an increasing quality of life due to the transformation towards car-free cities or districts).

The transformation toward climate neutrality must not fail or be delayed because of its implementation. Since housing is a basic need and a basic right, any threat to this basic right is likely to be met with considerable social resistance. A society that takes climate protection seriously would be unwise if it did not simultaneously take seriously and address the obstacles that could effectively prevent or delay climate protection. A "yellow vest phenomenon" in the area of housing must be avoided at all costs, so any potential effects on residents - displacement by renovation measures, rising mobility costs or the attractiveness of the living environment - must be addressed as part of intra-societal climate justice. A housing policy strategy tailored to the local context with a package of housing and rental policy measures must be developed.

Responsibilities: All housing policy actors (municipalities, cantons, federal government, tenant associations, etc.), but also apartment owners and housing developers.

Time period: Immediately


Per measure/ bundle of measures; From regulatory, to subsidies, tax benefits for public welfare orientation, to the transfer of housing stock into municipal ownership.


Prerequisite for a successful transformation of the society.

Social Compatibility

Housing and rental policy framework conditions are a central prerequisite for a conversion within a useful period (aspects of "climate justice" & just transition).

Questions and Uncertainties

A legally adapted framework needs broad political support.


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