2023 - Spring

For All Mankind: or, How Switzerland Can Do Its Part in the Climate Crisis

Image: © NASA/Bill Anders, “Earthrise,” Public Domain, via Wikipedia Commons, Source.

Author: William Flores

When Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin touched down on the lunar surface in the summer of 1969, they planted a US flag. We all know that. A lesser known fact is that their lunar module carried a metal plaque with the phrase “FOR ALL MANKIND.” So, despite Cold War tensions, the US administration recognised the historical significance of the event. It was not just US citizens landing on the moon for the first time, it was all of humanity.

Today, as we face a human-made climate crisis, we desperately need a similar spirit. We are global citizens with a global responsibility. On June 18th Swiss citizens will have the opportunity to do their part. How so?

We are called to vote in a national referendum on the Climate Law, a counter-proposal to the Glacier Initiative, adopted by parliament last year. The law could have already been enforced if it wasn’t for the far-right UDC triggering a referendum.

What does the law say?

Learning from the criticisms made to the failed 2021 CO2 law, the new law focuses exclusively on encouraging the energy transition away from fossil fuels, rather than betting on punitive measures. Essentially, it enshrines the 2050 goal for net-zero emissions nationwide into law, as well as intermediate goals. To ensure that these goals are met, the law directs the government to create a federal fund that will provide 200 million CHF per year to finance homes and buildings switching their gas and oil burners for climate-friendly heat pumps. This is important, because buildings are the second biggest source of carbon emissions in Switzerland after transportation. The law also provides funding for industries to switch to cleaner production methods.

That’s not very radical…

Indeed, it isn’t. This law is not a “giant leap,” but it is an essential step to slow down our descent towards climate catastrophe.

Why did UDC attack it with a referendum?

Officially to “protect the middle class” against an “extreme and expensive” law.

Is there any merit to UDC’s claim?

No, the law does not create any new taxes. The installation of heat pumps would be covered by the government using existing money and would lead to lower and more stable energy prices. The current energy crisis was, after all, caused by fossil gas shortages. But don’t take my word for it, you can read the full bill here:

Thus, the UDC just seeks attention in an electoral year (parliamentary elections will take place in the fall of 2023). By positioning itself as a “defender of the middle class” and as an “antidote to wokism,” it is clearly riding a populist wave. Furthermore, it seeks to delay on climate action. Let’s not forget that Albert Rösti was, after all, a lobbyist for Swissoil. As the new environment minister, he is now in the awkward position of having to defend the Climate Law, mere months after initiating the referendum against it. Let’s appreciate the irony of that!

Why write this article?

Because as ridiculous as UDC’s arguments and tactics are, the party is known for its successful, populist campaigns. With this article I implore you (yes, you) to vote YES on the climate law on June 18th. If you can’t vote, at least try to encourage others to do so. Talk about the Climate Law and how UDC is blatantly lying. In order to counter the populist narrative, we need all of civil society to stand up and vote and inform others. Think of it not only as the duty of any and all Swiss citizens, but as the duty of any and all human beings in the fight against the climate crisis. As the plaque on the lunar module says: FOR ALL MANKIND.

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