The environment and energy committee for the national council (UREK-N), the lower house of the Swiss parliament, has this week voted in favour of a watered-down version of a plan to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, considering a ban on fossil fuels excessive.

Through the vote the committee has rejected therefore the demand to ban fossil fuels without exceptions put forward by the Gletscher Initiative, a popular initiative supported by academics, MPs and civil society organisations allied under the association Klimaschutz Schweiz.

In principle the committee shares the 2050 net-zero goal, meaning reducing greenhouse gas emissions as far as possible and offsetting remaining emissions, it said, but from its point of view the demand of the initiative goes “too far and contains excessively drastic regulations”, particularly with regards to the ban of fossil fuels.

It has voted in favour of a so-called direct counter-proposal to the popular initiative that includes the goal of net-zero by 2050, but it tends to balance interests in reducing CO2 emissions from fossil fuels.

The committee has also continued to work on a so-called indirect, alterative proposal to the Gletscher Initiative, and approved a first draft in this week’s vote.

Deliberations will continue in the next quarter, so that the national council can decide on the committee’s draft in the summer session this year.

With the second counter-proposal, submitted in December, the committee underlined that the use of fossil fuels is to be reduced to an extent that is technically possible, economically viable and compatible with “the security of the country and the protection of the population.”

According to the plan, the impact of man-made greenhouse gas emissions on the climate must be offset by 2050 at the latest, with interim targets set in line with the Paris Agreement and with the latest scientific data.

The revised law presented by the committee with the so-called indirect counter-proposal to the popular initiative will only enter into force if the popular initiative is withdrawn or rejected in a referendum.

This week the committee has also voted against establishing a linear reduction of emissions as foreseen in a previous proposal by the government.

The reduction by a fixed annual amount, as envisioned in the government’s draft, falls short of taking into account technical development and the requirements of different industries, it said.

Last August the government passed its alternative proposal to the Gletscher Initiative, supporting the pursuit of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 but waiving the ban on fossil fuels.

The cabinet opted for the counter-proposal after the popular vote last June rejected the revised CO2 law to halve emissions by 2030 on the path to climate neutrality by 2050.

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