A Precedent for Europe? Switzerland Votes Down CO2 Act

In a referendum held on June 13, Swiss citizens voted down the country’s new climate law, the “CO2 Act” with a 51.5% majority. The law, by imposing higher taxes and fees on use of fossil fuels, would have caused a steep rise in the cost of living, which is already high in the country, as everyone would be affected by the increases in fuel prices, taxes and higher energy costs.

While the “Yes” won in major cities the rural population came out strongly for No, including because another referendum held simultaneously would have banned the use of artificial pesticides. That was defeated by a 61% majority.

The Swiss People’s Party (SPP), the largest in the country, mobilized for the “No” vote on CO2, while the Liberals (FDP) were split, with a substantial faction also against it. In addition, opposition came from industry associations, including the fuel, gasoline, diesel distributors association, the National Automobile Club, and the Aerodrome Association, which includes everything from small airfields to Zurich and Basel international airports. And homeowners association as well as smaller business associations campaigned to rally the middle classes to the No vote.

The SPP argued that the proposed CO2 Act would not only be costly, but also of questionable effectiveness. Apparently, they convinced voters from well beyond their normal base of support.

This is not the first time the Swiss have refused to accept excessive the personal privations and economic losses demanded by the climate change lobby. In 2000, three proposals to tax nonrenewable energies were rejected, as were various other initiatives. On the other hand, in 2017, a majority voted “Yes” for the phaseout of nuclear energy, which is substantial in Switzerland.

Just on May 26, the Swiss government pulled out of negotiations with Brussels on a treaty that would have expanded their relations with the EU, and included the loss of Swiss sovereign powers (cf. SAS 22/21), because they knew that if it came to a referendum, the agreement would never have passed.

The question now is whether the vote against the CO2 Act will have a blowback effect into the EU, where there is growing opposition to the climate change policies. Poland is up in arms over being forced to close down the country’s coal industry, which supplies 65% of its electricity. But the key country is Germany, which has the most irrational energy policy of all, and will hold hotly contested national elections in September. Until now, those who oppose the “energy transition” have been afraid to publicly denounce it, but the Swiss vote will, hopefully, embolden them.

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