As Switzerland’s glaciers melt, Alpine nation backs climate bill with net zero target for 2050

ETH (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology) glaciologist and head of the Swiss measurement network 'Glamos', Matthias Huss, checks the thickness of the Rhone Glacier near Goms, Switzerland, Friday, June 16, 2023. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)

BERLIN (AP) — A majority of Swiss citizens on Sunday voted in favor of a bill aimed at introducing new climate measures to sharply curb the rich Alpine nation’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Final results released by public broadcaster SRF showed that 59.1% of voters were in favor of the bill, while 40.9% voted against.

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The referendum was sparked by a campaign by scientists and environmentalists to save Switzerland’s iconic glaciers, which are melting away at an alarming rate.

Campaigners initially proposed even more ambitious measures but later backed a government plan that requires Switzerland to achieve “net zero” emissions by 2050. It also sets aside more than 3 billion Swiss francs ($3.357 billion) to help wean companies and homeowners off fossil fuels.

The nationalist Swiss People’s Party, which demanded the popular vote, had claimed that the proposed measures would cause electricity prices to rise.

Backers of the plan argued that Switzerland will be hard-hit by global warming and is already seeing the effects of rising temperatures on its famous glaciers.

“The supporters have reason to rejoice,” Urs Bieri of the GFS Bern Institute told SRF. “But by no means everyone is in favor of the law. The argument with the costs has brought many ‘no’ votes.”

Swiss glaciers experienced record melting last year, losing more than 6% of their volume and alarming scientists who say a loss of 2% would once have been considered extreme.

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