When the Swiss delegation around Environment Minister Moritz Leuenberg boards the train to Copenhagen on December 16th, its journey of more than 1,000 km to the world’s biggest climate meeting in history will not just send a signal by travelling more CO2-friendly than many of their colleagues. It will set the stage for the country’s urgent plea to the world to seal a deal.
Switzerland’s delegates have reason to remind participants of their pressing agenda. The alpine country is subject to a double increase in world average temperatures, according to research by the Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape.
Even if leading industrial nations agree to cut carbon emissions to limit global warming by 2 degrees, Switzerland will see its thermometer rise by 4 degrees, according to the institute.
Switzerland has seen its average temperature rise by 1.5 degrees since 1970, almost twice the 0.8 percent increase of global temperatures.
And it intends to promote the introduction of a global greenhouse tax to support developing countries affected by climate change.
But with only 0.2 percent of global CO2 emissions, Switzerland’s ability to steer the debate is negligible compared to the powerhouses of global emissions such as China, the US and the EU.
Preserving a National Treasure
Switzerland interest in preserving the global temperature levels is its highest priority.
Sales, overnights stays and consumption around winter sport make up Switzerland’s biggest share of tourism revenue. If leading industrial nations continue to fail to cut emissions, the consequences for the alpine nation are serious.
The country has images of its snow lines rising further, snowmelt setting in earlier and Switzerland’s more than 1800 glaciers shrinking at an accelerated pace after receding almost 20 percent in the past 15 years.
And expectations are high for the Swiss to bring home a meaningful deal and secure many more white Christmases -- preferably with real snow.