Swiss Voters Reject Synthetic Pesticides Ban and Climate Action Plans

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Swiss voters have rejected proposals that would have banned synthetic pesticides and slashed the country’s carbon emissions. In a nationwide referendum, the majority of the public refused the green policies, in a major blow to the Switzerland’s environmental efforts. 

Switzerland has said no to environmental action. Held on June 12, a national referendum dismissed a number of climate initiatives designed to reduce the country’s carbon footprint. More than 53% rejected a proposal that would have taxed car fuel and added surcharge to plane tickets too.

An even larger majority—61%—voted down a measure that would have banned the use of synthetic pesticides. If it had been approved, Switzerland would have become the second country in the world to do so after Bhutan. 

Environment pushed aside for the economy

The rejection of the climate and sustainable agricultural initiatives is a show of support for the current Swiss government. Before the vote, the government warned that the economy could be jeopardised and costs would pile on for businesses. 

Many of these arguments were also put forward by Swiss farmers and agribusinesses like Syngenta. They said the proposals could put their whole operations at risk and lead to rising food prices.

However, environmentalists have continually pointed out that there are worrying levels of pesticides in water with severe health risks. Pesticide use had also been linked to damage to plants, animals and other wildlife. Organic practices, on the other hand, are shown to boost carbon sequestration and improve biodiversity.  

“Voter rejection undermines Switzerland’s entire strategy to comply with the Paris Agreement. Today’s results are a devastating blow for environmentalists,” commented Imogen Foulkes, BBC’s Geneva correspondent.

“Now the government must go back to the drawing board, as Switzerland falls behind its European neighbours in efforts to tackle climate change.” 

‘Very difficult’ for Switzerland to meet its climate targets

Snubbing both proposals now means it will be “very difficult” for Switzerland to fulfil its Paris agreement targets, said the country’s environment minister Simonetta Sommaruga. 

Under the accord, Switzerland is to cut its carbon emissions by half compared to 1990 levels. The country has also committed to reaching net-zero by mid-century. 

Switzerland’s approach to the climate stands in stark contrast to the approach Denmark has taken. Last year, Danish legislators passed a law to enforce a 70% carbon emissions reduction compared to 1990 over the next decade. 

At the time of the law’s passing, the Danish ministry of climate and energy said that it believed “climate action and economic reconstruction go hand in hand.” 

Lead image courtesy of Unsplash. 


  • Sally Ho

    Sally Ho is Green Queen's former resident writer and lead reporter. Passionate about the environment, social issues and health, she is always looking into the latest climate stories in Hong Kong and beyond. A long-time vegan, she also hopes to promote healthy and plant-based lifestyle choices in Asia. Sally has a background in Politics and International Relations from her studies at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

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