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22 March 2021
This article summarises key amendments to Swiss environmental laws which either came into effect recently or will come into effect in the foreseeable future.
On 25 September 2020 Parliament adopted the completely revised CO2 Act. The act sets the course for Switzerland to meet its commitments under the Paris Agreement. The revised CO2 Act shall contribute to:
To reach this goal, the revised CO2 Act states that Switzerland shall halve its greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 as compared with emissions from 1990. Therefore, at least 75% of the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions must be achieved through domestic measures.
The revised CO2 Act has faced resistance from various sides in Switzerland and a referendum has been launched. The voters are expected to vote on the act in June 2021. It is unclear whether and when the act will enter into force.
The controversial elements of the act include, among other things, the following new measures and levies.
New levy on flight tickets and private jet flights
A charge ranging from Sfr30 to Sfr120 shall be levied on every airline ticket, depending on the boarding class and travel distance. Airline companies are subject to the levy. Further, a levy ranging between Sfr500 and Sfr3,000 shall be imposed on flights with private jets with a maximum take-off mass of more than 5,700kg.
Of the revenue generated from these levies, 50% shall be reimbursed to the population (by way of credits on health insurance premiums) and the other 50% shall be paid into a climate fund. The resources generated in the climate fund shall be used to promote measures and technologies to prevent greenhouse gas emissions.
Due to this partial reimbursement mechanism, the CO2 levy would primarily burden frequent flyers as they will pay more than they will get back through reductions in the health insurance premiums.
Increased levy on fossil fuels
The maximum rate of the CO2 levy on fossil fuels shall be increased from Sfr120 to Sfr210 per ton of CO2. Therefore, the new possible range for the levy on fossil fuels shall be Sfr96 to Sfr210 per ton of CO2.
Increase of gasoline price
The revised CO2 Act provides that producers and importers of fossil fuels must compensate for a larger part of CO2 emissions and states in particular that at least 15% of the compensation must be carried out through domestic measures. After 2025, this compensation will increase to 20%.
The implementation of these new measures would have a direct impact on the price of gasoline and diesel in Switzerland. In order to avoid excessive prices for consumers, the revised CO2 Act limits the surcharge on fuel to a maximum of 10 cents per litre until 2024 and a maximum of 12 cents per litre after 2025. Further, it gives the Federal Council the option to temporarily reduce the maximum surcharge in cases of economic necessity.
In order to ensure that Switzerland's climate policy continues to comply with the Paris Agreement after 2020, Parliament extended certain climate protection measures until the end of 2021 (for further details please see "Switzerland to extend certain climate protection measures until 2021"). In light of the unclear situation regarding the revised CO2 Act, Parliament may have to further extend certain existing climate protection measures.
The Energy Efficiency Ordinance aims to reduce the energy consumption of series-produced installations, vehicles and devices and increase their energy efficiency.(1) It applies to products that consume a significant amount of energy and that are placed on the market or supplied in Switzerland.
On 22 April 2020 the Federal Council amended the Energy Efficiency Ordinance in order to implement the stricter energy efficiency regulations of the European Union for series-produced installations and devices in Swiss legislation. This amendment requires new series-produced installations and devices from the following list to consume less energy:
Thereby, the Swiss energy efficiency requirements for refrigerators and freezers remain stricter than those in the European Union.
Further, the European Union amended its energy label system (Categories A+++ to D) and reintroduced the original scale system with Categories A to G as of 1 March 2021. This is because the previous categories of A+++ to D led to significant confusion among customers. In addition, the European Union adapted the requirements for disclosing the energy consumption in sales documents and advertising. Switzerland will also implement these amendments and the new energy label categories of A to G in the revised Energy Efficiency Ordinance.
Most of the amendments – in particular, the revised energy label categories – entered into force on 15 May 2020 and 1 March 2021.
On 1 January 2018 the Ordinance on Information on the Energy Label of New Passenger Cars came into effect.(2) The Department of the Environment, Transport, Energy and Communication annually adapts the energy label on passenger cars to the latest technical developments to ensure, as in previous years, that only one-seventh of all new vehicle models fall into the best efficiency category (Category A).
As in the past, each new car sold must have an energy label indicating its fuel consumption, CO2 emissions and energy efficiency in order to heighten the transparency and support the reduction of average fuel consumption (Categories A to G). Since 1 January 2020, the method for calculating the energy efficiency categories of new passenger cars has changed from the previous New European Driving Cycle (NEDC) method to the new Worldwide Harmonised Light-Duty Vehicles Test Procedure (WLTP) method. As a result, the calculation to define the energy label must be based on WLTP values, if such values are available (an exception applies to certain passenger cars which have only NEDC specifications and for which the WLTP values cannot be calculated (eg, stock vehicles)).
Since 1 January 2021, the statutory average CO2 emission of passenger cars has been 169g per kilometre (km) under the WLTP method and 136g per km under the NEDC method. These values reflect the average emission of all new passenger cars registered for the first time in Switzerland.
The aforementioned values must be distinguished from the threshold for CO2 emissions from passenger cars with which Swiss importers of passenger cars must comply in order to avoid a monetary penalty. These annual target values are defined and reduced annually. As a consequence of the change from the NEDC method to the WLTP values, the 2021 annual target value was increased from 95g of CO2 per km to 118g of CO2 per km for passenger cars and from 147g of CO2 per km to 186g of CO2 per km for light commercial vehicles.
In 2020 the European Council and Parliament formally adopted a new regulation on the labelling of tyres for the purposes of fuel efficiency, increasing road safety and reducing noise pollution from traffic, which will apply as of 1 May 2021.(3) The new regulation will replace the existing Tyre Labelling Regulation and aims particularly to increase consumer awareness of the tyre label and improve market surveillance.
Tyres have an important impact on the environment. Due to their rolling resistance, they are responsible for around 20% of a vehicle's fuel consumption. Therefore, a better rolling resistance of a vehicle reduces both fuel consumption and CO2 emissions.
According to the new European Council and Parliament regulation, suppliers of tyres for passenger and light-duty vehicles, as well as heavy-duty vehicles, must display the tyre label in all forms of purchase (including online sales). As a first step, the new tyre labels will include visual information about the tyre performance in snow and ice conditions (the information content may be adjusted at a later stage). Tyre labels will, via the visual information, provide customers with transparent information on the fuel efficiency, safety and rolling noise of tyres.
The revised Energy Efficiency Ordinance will implement the provisions of the new European Council and Parliament regulation in Swiss legislation. These amendments are expected to enter into force on 1 May 2021.
The international trade of certain chemicals (import and export) is subject to the Rotterdam Prior Informed Consent (PIC) Convention, which was implemented in Switzerland by the PIC Ordinance (ChemPICO).(4) The ChemPICO established a notification and information system in Switzerland for the import and export of certain substances and preparations whose use is prohibited or subject to severe restrictions because of their effects on human health or the environment. Further, ChemPICO enables Switzerland to participate in the international notification procedure and international PIC procedure for certain dangerous substances and preparations in accordance with the Rotterdam PIC Convention.
The ChemPICO lists in Annex 1 various substances (pesticides and industrial chemicals) which are prohibited or subject to severe restrictions in Switzerland. The import and export of such listed substances is subject to a prior notification to the Federal Office of the Environment.
In December 2020 the Federal Council added six active ingredients of plant protection products (carbendazim, fluzilazole, ioxynil, isoproturon, triasulfuron and triflumuron) and one industrial chemical (perfluorooctanoic acid, its salts and precursor compounds) to Annex 1 of the ChemPICO Ordinance. The revised ChemPICO Ordinance was approved by the Federal Council on 12 February 2020 and entered into force on 1 January 2021. The addition of the perfluorooctanoic acid, its salts and precursor compounds in Annex 1 of the ChemPICO Ordinance will take place on 1 June 2021.
The Chemical Risk Reduction Ordinance (ORRChem) prohibits or restricts the handling of particularly dangerous substances, preparations and objects and regulates the personal and professional requirements for such handling.(5)
Due to increasing and intensive debates regarding the international trade of hazardous pesticides in recent years, the Federal Council implemented new regulations for the export of certain hazardous plant protection products which may endanger human health or the environment. The new export regulations implement two significant changes and features:
The revised ORRChem was approved by the Federal Council on 14 October 2020 and entered into force on 1 January 2021.
For further information on this topic please contact Michael Lips or Larissa Rickenbacher at Pestalozzi Attorneys at Law by telephone (+41 44 217 91 11) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com). The Pestalozzi Attorneys at Law website can be accessed at www.pestalozzilaw.com.
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