Swiss people have been voting on several topics yesterday, amongst them a votation for a federal law on CO2 . (1) Michel de Rougemont explains us the issues of this democratic pole.
A nice democratic flop for the climate urgency
Yesterday, in the very first national democratic poll ever organized in the World on this issue, the climate alarmism was sanctioned by a narrow majority (51,6% of the votes): the Swiss people rejected a federal law on CO2 that had been concocted between the Federal council (the government) and the Swiss parliament (made of two chambers, as in the USA) to allegedly fight against climate change, or to save the climate, or to put it under control, or just to stop emitting CO2, whatever. It is the right and the privilege of the Swiss citizen, the sovereign, to be able to repel or to confirm laws that are controversial.
The proposed law entailed a series of measures designed to reduce the country’s CO2 emissions. As such laws can only become, it was a complex hodgepodge of many things, the details of which are of little importance (2), in short: taxation of all kinds followed by selective redistribution to various constituencies, all of them very actively campaigning in favour of this law.
Yet, one should not jump too easily to conclusions. The purpose of a vote in direct democracy is not to discover any truth; it is merely a way of taking decision, to say yes or no to a narrow question. This ‘no’ to the proposed text by a little bit more than half of the voters does neither mean that Switzerland is made up of climate sceptics or deniers, nor that there is no climate change.
While opinion polls indicate generally that climate change is considered a serious issue, the negative vote of the Swiss citizens is rather a sign of distrust: they dislike complex and costly measures that have little prospect for efficacy. They also hate policies consisting in punitive measures and behavioral constraints. But above all, they do not easily accept the climate emergency, as the propaganda keeps harping on, and which the other half of the citizens gullibly adopt. How many times humankind should have become extinct, should all the announced catastrophic urgencies have materialized?
What will come next?
Climate activists will not dare entertain the idea of being mistaken, it would be too much to ask. On the contrary, we can expect a propaganda surge from their part to correct this “wrong vote” which they will attribute to obscure lobbying, lack of awareness or of consciousness, and misinformation. They should rather relish: this vote gives them the great opportunity to present themselves as misunderstood victims of an unjust system, of all kinds of ill will, and of obscurantism.
More subtle politicians will rework this law, or another one to be called law on the climate rather than being limited to CO2. Hopefully, they will have understood that the carrot and, above all, the stick policy cannot succeed. No more a pork and barrel issue, they will need to orient their policy alongside risks and efficacy considerations, devoid of ideology preferences. Thus, instead of taxes they will need to set standards that contribute to risk reduction. But such risks must be evaluated in the terms of climate impact, economic feasibility, and side-effects on society and on nature. Just one number, tons of CO2, is an oversimplification of a not yet understood issue.
As climate science cannot be reduced to a single regulatory knob, they will need to work harder if they want to convince anybody, themselves to begin with, of the usefulness of what they will propose. There is a great demand for better research. And, the urgency now being set aside, they can take whatever time is needed to get it right, but not at any cost. The energy policy will also need some rework, in particular for a safe and reliable supply of electrical power. As we cannot anymore count on neighbors to palliate capacity losses after closing our nuclear power plants, it is now high time to plan for new and better ones.
What about the commitments made in the Paris Agreement? At last, Switzerland will stop playing the overbidding first of the class. This newfound sobriety will do no harm to anyone but on a few egos.
(2) CO2 emission reduction targets (p/r 1990): 50% in 2030 – Net zero in 2050 – 3/4 to be realized in Switzerland (in 2018: 13.6% already achieved). Carbon taxation to build a “Climate Fund”, fuel taxed from today’s 96 Fr/ton CO2 to 216 Fr/ton, petrol tax of 12 t/Litre, participation to an exchange of emission quota, tax on air tickets, promotion of energy saving measures, restrictions on investments in fossil associated industries, R&D support for correctly oriented projects. Complex mechanisms of exemptions and subsidies. ((Exchange rate: 1 EUR = 1,10 CHF, 1 USD = 0,90 CHF)
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