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Swiss reject tax hike to cut carbon emissions and synthetic pesticide ban

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By Euronews with AFP
Swiss photographer David Carlier takes photographs of the Swiss Aletsch glacier, the longest glacier in Europe, in Fieschertal, Switzerland,  July 21, 2020.
Swiss photographer David Carlier takes photographs of the Swiss Aletsch glacier, the longest glacier in Europe, in Fieschertal, Switzerland, July 21, 2020.   -   Copyright  Laurent Gillieron/Keystone via AP
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Swiss voters on Sunday rejected proposals to further reduce CO2 emissions by 2030 and to ban synthetic pesticides.

The proposed "carbon dioxide law" included an increase in taxes on fuels and the introduction of a tax on airline tickets from Switzerland.

It was defeated in a referendum by 51.59% of the electorate.

"The no vote today is not a no to climate protection," Environment and Energy Minister Simonetta Sommaruga, said. "Climate change is still urgent, which is why we must move forward and find a way forward very quickly."

For the WWF, "the winners of today's vote will be held accountable tomorrow."

Voters also rejected a ban on synthetic pesticides and on all imports of foodstuff produced using such pesticides.

The Alpine country is home to one of the largest manufacturers of plant protection products, the Basel-based Syngenta group, bought in 2017 by China's ChemChina.

Swiss President Guy Parmelin told reporters that voters had made "a reasonable and pragmatic decision which guarantees the future of our agriculture and the country's food security."

It also "gives the agricultural sector the chance to pursue transitional reforms towards more sustainable production," he added.

Two initiatives were meanwhile approved by voters.

The COVID law, which gives the government additional powers to combat the epidemic and mitigate its effects on society and the economy, received the support of 60.21% of voters.

More than 56.5% of voters also supported a law to strengthen police ability to combat terrorism.

The law will make it easier for law enforcement to take preventive action against "potential terrorists", allowing them to restrict their movement and force them to take part in interviews, from as young as 12.

It also enables authorities to place people, from age 15, under house arrest for nine months, subject to court approval.

Voters also gave 56.58% support to the law on police measures to combat terrorism, which will make it easier for the police to take preventive action against "potential terrorists".

The police will be able to better monitor them, restrict their movements and force them to take part in interviews, from the age of 12. From the age of 15, people can be placed under house arrest for nine months, subject to court approval.

Left-wing opponents of the law say it does not respect fundamental rights, jeopardising the country's human rights record. The UN and several legal experts and human rights activists had also cried foul.

The government assures that fundamental rights will be guaranteed and argues that de-radicalisation programmes are insufficient for some people.

Most laws passed by the Swiss parliament are not put to the popular vote but a referendum can be held if 50,000 people sign a petition for one within 100 days of the law being passed. Citizens and groups can also trigger referenda through popular initiatives, which require 100,000 signatures.