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Made in Switzerland – a milestone in climate protection

It's been almost two weeks since we had a reason to celebrate a major campaigning achievement, but unfortunately, I didn't find the time to write about what follows, which has been an essential part of my work for the last 6 years. 

On 25 September the Swiss Parliament agreed on a new CO2 law. This was preceded by an intensive tug-of-war between the various political poles, at the end of which only the Swiss People's Party opposed the law. 

In 2014, Audi gave me the mandate to inform the public and politicians about the possibilities of synthetic fuels and that these do not produce any net CO2 and must therefore be exempted from CO2 sanctions. Synthetic fuels are made by using electrical energy to split water into hydrogen and oxygen and allowing the hydrogen to react with CO2, which has previously been filtered from the atmosphere. If the electricity was produced in a climate-neutral way, synthetic fuel is also climate-neutral. 

The years after 2014 were marked by ups and downs. First of all, the responsible federal offices and also environmental organizations had to be convinced that this was not just a PR gag by Audi, but a serious commitment with the aim of being able to operate the cars with combustion engines that are still on the roads in a climate-neutral way.

To achieve a change in the legal framework, we needed the support of parliamentarians. To get this support, we organized a stand at the Swiss Climate and Energy Summit 2014 in Bern together with the ETH spin-off Climeworks.

Before that, however, we organized a spectacular information event on the Bundesplatz together with representatives of the research community, at which Thomas Böhni's vehicle was refuelled by the Minster for the Economy with synthetic diesel from Sunfire, which we had to import from Germany. 

It was during this period that I heard about an idea from ETH Professor Anthony Patt. He proposed that airlines should be obliged to add small amounts of synthetic kerosene first and then ever larger quantities. This is much more expensive than fossil fuel, but if the quantities are only very small at the beginning, it has hardly any effect on ticket prices, but still requires the entry into industrial production because of the overall large quantity. This lowers prices, which means that more can be added, etc. By 2050, there should be a complete switch to synthetic kerosene. 

When I heard this, it occurred to me that part of the air ticket levy could be used to finance the additional costs for the airline industry, so that the levy could be put to good use and the industry would not resist. This idea was based on a statement by Ruedi Noser, member of the Council of States, that the airline ticket levy should be used to finance innovation. Shortly afterwards I was back in the Federal Parliament, where I met National Councillor Martin Bäumle, who enthusiastically made a calculation over lunch and came to the conclusion that 49% of the air ticket levy could be used to finance up to 10% of the kerosene consumption in Zurich Kloten at today's kerosene price. 

The FDP agreed to the air ticket levy, Martin Bäumle introduced our idea into the debate and today the exemption of synthetic fuels from CO2 sanctions is Article 18 and the start-up financing for synthetic kerosene is Article 53 in the new CO2 law. However, this law will probably have to survive a referendum which could be held against it. If it succeeds, Switzerland will have made history in the fight against climate change with two innovative approaches, for the most part without even realizing it.

Read the original LinkedIn article here


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