Sustainable decarbonisation: New options for mobility

Towards a sustainable decarbonisation of transport in Switzerland

Swiss voters recently rejected draft legislation on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, creating fresh challenges for the country’s climate change policy. Strategies to achieve the target set out in the Paris Climate Agreement to halve greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 now have to be reviewed, along with the Swiss Federal Council’s ambitious 2050 net zero target.

A Deloitte survey of the reasons underlying the rejection of the draft legislation shows that most citizens are not actually sceptical about climate change and are in fact keen to avoid emissions, and that most advocate climate-friendly mobility solutions.

Sustainable decarbonisation

Cutting emissions in the mobility sector: desirable but unlikely?

The survey findings reveal clear differences between respondents’ assessment of the desirability of different measures to cut mobility emissions by 2030 and of how successful such measures will probably be (see Chart 1).

A large majority of respondents (68%) see shifting freight from road to rail as the most desirable course of action. But they might be influenced less by the need to take action on the climate than by a perception that they are hindered by freight traffic on the roads – despite the fact that Switzerland already leads other European countries in shifting to rail. However, at least half of all respondents also rate all the other measures – on air travel, use of fossil fuels for personal transport, and e-mobility – as desirable.

Chart 1: Progress towards reducing emissions

Respondents consider progress towards electrifying vehicle fleets and promoting electric cars as the most probable area for success (45% of respondents), followed by progress towards shifting freight from road to rail (40% of respondents). Potential obstacles to further electrification and take-up of electric cars include the ongoing inadequacy of the charging infrastructure, the high purchase price of electric vehicles (despite their low running costs), concerns about their limited range, and widespread scepticism about battery life and recycling options.

Respondents expect private and business air travel and private vehicles using fossil fuels to be the areas where least progress is made towards a reduction in emissions by 2030 (30% and 36% of respondents, respectively). They expect the greatest transformation in air travel over the coming years to come from offsetting emissions, emissions trading certificates, and the addition of synthetic fuels to fossil fuels. They view technological improvements, such as more efficient engines, as most likely to make the greatest contribution to cutting emissions from private cars that continue to use fossil fuels.

After the no to the CO2 Act, it is more than ever in the hands of the citizens as consumers, employers or road users whether we will reduce our emissions sustainably.

Rolf Brügger, Government & Public Services Director

A good mix of reduction measures

Most respondents welcome the different approaches to reducing the environmental pollution caused by emissions and consider them desirable – in some cases, by a large majority – but up to one-quarter of respondents doubt whether such measures are actually realistic (see Chart 2).

Chart 2: Approaches to reducing environmental pollution

Offsetting carbon emissions, for example through a ticket levy on air travel, is seen as desirable by just over half of all respondents (53%), but only 38% see rate offsetting as realistic. One-quarter (26%) view attempts to reduce environmental damage by making the polluter pay as unrealistic. An additional question about Switzerland’s draft climate legislation in the run-up to the referendum produced a similar response, with half the respondents advocating an air travel levy but one-quarter clearly opposing it.

The question on changes in personal behaviour as a contribution to cutting emissions, such as reducing driving, reveals a discrepancy between perceptions of the desirability of such changes and judgements of how realistic they are. Six out of ten respondents see changing their own behaviour as desirable. However, only just over one in three think it is also realistic to do so. Respondents appear to be less critical of their own actions than those of others.

Using new goods and services to cut emissions is seen as both most desirable and most realistic (71% and 46% of responses, respectively). New innovations and technological advances are seen as most promising in terms of reducing the environmental pollution caused by emissions. One encouraging finding is that the Swiss are less sceptical about technology than other countries, including Germany.

A balanced mix of complementary measures to sustainably decarbonise mobility will probably be most important in future – that is, not just offsetting emissions but also adopting behavioural shifts, financial incentives, support for new technologies, and new business models and mobility concepts.

About the study
This study considers the challenges and opportunities currently facing Switzerland in its attempts sustainably to decarbonise its mobility sector. It is based on a survey of private individuals and interviews with experts from the private sector (companies) and the public sector (government, agencies and universities). Sustainable decarbonisation of food production and consumption, homes and workplaces will be the focus of separate studies.

The survey was conducted in early May, with 1,501 individuals completing a questionnaire. Half were men and half women, and respondents were aged between 15 and 67. Thirty-five per cent of the sample lived in large towns and cities (of more than 50,000 inhabitants), 30 per cent in other urban areas, and 35 per cent in rural areas.

Face to face interviews were also conducted in June 2021 with experts from AMAG Innovation & Venture LAB; the Mobility Office of the Canton of Zurich; ETH Zürich (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich); Mobility; the Mobility Academy of the Touring Club Switzerland (TCS); and the General Secretariat of the Swiss Federal Department of the Environment, Transport, Energy and Communications (DETEC). Comments from experts who did not wish to be identified or quoted have been anonymised in the study.

Deloitte’s 2020 Power Up Switzerland study identified sustainability, infrastructure and energy as key areas in efforts to enhance the country’s long-term competitiveness as a business location. A healthy environment – including, in particular, the mobility sector – is crucial to the success of all sectors of the economy.

Find out how to Power Up Switzerland

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