Companies reduce their CO2 emissions

COP21 Paris
© Arnaud BOUISSOU, CC0 1.0.

The international community will strive to find solutions for reducing CO2 emissions at the 21st United Nations climate conference, which takes place from 30 November to 11 December in Paris. The private sector is also called on to contribute. An increasing number of Swiss companies acknowledge that the effort involved is worthwhile. Decarbonisation is also on the agenda in the financial sector.

Szilvana Spett, 1.12.2015

The Farmer cereal bars, instant coffee and stock cubes found on the shelves of Switzerland’s largest supermarket chain Migros all originate from the factories of Haco AG. The company’s subsidiary in Gümligen in the canton of Bern processes coffee, mixes dry ingredients and packages them. These processes use a lot of energy – coffee production is particularly energy intensive. To increase its energy efficiency and reduce CO2 emissions, the company replaced its steam boiler and updated its roasting plant. Thanks to over 30 large and small measures, the company is now saving on over 16,000 megawatt hours of heat and electricity. And Haco AG is not alone in this.

EnAW and act help save on CO2 emissions

In their search for efficiency measures, Haco and many other companies seek advice from the Energy Agency of the Swiss Private Sector (EnAW), which is funded by the business associations. Experts from the EnAW work with the companies to identify savings potential and compile a catalogue of measures. Based on the CO2 Act, companies in certain sectors are eligible for the refunding of their CO2 levies if they commit to an emissions reduction target. According to Armin Eberle, Managing Director of the EnAW, more and more companies are deciding to commit to such target agreements. Hence, the EnAw already provides consultancy services on behalf of the federal authorities to over 3,500 participating companies, which account for almost half of the emissions generated by the private sector. act, Cleantech-Agentur Schweiz (Swiss Cleantech Agency), also offers consultancy services for companies in addition to the EnAW.

Voluntary support for SMEs

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) can also approach the Swiss Climate Foundation if they need help. The Foundation is funded by major service companies, which voluntarily make the finance available that they have been refunded through the CO2 levy to support SMEs in saving energy and adopting innovative climate-protection solutions. For example, thanks to the support of the Swiss Climate Foundation, Plaston AG in Widnau, canton of Solingen, was able to replace two of its plastic injection moulding machines with more energy-efficient equipment and now saves on 380 kilowatt hours of electricity per year. The company produces plastic packaging and casings and also air treatment appliances.

The technology is available

Innovative technologies are also needed for decarbonisation measures that make a major contribution to the green economy. Switzerland has a lot to offer in this area. As Philippe Thalmann, Professor at the ETH Lausanne, states in a separate interview it performs particularly well in the areas of solar power and hydropower. Switzerland is also far ahead of the field in the development of technologies for controlling room temperature. Landis+Gyr, a company based in Zug, supplies its intelligent energy management solutions to customers all over the world. ABB and Leclanché are among the leading global companies for batteries. And although Switzerland has not had any breakthrough of its own in the area of electric cars, Brusa AG, one of the most important global providers of electronics for electromobility is based in Sennwald in St Galler Rheintal.

Decarbonisation reaches the financial sector

Decarbonisation is also attracting increasing interest in the financial sector. If all of the global reserves of coal, oil and gas cannot be extracted, the companies that own these reserves will lose value. Companies that produce large volumes of CO2 would also be affected. Carbon risks also include new costs due to regulations (levies, limit values), liability risks, reputation risks and cost increases due to a decline in demand. As a result, global investors are under pressure to get out of investments in CO2-intensive companies. This so-called divestment movement is gaining in importance. The Rockefeller Foundation announced its divestment from fossil fuels in autumn 2014. A number of renowned American universities, pension funds and the French insurance group Axa have followed its lead.

Swiss financial centre also affected

The Federal Office for the Environment recently published a study which assesses the risks for the Swiss financial centre associated with risks in CO2-intensive companies. The study shows that Switzerland’s equity funds market alone finances a good 52.2. million tonnes of CO2 equivalents in emissions generated abroad. This corresponds approximately to Switzerland’s total emissions in 2013. With their foreign equity investments, pension funds currently finance around 6.4 tonnes of CO2 emissions per insured person. According to the study, a future increase in the cost of emissions could cost the Swiss equity market up to CHF 6.75 billion.

Publica, Switzerland’s biggest pension fund which manages assets totalling CHF 37.7 billion also participated in the study. According to the company, it has already been analysing this topic for some time now. It has also exchanged information with foreign investors and is currently examining the necessary measures. Zürcher Kantonalbank is also taking this matter very seriously. In September 2015, it was the first Swiss bank to sign the Montreal Carbon Pledge, through which institutional investors undertake to measure and publish the CO2 footprint of their investments. It also launched a sustainability indicator for investment funds in 2011. Thus the decarbonisation of the Swiss financial centre is also under way.


Oil consumption is falling

Oil consumption in industrialised countries is falling. Around 11.5 million tonnes of oil were used in Switzerland in 2010. Consumption fell to around 10.6 million tonnes in 2011 but rose again to around 11 million tonnes in 2012. In 2013 consumption was around 10.9 million tonnes and it fell to just 9.9 million tonnes in 2014. These data are provided by the Federal Statistical Office. Overall consumption has been declining steadily in Europe too. As the figures from the American Energy Information Administration (EIA) show, whereas around 782 million tonnes of oil were still consumed in 2010, by 2013 consumption had fallen to around 725 million tonnes. Oil consumption is even stagnating in North America. In 2010, 1.2 billion tonnes were still consumed there while in 2013 consumption totalled 1.19 million tonnes. Oil consumption in newly industrialised countries is still increasing, particularly due to the subvention of fossil fuels. This trend is further consolidated by the low oil prices. However, the International Energy Agency assumes that the price of oil will rise again slowly and reach around USD 80 per barrel (159 litres) by 2020. It was less than USD 50 in mid-November 2015.

Hotels save on CO2

Hotels in Graubünden in east Switzerland are working together to reduce CO2 emissions. The Graubünden branch of the Swiss Hotel Association launched the project “Lighthouse – Energy-efficient Hotels Graubünden” in March 2013, the purpose of which is to raise awareness in the hotel sector for measures to reduce energy consumption and CO2 emissions. The aim is to encourage as many hotels as possible to increase their energy efficiency and to demonstrate the associated economic benefits for hotel operations. The commitment of the ‘Lighthouse’ Hotels is binding throughout Switzerland. They aim to save a total of 68 gigawatt hours of fossil-based energy, 26 gigawatt hours of electricity, 18,100 tonnes of CO2 and CHF 22 million by 2020. The Graubünden Swiss Hotel Association’s project was the winner of the Swiss Federal Office of Energy’s 2015 “Watt d’Or” award in the society category.

Video by the Federal Department of the Environment, Transport, Energy and Communications DETEC. YouTube, 30.11.2015


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Last modification 21.12.2015

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