Despite Orson Welles diatribe about Switzerland in the Third Man, the country is an important and successful economy. So, the recent June 2021 referendum result from Switzerland should be a wake-up call for the Green lobby around the world about zero carbon.
Voters voted against measures to reduce the country’s carbon emissions by 51% to 49%. The measures include a tax of airline tickets and a car fuel levy. Opposition was strongest in poorer, rural areas.
My concern is that the referendum result is an example of the failure of the Green lobby to convince citizens of the measures needed to achieve carbon targets, of a complacency and laziness that people will accept measures whatever the cost. Unless this issue is addressed, then we will see further resistance to measures to reduce carbon which affect ordinary people and voters.
It is not as though recent events do not provide examples where citizens have not accepted policies imposed on them. The gilet jaune protests, Brexit and Trump all illustrate that elites should not ignore the ordinary citizen. This appears to have been significant in Switzerland. Being told something is good for you or is necessary is not enough. No matter how many times Sir David Attenborough tells us what we need to do, when the actions start to affect our lifestyles and standard of living, then people will question the remedies proposed, particularly the poorer members of society.
Instead, politicians and green experts need to be honest about the scope of change needed to achieve net zero. They need to be honest about what it will cost an ordinary family and the changes in their lifestyle and standard of living it will engender. They have to get out of the green bubble where the change to net zero is achieved effortlessly. It won’t be. Changing domestic heating, only allowing electric cars and pricing airline flights will all affect the poorest 50% the most. Reconciling reducing carbon and the cost on the poorer is a crucial challenge.
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