Greenhouse gases 2022: sharp drop in building emissions

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 (Image: Pixabay CC0)
(Image: Pixabay CC0)

In 2022, Switzerland emitted 41.6 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent (CO2 eq.), 3.5 million tonnes less than in 2021. Overall, emissions were 24% below their 1990 level. These figures are based on the Federal Office for the Environment’s (FOEN) annual greenhouse gas inventory. The building sector, in particular, achieved a sharp drop, due to lower consumption of gas and heating oil as a result of a particularly mild winter. Emissions from the industrial sector also fell. Emissions from transport and agriculture fell only slightly.

The FOEN will submit the Swiss greenhouse gas inventory to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in April 2024. This inventory provides a complete picture of greenhouse gas emissions, as required by the Paris Agreement (climate agreement).

Building sector : - 44% compared with 1990

In 2022, the building sector emitted 9.4 million tonnes of CO2e, 44% less than in 1990. In fact, gas and oil consumption for heating buildings was down on the previous year due to the exceptionally mild winter. Emissions from this sector are on a downward trend, despite the fact that the surface area heated has increased by more than 50% since 1990. This decrease is mainly due to improved energy efficiency and the increasing installation of heat pumps, particularly during building refurbishments.

Industry sector: -27% compared to 1990

In 2022, emissions from the industrial sector amounted to 9.6 million tonnes of CO2e, corresponding to a reduction of around 27% on 1990, or 0.9 million tonnes on the previous year. This reduction is mainly due to the installation of a catalytic converter at the headquarters of Arxada SA (formerly Lonza SA) in Visp, and to the gas-saving measures recommended by the Federal Council for the winter of 2022/2023. As part of these cost-saving measures, the Federal Council also recommended switching from gas to fuel oil, but this resulted in only a small amount of additional emissions (9400 tonnes of CO2 eq.).

Transport sector: -8% compared with 1990

In 2022, the transport sector emitted around 13.7 million tonnes of CO2e, just 0.16 million tonnes less than the previous year. Transport emissions were thus 8% below their 1990 level. Under the CO2 Act, part of this sector’s emissions are offset through the obligation on fuel importers to compensate. In the greenhouse gas inventory, these reductions are attributed to the sector in which they were achieved. According to estimates, reductions in the transport sector amounted to 0.7 million tonnes of CO2e. In addition, various offsetting projects reduced emissions in other sectors by around 0.2 million tonnes of CO2e (e.g. through the use of waste heat or the promotion of district heating networks).

Other emissions: agriculture, synthetic greenhouse gases and waste

Emissions from agriculture have fallen slightly. They will amount to 6.4 million tonnes of CO2e in 2022. A slight reduction was also achieved in emissions of synthetic greenhouse gases, such as those released by refrigerants, and in emissions from waste management. By 2022, other emissions will total 8.9 million tonnes of CO2e, 13% lower than in 1990.

Box 1: Including methane emissions in the greenhouse gas inventory
The climatic effect of greenhouse gas emissions depends on the heat they retain in the atmosphere (radiation effect) and the rate at which greenhouse gases break down in the atmosphere. Because of its greater radiation effect, methane is a much more powerful greenhouse gas than CO2. However, as methane degrades more rapidly in the atmosphere than CO2, its climatic effect diminishes within a few decades. Under the climate agreement, the greenhouse gas inventory must indicate methane’s average contribution to the greenhouse effect over a 100-year period (GWP100 metric). This method fails to take sufficient account of methane’s short-term climatic effect, and overestimates its long-term effect. During its next work cycle, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) will draw up a methodological report on how to evaluate short-lived versus long-lived greenhouse gases. For the time being, Switzerland continues to use the GWP100 metric, as do other countries under the climate agreement.

Box 2: End of the Kyoto period: cancellation of surplus certificates
In October 2023, Switzerland submitted its closing report for the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol to the UNFCCC. UN experts reviewed this report in February 2024 and confirmed that Switzerland had fulfilled its commitment. In fact, it reduced its emissions by an average of 15.8% compared with 1990 levels over the period 2013-2020. To achieve its target, Switzerland also claimed certificates from climate protection projects abroad, in accordance with the rules of the Kyoto Protocol. These certificates were transferred to the Confederation by the Climate Cent Foundation. However, Switzerland did not need all the certificates to reach its target. Excess certificates, of which there are around 10 million, will be cancelled voluntarily. In this way, Switzerland is helping to reduce the global oversupply of certificates from the Kyoto Protocol period.

Federal Office for the Environment FOEN