Switzerland on track to implement climate law by 2050

Swiss voters looked set to approve proposals to introduce a global minimum tax on businesses and a climate law that aims to cut fossil fuel use and reach zero emissions by 2050.
FILE PHOTO: The snow-covered peaks of Bernese Oberland are seen behind Lake Zug and the city of Zug, Switzerland August 20, 2020.
FILE PHOTO: The snow-covered peaks of Bernese Oberland are seen behind Lake Zug and the city of Zug, Switzerland August 20, 2020. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann/File Photo

By Noele Illien

ZURICH (Reuters) - Swiss voters looked set to approve proposals to introduce a global minimum tax on businesses and a climate law that aims to cut fossil fuel use and reach zero emissions by 2050, projections by public broadcaster SRF showed on Sunday.

The projections, based on counted votes, showed 88% of those who voted in Sunday's national referendum backed raising the country's business tax to the 15% global minimum rate from current average minimum of 11%, while 55% supported the climate law.

The results of the vote were expected later on Sunday.

In 2021, Switzerland joined almost 140 countries that signed up to an Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) deal to set a minimum tax rate for big companies, a move aimed at limiting the practice of shifting profits to low tax countries.

Even with the increase Switzerland will still have one of the lowest corporate tax levels in the world, and the proposal, estimated to bring 2.5 billion Swiss francs ($2.80 billion) per year in additional revenue, has been backed by business groups, most political parties, and the general public.

The climate law, brought back in a modified form after it was rejected in 2021 as too costly, has stirred up more debate with those campaigning against it gaining traction in recent weeks.

Proponents say the law is the minimum the wealthy country needs to do to prove its commitment to fighting climate change while opponents from the right wing People's Party say it will jeopardise energy security.

The projections from Sunday's referendum also suggested voter approval for an extension of some provisions of the country's emergency COVID-19 law, required under Switzerland's system of direct democracy, where legislation is put to the public vote.

Switzerland is home to the offices and headquarters of around 2,000 foreign companies, including Google as well as 200 Swiss multinationals, such as Nestle. While all would be affected, business groups have welcomed the greater degree of certainty that the new tax would bring, even if Switzerland lost some of its low-tax allure.

"No other country is going to have lower taxes either. We want the additional tax revenue to stay in the country, and be used to improve its attractiveness for businesses," said Christian Frey, from Economiesuisse, a lobby group.

($1 = 0.8937 Swiss francs)

(Reporting by Noele Illien, John Revill and Emma Farge; Writing by Tomasz Janowski and Noele Illien; Editing by Frances Kerry and Hugh Lawson)

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