Many of the larger Swiss cities have set themselves the goal of becoming climate-neutral over the coming years. The city of Zurich, for example, is aiming to achieve net zero by 2040. But what does achieving net zero actually involve? First of all, cities need to tackle direct emissions within their boundaries. For the most part, these result from a building stock that predominantly uses fossil fuels, and from fossil fuel-powered (private) transport.
Certain areas have already gone electric, for example large sections of public transport. However, when it comes to heating buildings and private mobility, developments are lagging behind – although positive improvements can be seen here.
It is important to recognise, though, that direct emissions within the city boundaries do not constitute the majority of CO₂ emissions. Indirect emissions are accrued outside the city boundaries or national borders, in the upstream chains of the energy, goods and services consumed.
The big challenge for cities is to reduce emissions that are produced by consumption. In July 2022, this realisation led the city of Zurich to become the first city in Switzerland to sign the ‘Circular Cities Declaration’, pledging to play its part in the circular economy.
To lower CO₂ emissions produced as a result of consumption over the long term, we not only need a sufficiency strategy but also a dramatic reduction of CO₂ emissions over the entire life cycle chain of a product.
Circular economy – but how?
The goal of the circular economy is to create a closed loop of both technological and biological resources. The strategy is focused on achieving the greatest possible value retention. This is achieved by recycling being viewed as a last resort in a product’s life cycle. The primary aim is to extend and intensify product use through replacement parts, reuse, reconditioning and repair.