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Minister hails progress on environmental issues after West Africa trip

Swiss Environment Minister Simonetta Sommaruga (centre-right) inspects used screens during a visit to an electronics recycling company in Ghana Keystone / Anthony Anex

Environment Minister Simonetta Sommaruga has welcomed progress on environmental protection following a visit to Ghana and Senegal.

This content was published on July 10, 2021 - 17:43
Keystone-SDA/FOEN/SWI swissinfo.ch/ilj

She is now looking ahead to the COP26 global environmental meeting in Glasgow later this year.

“Ghana and Senegal have a very young population…. Together we can help protect the climate and create jobs,” Sommaruga told the Keystone-SDA news agency after wrapping up her five-day trip.

During the visit, Sommaruga signed a climate agreementExternal link between Switzerland and Senegal. It is the third such agreement to compensate for CO2 emissions under the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.

Switzerland signed corresponding international agreements with Peru and Ghana around six months ago. These agreements allow Switzerland to offset CO2 emissions by financing projects in the partner countries.

In Ghana, the minister agreed steps to speed up the implementation of the above-mentioned climate agreement. The issue of electronic waste was also a focus.

GOP 26

The Paris Agreement, which was adopted by nearly 200 countries - including Switzerland - will be discussed at the United Nations climate change conference COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland, in November. 

One of the issues on the agenda is the agreement's Article 6 on voluntary international cooperation on climate action (which is linked to the Ghana and Senegal deals). Countries have yet to reach a consensus on how to apply this article.

For Sommaruga, “what is important is that we prove with our climate agreements that it’s possible to have robust, effective and transparent rules that serve both countries”.

She added that such rules were in the interest of all countries and that Switzerland was very committed to ensuring that a solution could be found.

Plan B

“That’s why we need a Plan B,” Sommaruga stated. “I am in the process of preparing a Plan B with some allies. It involves a group of countries announcing that even with no agreement, they will apply robust rules, thinking not only of the climate, but also respecting human rights and environmental standards.”

Asked whether Switzerland was having more success internationally on green issues than at home - given that the Swiss CO2 law was defeated at the ballot box in June – Sommaruga said that Switzerland had always been active both nationally and internationally. But she added that that Switzerland needed “a new start” at home and the population was expecting this too.

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