Dialogue for the Future "Net Zero": A view on the event

The topic was “Energy Net Zero”, which refers to the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions caused by human activities as much as possible and offsetting the rest completely. Net Zero is thus necessary to stop climate change. In this year's "Future Dialogue", we looked at the strategies for achieving such a net-zero goal in Switzerland, in the Canton of Basel-Stadt, and at the University of Basel. In addition, we discussed the economic and individual implications of Net Zero.

We want to thank the speakers for their engaging presentations, and the audience for their interesting input to our discussion.

Net Zero- what does that mean for Switzerland?

Hannes Weigt and Jonas Savelsberg initiated the discourse with an exploration of Switzerland's present climate situation. They pinpointed key areas of energy consumption and emissions, stressing the urgency of leveraging existing technologies like solar, wind, reduction of methane, bioelectricity, hydropower, and much more. These technologies not only reduce emissions but also prove economically viable. Additionally, they shed light on often overlooked co-benefits associated with energy and mobility changes, such as  improved traffic and enhanced public health. The speakers emphasized that “net zero” in Switzerland, means that the country must contribute its share to decarbonization, promote the expansion of PV and the electrification of transport and heating, must consider path dependencies, feedback, and co-benefits in its measures, and can’t forget the central role of people in this process.

Climate responsibility: the climate strategy of the University Basel

Arne Menn and Jens Gaab delved into the strategy plans of the University of Basel to integrate sustainability across the academic spectrum. They emphasized the imperative of aligning research, teaching, campus operations, and the university's business operations with sustainability goals. Specific sectoral objectives were outlined, spanning energy consumption, food sustainability, grey emissions, and more. The speakers advocated for the integration of Negative Emission Technologies (NET), offsetting, and other methods to create a feasible plan by 2030.

Basel's Climate Protection Strategy: Basel on the way to Net Zero by 2037

Till Berger presented the climate protection draft of the presidential department, in response to the vote for Basel to be net zero by 2037. He emphasized the strategy's focus on direct and indirect emissions. Highlighting a decrease-first approach, instead of compensating, wherever possible. The presentation underscored the importance of carbon capture and storage technologies for unfeasible emissions reduction, for example from garbage incineration. Till Berger stressed the positive byproducts of climate protection, resonating in cleaner air, enhanced cardiovascular health, and improved productivity due to better-insulated buildings.

Climate Policy and Distribution: Whom Does Net Zero Burden?

Frank Krysiak addressed the question of cost distribution for climate protection. He examined how concerns regarding cost distribution and its impact on various socio-economic groups are often raised in the discourse on climate policies. In a study with J. Velvart and N. Fricker, they investigated a scenario involving levies on space heating expenses. Their findings revealed that households of all different constellations (families, single-person households, retirees, etc.) were burdened similarly by such levies. Lower-income households did not bear a disproportionately higher burden, owing to anticipated shifts in behavior, reduced energy costs, and a redistributive per capita approach. Krysiak concluded that while funds are available for climate initiatives, ensuring fairness through equitable redistribution remains a pertinent consideration.

Energy Net Zero Lifestyles?

Iljana Schubert emphasized the potential impact of lifestyle alterations within individual reach. These adjustments fall into two strategic categories: rethinking (without sacrifice) and reducing. The first approach involves a thoughtful reconsideration of behavior through focus, motivation, structural adjustments, and opportune moments, showcasing how changes need not be viewed as sacrifices. The reduction strategy involves enhancing efficiency and embracing sufficiency, showcasing examples like transitioning from a car to a cargo bike, fostering community sharing, and requiring corresponding structural modifications such as dedicated parking and streets. A third strategy involves compensation, which should be considered only when other practical alternatives for reducing or eliminating CO2 are unavailable, underscoring the importance of collective societal cooperation to initiate change.