Imagine yourself in the Switzerland of tomorrow

What if, in a few years, the sounds we hear in cities are no longer those of cars, but of birds? What if the air we breathe here could be as pure as the air in our mountains? The climate crisis presents us with an opportunity to positively transform our society and make life more pleasant and equitable for everyone. We invite you on a journey into the future, a future that is possible if we work hand in hand with each other and with nature.

We find ourselves in Switzerland during the summer of 2035.

It’s a beautiful Saturday morning, and Nessa wakes up in her student apartment located in the heart of the city. As she opens her eyes, she is greeted by a magnificent view of green roofs and hanging gardens, filled with an array of colorful flowers and abundant shrubs. The city is no longer a concrete jungle of glass, cement and steel, but rather a place where nature thrives in perfect harmony with urban living.

Switzerland has experienced a temperature increase of 3 degrees compared to the pre-industrial era, which is twice the global average. This year’s heat wave is another reminder of just how impactful a 3 degree increase actually is. However, Nessa knows it will be bearable because significant changes have been made to the city. Nature has made a remarkable comeback, bringing its relative coolness along. Trees are no longer overly pruned, and lush vegetation now covers most buildings. Green roofs and rooftop gardens dominate the view from above. Additionally, solar panels and micro-wind turbines have been installed on many green roofs to capture natural energy and feed it into the city’s micro-grids. The rooftop vegetation provides thermal insulation and slows water runoff during heavy rains, which has helped to reduce the temperature in the city and improve biodiversity. Trees, climbing plants on buildings, flowers, birds, insects, and wild pollinators seen throughout the city are proof of this.

Nessa steps out of her apartment and hops onto her electric bike. The city has been redesigned to encourage pedestrian and cyclist mobility while minimizing car traffic. The remaining vehicles are electric, silent, and produce no air pollution. These vehicles are also connected to the grid, storing energy during the day and redistributing it to homes at night. Nessa pedals quietly on one of the four lanes of bike paths that have replaced the car lanes, under the shade of trees that safely separate bikes from buses, streetcars, and the few remaining cars.

Nessa stops by a local market to do her shopping. In many neighbourhoods and most villages, tree-shaded, semi-open marketplaces have been created. Farmers’ cooperatives and networks have thrived, allowing them to organize themselves for more direct sales and increased income, which now reflects the real value of their crucial work in feeding the population.

After shopping, Nessa loads up her bike basket and heads towards the countryside to visit her grandparents. The bicycle paths have reconnected the cities to the countryside and pass through green fields that demonstrate the small revolution Swiss agriculture has undergone.

Nessa grew up seeing parched fields in the summer and early autumn. Now however, thanks to the planting of bushes and biodiversity hedges, the former yellow and brown fields have been transformed into a colorful and vibrant landscape, where annual crops grow efficiently between rows of trees that absorb heat and emissions.

The protective and regenerative farming practices of conservation agriculture are now widely used, minimizing soil disturbance and protecting the land through crop diversification. Thus, we no longer see fields turned over and left bare. Soils are treated with the respect they deserve, naturally capturing a significant amount of greenhouse gases and also generating food that has regained its nutritional richness.

As Nessa passes along a sylvopasture, which mixes cows, trees, and bushes, she rides along intercrops, rows of corn or wheat interspersed with rows of complementary plants, such as beans or greens that help improve soil quality, among other things. All of these agricultural changes have increased the resilience of ecosystems to extreme weather conditions, increased the reliability of local food production, and allowed biodiversity to regenerate.

As Nessa arrives at her family’s house, she sees her grandmother through the solar glass window. Inside, it is surprisingly cool. Nessa remembers the major renovation work carried out ten years ago. During the heatwave of 2024, after multiple weeks of temperatures over 30 degrees, both of her grandparents ended up in the hospital with heatstroke. The following winter, they decided to take advantage of the state aid available to Swiss households to encourage the massive renovation of all buildings. The insulation work improved heat conservation in winter and allowed coolness to be maintained inside in summer, which reduced energy consumption and greatly improved quality of life for those who resided in older buildings.

Switzerland had given itself a decade to cut its emissions in half and increase its resilience. During that time, in addition to massive renovations and renewable energy additions on every usable surface, new homes also began to incorporate underground tanks to capture rainwater, adding an alternative water source for prolonged dry spells.

After spending the day in the countryside, Nessa returns to the city to meet her friends by the lake. She picks up her favourite take-out dish, which comes in a reusable container that she can drop off at one of many collection points after she finishes her meal. Restaurant menus now offer a minimum of 50% plant-based dishes. Meat is still available, but it is now more of a special meal cooked mostly by older citizens, rather than an everyday choice. Plant-based food has contributed to a dramatic decrease in the rates of heart disease, diabetes, and several types of cancer, resulting in considerably decreased public health costs.

Switzerland has also made great strides in reducing food waste. Municipalities have set up programs to collect organic waste, which makes it possible to compost everything that is not consumed and use it to feed the earth.

Nessa will turn 19 in a few months. She was 6.5 years old on April 22, 2023, when she marched through Bern with the Blue March, which called on Switzerland to respect the Paris Agreement, and is when many of the critical transformations began.

This text was shared at the end of the Blue March on April 22, 2023, in the Federal Plaza in Bern, with the 4,000 participants who came to welcome the marchers at the end of the journey that began on April 1, 2023, in Geneva. The Swiss Climate Action team congratulates and thanks the four initiators of the Blue March, Valérie D’Acremont, an infectious diseases doctor, Julia Steinberger, an ecological economist, Irène Wettstein, a lawyer, and Bastienne Joerchel, a political scientist, for their commitment to improving the future of Switzerland and for the opportunity to collaborate on the Blue March.

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To formalize the right science behind emissions reduction in Switzerland and to engage stakeholders from across the country we will need every bit of financial support. Please contact us to find out more about Swiss Climate Action’s funding needs.

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