Geneva: The Swiss government on Wednesday committed to cut its carbon emissions by at least 20 percent from its 1990 levels by 2020, but green groups said the target was too modest.
The government's commitment also fell short of targets sought by a citizens' initiative which wants Switzerland to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 30 percent by 2020, compared to 1990 levels.
Under the Swiss constitution, citizens can force a national referendum on an issue if they manage to collect at least 100,000 signatures for the initiative.
But the government said the commitment sought by the initiative "would not leave sufficient flexibility," as it called for the initiative to be rejected.
The government however noted that since the reduction levels must be agreed on by industrialised countries, it was prepared to raise its target to 30 percent.
"This depends anyway on the results of the United Nations conference on climate which will be held in December 2009 at Copenhagen," added the government in a statement.
Alexander Hauri, who leads Greenpeace Switzerland's climate campaign said the group "deplores the decision" by the Swiss government.
Such targets were "unacceptable" for an industrialised country.
"By adopting such weak climate targets, the Swiss government ignores scientific facts and refuses to take its responsibilities in the struggle against climate change," he added.
The Copenhagen conference is meant to seal a new international accord on fighting climate change after the Kyoto Protocol's requirements expire in 2012.
Rich economies are being pressed to cut their own emissions by 25-40 percent by 2020 compared with 1990 levels and help poorer nations cope with the impacts of climate change.
The vision is to set curbs on emissions of heat-trapping greenhouse gases beyond 2012, with intermediate targets for 2020 that would be ratcheted up all the way to 2050.
First Published: Thursday, August 27, 2009, 09:21