Federal Councillor Viola Amherd
Members of the Swiss administration and Parliament,
CEOs, managers and representatives of innovative businesses and initiatives,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
1. Climate Change – a global challenge (and the theme of Tech4Good no. 2)
Thank you all for joining me today at the House of Switzerland. I am glad to see so many of you here, eager to use technology for good. I’m particularly pleased to see my colleague Federal Councillor Viola Ahmed in the audience. For this year's Tech4Good, the FDFA and – more specifically – the SDC have made climate change the central theme.
The devastating effects of climate change are being felt all over the world. In Australia, bushfires fuelled by severe drought have consumed an area twice the size of Switzerland in recent weeks. To date, the ongoing fires have claimed the lives of around 500 million wild animals and more than two dozen people. Not to mention the material losses and mass evacuations facing hundreds of thousands of people.
Meanwhile, rising sea levels are already starting to submerge some South Pacific atolls – fortunately mainly uninhabited ones so far.
At first glance, climate change does not appear to be a major issue here in Davos: there is plenty of snow, even too much for some people! But let us not be deceived: since the beginning of the 19th century, the average annual temperature in Davos has risen by 1.9 degrees Celsius. Compared with the global average increase of around 0.9 degrees Celsius, Davos is in fact warming twice as fast. Over the past ten years, a fifth of Switzerland's glacier volume has already melted away. According to climate models from the ETH Zurich, half of all the glaciers in the Alps will have disappeared by 2050.
If we are to combat global warming, we have to find solutions together! Through international cooperation, Switzerland can support and promote the use of the latest technologies to reduce global warming in different countries and markets around the world. Tech4Good simply means that we apply new technologies worldwide in such a way that they create added value for the economy, the environment and most especially for people.
2. Tech4Good is part of Switzerland’s DNA
Switzerland, and the SDC in particular, has a long history of working on solutions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, mitigate the effects of climate change and, in doing so, put forward tangible measures to implement the Paris Agreement and the 2030 Agenda.
In the 1990s, for example, when the Taj Mahal turned black because of air pollution, the local glass bangle industry risked being shut down. The SDC helped over 80 glass manufacturers to switch from coal to more efficient gas-fired furnaces. This support resulted in improved air quality, savings of 700,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions and safeguarded 150,000 jobs. Cooperation on energy efficiency was then extended to the foundry sector. I am very pleased that our partner in this undertaking, the Energy and Resource Institute (TERI), is represented here today by its Director General, Dr Ajay Mathur.
In 1979 Switzerland was one of the first countries in the world to introduce an energy efficiency building code. This was right after the oil crisis. As you probably know, Switzerland does not have any fossil fuel resources of its own. This scarcity forced us to become creative and progressive. The building code gave us the freedom to become less dependent on fossil fuels. We started to make better use of our mountains to harness hydropower and construct our buildings more efficiently. Today, we have one of the tightest building codes in the world. When the code was first introduced in 1979, a building consumed about 20 litres of heating fuel per square metre and year. Today, that figure has fallen to 4 litres for new buildings, and 7 litres for well-refurbished existing buildings. Our most recent building codes strive towards zero net energy buildings. We are currently running pilot schemes to build energy-self-sufficient buildings, which are not even connected to the grid.
Taking these examples, this year’s Tech4Good event will focus on innovative technologies and energy-efficient solutions in the building and construction sector, which currently accounts for almost 40% of global CO2 emissions.
It has always been important for Switzerland to invest in long-standing international partnerships and to share our knowledge and experience with others. This is also the case in the construction sector, where Switzerland is a leader in the research and design of sustainable building materials, such as low-carbon cement, and in the energy-efficient design of buildings. As a member of the Global Alliance for Building and Construction, and as a contributor to the International Energy Agency’s Energy Efficiency in Emerging Economies Programme, Switzerland is sharing its longstanding experience in energy efficiency with other countries, particularly with developing and emerging economies.
Today, we will have the opportunity to hear from two experts about a new type of cement that can be produced with up to 30% lower CO2 emissions than ordinary cement – cement production currently accounts for around 7% of global CO2 emissions – and how the future building stock in India and other emerging countries can be built more efficiently, preventing millions of tonnes of CO2 emissions.
3. The SDC at the control centre of Switzerland's microcosm (as in the T4G logo)
All of these examples are the result of close collaboration – collaboration between the public sector, academia and the private sector, and between individuals and institutions. Working together is not only in Switzerland’s DNA, but it is also a clear objective of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Switzerland stands for innovation and quality. Year after year, Switzerland figures high in the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness rankings. Our outstanding political and economic stability provides an excellent environment for innovation to thrive. And there is no shortage of highly qualified people with a wealth of expertise. But favourable conditions alone are not enough: we also have companies and universities that are able to drive innovation. In this environment, Switzerland – with its modern approach to international cooperation – is uniquely positioned to help apply innovative technologies worldwide. Of course, promoting research in marketable innovations not only helps rapidly developing economies to become more climate-friendly, thereby mitigating global climate change, but sustainable markets, an energy-efficient construction and building sector and clean cities also form attractive markets for the international industrial and financial sector.
4. Strengthening science diplomacy
Last year, I commissioned a group of experts to draft a new foreign policy vision for 2028; this envisaged broadening the range of skills available to Swiss foreign policy. In future, even more economic expertise will be channelled into Swiss diplomacy and disseminated through Switzerland's international cooperation. This will help to promote expertise on new technologies internationally. Switzerland intends to pursue a more science-based approach to foreign policy and enhance its 'science diplomacy' capacities.
Technology can enable us to make great strides, so we need to ensure that we make the best use of it.
Today’s event can serve as inspiration for what we want to achieve here: each and every one of you is a leader in your respective field. But we will achieve little by working alone. So let me invite you to challenge each other and work together. Let’s make technology to limit climate change available for the greater good. Why not begin right now, here in Davos! Let’s act and build the future – together.
I very much look forward to our discussions.