Swiss parliament gets climate lecture after father's hunger strike

·2-min read

By Emma Farge and Cecile Mantovani

BERN (Reuters) -Climate scientists took turns to deliver speeches on the perils of global warming to the Swiss parliament on Monday in an event triggered by the hunger strike of a frustrated Swiss father on its doorstep last year.

Guillermo Fernandez, a father of three, ended a 39-day hunger strike in December when the government submitted to his demand for the session.

"It's really fantastic to be here knowing that today the facts are going to be laid out to parliament and the whole Swiss people," he told Reuters in Federal Square, the location of his strike, ahead of the event.

"After, we will see which politicians take up their responsibilities for the sake of our children and which ones ignore them."

Temperature rises in Switzerland have already exceeded two degrees Celsius, about double the global average, shrinking its once-mighty glaciers and creating new dangers of drought and rockfalls amid thawing permafrost.

Switzerland, a top finance hub, has committed to achieving net zero in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, yet its actions are deemed "insufficient" by Climate Action Tracker, a website which monitors steps by governments to combat global warming.

Bern has said an initiative to stop the use of fossil fuels in Switzerland by 2050 goes too far. The country will hold a referendum within two years on a proposal to ban the sale of fossil fuels after 2050, with some small exceptions.

"Switzerland has a duty: its high consumption means it makes a greater contribution to the climate and biodiversity crises but it also suffers the consequences," Julia Steinberger, an ecological economist at the University of Lausanne, told members of parliament who had signed up for the optional session.

Only 100, or less than half of the 246 invited, turned up, an official said. The benches reserved for a right-wing group dominated by the People's Party (SVP) were all but empty.

Sonia Seneviratne, an ETH Zurich climate scientist who testified, said she felt some disappointment at the slowness of government action.

"I feel we have the means to do it. We are among the richest countries so it should be possible," she told Reuters.

Outside, around 200 demonstrators gathered, some dressed as thermometers and one as a dinosaur, to illustrate humanity's possible fate. "I don't have crazy hopes," said Camille Mariethoz from Fribourg. "I don't think one event will change everything," she added.

(Additional reporting by Silke Koltrowitz, Writing by Emma Farge, Editing by William Maclean)

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