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Switzerland Says No to Nukes, Yes to Renewables Following Historic Citizen Vote

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More than 58 percent of Swiss voters supported a measure to phase out nuclear power in favor of renewable energy.

The plan provides billions in subsidies for renewable energy, bans the construction of new nuclear plants and decommissions Switzerland's five aging reactors. There is no clear date when the plants will close.


"The results shows the population wants a new energy policy and does not want any new nuclear plants," Energy Minister Doris Leuthard said, noting the law would also cut fossil fuel use and reduce reliance on foreign supplies.

"The law leads our country into a modern energy future," she said, and added that some parts of the law would take effect in early 2018.

Nuclear currently provides about a third of the country's electricity while solar and wind only accounts for five percent.

Under the law, billions in subsidies will be raised annually from electricity users to fund investment in renewable energy sources. The legislation calls for solar, wind, biomass and geothermal sources to rise at least 11,400 gigawatt hours by 2035 from 2,831 gigawatt hours now.

The plan also aims to cut the average energy consumption per person per year by 16 percent by 2020 and by 43 percent by 2035 compared to 2000 levels.

Switzerland is following in the footsteps of other European countries that are reducing its reliance on nuclear power in the wake of Japan's Fukushima disaster back in 2011. Germany is also closing its nuclear plants by 2022.

Opponents worry that the shift away from nuclear energy will be too costly. While Leuthard said financing renewables will cost an average family 40 Swiss francs ($41) a year, other critics warn that the cost might be much higher, at 3,200 Swiss francs ($3,290) in extra annual costs.

But the president of Switzerland's Green party, Regula Rytz, called Sunday's referendum a "moment of historic change."

"The Swiss population has said 'no' to the construction of new nuclear power plants and yes to the development of renewable energy," Rytz added. "The conditions have also been set whereby the economy and households will need to take responsibility for the future. It's absolutely magnificent."

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Aerial view of Ruropolis, Para state, northen Brazil, on Sept. 6, 2019. Tthe world's biggest rainforest is under threat from wildfires and rampant deforestation. JOHANNES MYBURGH / AFP via Getty Images

By Kate Martyr

Deforestation in Brazil's Amazon rainforest last month jumped to the highest level since records began in 2015, according to government data.

A total of 563 square kilometers (217.38 square miles) of the world's largest rainforest was destroyed in November, 103% more than in the same month last year, according to Brazil's space research agency.

From January to November this year an area almost the size of the Caribbean island of Puerto Rico was destroyed — an 83% overall increase in destruction when compared with the same period last year.

The figures were released on Friday by the National Institute for Space Research (INPE), and collected through the DETER database, which uses satellite images to monitor forest fires, forest destruction and other developments affecting the rainforest.

What's Behind the Rise?

Overall, deforestation in 2019 has jumped 30% compared to last year — 9,762 square kilometers (approximately 3769 square miles) have been destroyed, despite deforestation usually slowing during November and December.

Environmental groups, researchers and activists blamed the policies of Brazil's president Jair Bolsonaro for the increase.

They say that Bolosonaro's calls for the Amazon to be developed and his weakening support for Ibama, the government's environmental agency, have led to loggers and ranchers feeling safer and braver in destroying the expansive rainforest.

His government hit back at these claims, pointing out that previous governments also cut budgets to environment agencies such as Ibama.

The report comes as Brazil came to loggerheads with the Association of Small Island States (AOSIS) over climate goals during the UN climate conference in Madrid.

AOSIS blasted Brazil, among other nations, for "a lack of ambition that also undermines ours."

Last month, a group of Brazilian lawyers called for Bolsonaro to be investigated by the International Criminal Court over his environmental policies.

Reposted with permission from DW.

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