Pilot project to transform two Zurich districts into net zero neighbourhoods

Pilot project to transform two Zurich districts into net zero neighbourhoods

To prepare for the city’s long-term goal of being net zero by 2040, Zurich is set to transform one of its districts into a net zero neighbourhood. The project will be used to test green policies that could help the Swiss metropolis achieve its climate goals.

Zurich council votes to create net-zero community

By 84 votes to 34, the city council and government of Zurich approved a plan to create a “net-zero neighbourhood.” Under the plans, the districts of Binz and Alt-Wiedikon will be transformed into a net-zero community over six years.

According to the concept approved by officials, the project will seek to discover how Zurich will be able to become net zero in time for its 2040 goal. Binz and Alt-Wiedikon were chosen because they are both residential and commercial areas, allowing authorities to experiment with policies targeting both residents and entrepreneurs. The total cost of the project is estimated to be around 7,7 million francs.

How will Zurich create a climate-neutral neighbourhood?

First, authorities said they wanted to create a “feeling of unity” among the 9.000 residents of Binz and Alt-Wiedikon by providing regular updates via the internet, posters and social media as to whether they have made any progress toward net zero. If Binz and Alt-Wiedikon achieve net zero, a series of neighbourhood festivals and parties are planned.

For home and business owners, authorities are hoping to discuss upgrading dwellings in the area with photovoltaics and renovations based on renewable heating and energy. At the city level, authorities will look into expanding cycle paths, electric charging stations and car-sharing schemes.

Swiss city asks for ideas on how to achieve net zero

Finally, for the residents of Binz and Alt-Wiedikon, the local council has announced a series of free information events about how they can cut down on emissions and reduce waste. Cooking courses are even planned, where residents are “invited to reflect on their eating habits and integrate sustainability into them.”

Residents of Zurich as a whole are also encouraged to submit their ideas on how to cut carbon emissions. If they prove viable and affordable, these proposals will also be included and tested in the scheme. 

Speaking to the Tages-Anzeiger, local councillor Julia Hofstetter (Greens) said that Zurich had to get a move on to achieve the 2040 net zero target - approved by 75 percent of Swiss citizens at a referendum in May 2022. She argued that by applying policies on a small scale, they will be able to see what works and what doesn’t before investing too much money into city-wide projects.

Critics argue the net zero plan is too vague

The idea is not universally popular, with FDP local councillor Deborah Wettstein questioning how a 70-page-long proposal could be so “thin” on detail. Swiss People’s Party city councillor Walter Anken said that the “spongy” proposal was “excessively” expensive for what it is, arguing that authorities were only accepting suggestions from the public because the council “had run out of ideas.”

When asked whether asking the public for ideas was a sign of not knowing how to achieve the net zero goal, Hofstetter retorted that by keeping the proposal broad and accessible, “The concept is intentionally kept agile". "A rigid policy would be like a corset, it prevents new ideas,” she concluded.

Jan de Boer


Jan de Boer

Editor for Switzerland at IamExpat Media. Jan studied History at the University of York and Broadcast Journalism at the University of Sheffield. Though born in York, Jan has lived most...

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