Renovate Switzerland: Why are people blocking Swiss roads and motorways?

Renovate Switzerland: Why are people blocking Swiss roads and motorways?

In recent weeks, activists from Renovate Switzerland have been blocking Swiss motorways and roads in protest. The question is, what does Renovate Switzerland want, are their protests having an effect, and will they be doing it again?

What is Renovate Switzerland and what are their goals?

Renovate Switzerland is a self-proclaimed “campaign of civil resistance,” similar to Extinction Rebellion and Insulate UK in tactics and strategy. Donning a photoshopped Rivella logo as its battle standard, the organisation has been blocking roads across four major Swiss cities including Lausanne, Geneva, Bern and Crissier, creating traffic jams and knock-on congestion across the country.

Renovate Switzerland's demands are for the Swiss government to set up a national programme to renovate housing in Switzerland. Setting a four-month deadline for plans to be finalised, they are calling on all Swiss cantons to newly insulate all homes by 2040, at an estimated cost of 1 billion Swiss francs a year. 

Why do Renovate Switzerland block roads?

When asked why the group was causing disruption and not pursuing traditional political methods, such as advocating for a referendum, a spokesperson said the current system is “far too slow and totally inadequate.” They argued Switzerland needed urgent action to combat climate change, not a slow process of voting and compromise.

Insulating housing remains one of the key policies to reduce carbon emissions worldwide, as poorly insulated homes use more energy and therefore emit more CO2. Renovate Switzerland made the case that, currently, Switzerland has no concrete plan to reach its net-zero goals and that their protests are a reminder that politicians must do something to combat climate change.

What is the Swiss government doing to combat climate change?

In response to the increasing number of protests, the National Council's Commission for the Environment voted to approve a new climate plan. This includes carbon neutrality in transportation by 2050, a 90 percent reduction in CO2 emissions by international companies and Swiss industry and a goal to reduce overall CO2 emissions by 75 percent by 2040, compared to emission data recorded in 1990.

To pay for the plans, the Federal Council approved 1,2 billion Swiss francs in funding over the next six years to help companies with the transition. The president of the commission, Jacques Bourgeois, said that the plan was a more realistic solution than those proposed by Renovate and would “fill the vacuum” currently present in Swiss climate change policy.

Renovate Switzerland expected to continue protests on motorways

In response, spokesperson for Renovate Switzerland, Cécile Bessire, said the government's plan lacked ambition, claiming, “Making people think that these measures are sufficient is to lie about the extent of the danger they face. The physical reality tells us that we have three years to determine the future of our country. Any delay is tantamount to the destruction of what is dear to us.”

Bessire confirmed that the new plans will not stop Renovate Switzerland from blocking motorways, with the next actions planned for Lausanne, Neuchâtel and Zurich. She said, "We will stop our civil resistance only when the government takes measures proportionate to the urgency of the threat.” 

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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