Like all of Central Europe, Switzerland is one of the world's regions in which heat levels have increased the most over the last few decades. Over eighty percent of the Swiss population lived in urban areas in 2015, which corresponds to nearly seven million people. So, the impact is huge.
In summer 2003 there were 42 hot days with a temperature of over 30° C. This led to a to a marked increase in mortality: In the summer 2003, 975 more people died than is otherwise usual at that time of the year. The summer heat of 2015, the second warmest of the 152-year recorded history, even surpassed the values of July and August 2003 and in 2018, a new record summer has already been noted. With climate change, heat stress also continues to increase in Switzerland, especially in urban areas. Cities warm up faster during the day and cool down slower at night than the surrounding areas. This effect is called the urban heat island. For climate change adaptation planning, heat indicators for five Swiss city centers based on the current Swiss climate scenarios CH2018 are available. For more information, see:
The information campaigns of the Confederation and the cantons and their heat action plans
The heat action plans of the cantons regarding adaptation behaviour during periods of heat showed their first effects: In 2015, heat-related mortality was slightly lower than in 2003. In particular, the French- and Italian-speaking areas of Switzerland are focusing on health care provision and behavioural changes.
The Confederation’s measures
In the first part of its strategy for "Adapting to climate change in Switzerland" from 2012, the Federal Council defined the goals, challenges and fields of action. In it, the increasing heat stress in cities and major urban regions is described as one of the biggest cross-sectoral challenges. The accompanying 2020 Action Plan includes 75 measures, some of which aim to contribute to coping with heat stress in cities and major urban regions.
In order to initiate the implementation of the adaptation strategy at local, regional and cantonal levels, the FOEN launched the “Pilot programme for adaptation to climate change”. In the period 2014 to 2016, three projects were supported on the topic “Climate-adapted Urban and Settlement Development” (see under “Projects”). In the second phase of the pilot programme, there is once again a topic on "Higher Heat Exposure".
In addition, a guideline for climate-adapted settlement development was developed by the FOEN. The guideline is intended to provide a quick overview of the increasing heat problem in cities and municipalities as well as the situation in Switzerland. In particular, however, the guideline is dedicated to the basics, strategies and measures that help cities and municipalities focus on the increasing heat stress and thus reduce their negative consequences as much as possible.
The FOEN has developed a concept for a climate programme in close cooperation with the Swiss Federal Office of Energy (SFOE). Realisation started in 2017.
In communication, the programme aims to support municipalities with advice and information. In this way, they can also fulfil their role-model function in climate issues and make an important contribution with their public relations work in order to sensitize the population, associations and companies on climate- and energy-related topics and show them options for action.
Central to the success of the programme is also a partnership with energy cities and communities.
Last modification 26.04.2023
Federal Office for the Environment
Reporting and Adaptation Section