Federal Councillor Simonetta Sommaruga to pay working visit to California

Bern, 16.06.2021 - From 21 to 24 June, Federal Councillor Simonetta Sommaruga will be on a working visit to California which, for the first time, is taking place virtually. The head of the Federal Department of the Environment, Transport, Energy and Communications (DETEC) will speak with several state politicians such as Eleni Kounalakis, the lieutenant governor of California, and David Hochschild, chair of the California Energy Commission. The programme also includes virtual visits to companies investing in climate change mitigation solutions, such as electric train and vehicle production. This virtual trip pilots a new approach to working visits, following on from the experience of the coronavirus pandemic. Ms Sommaruga is keen to explore the conditions under which such climate-friendly visits could become the norm for certain destinations.

It is the first time a member of the Federal Council is making a working visit in this format. Although held online, the visit will be in real time and have the same components as a conventional trip, with site visits, company tours and various joint events, such as discussions with climate experts and business representatives. The use of drones and digital applications will make it possible to take a walk through Napa Valley, where the vineyards are particularly vulnerable to climate change, and visit the Muir Woods redwood forest, which President Theodore Roosevelt declared in 1908 the first privately donated US National Monument. The programme also includes a visit to a public library in San Francisco offering special services for disadvantaged groups.

The trip pilots a new approach which has emerged from the experience of the coronavirus pandemic, during which many meetings have been held virtually rather than in person. Ms Sommaruga is keen to explore the conditions under which such climate-friendly visits could become the norm for certain destinations. 

California and Switzerland: investing in a fossil-free future

Both Switzerland and California are greatly affected by climate change. The impacts are sorely felt in California, where prolonged droughts and wildfires are becoming increasingly common, destroying homes and fertile soil. Besides the loss of biodiversity, this poses a threat to California's forests and the future of winegrowing in Napa Valley.

California has taken numerous steps to counter this: the state is increasingly investing in climate protection measures and is working to transition the electricity sector to renewables. Moreover, it intends to achieve carbon neutrality no later than 2045. New and innovative ideas for switching from fossil fuels to renewables are constantly being developed in California, and numerous Swiss companies are also involved here.

During the virtual working visit, the DETEC head will meet with political leaders in the fields of energy, the environment and transport, as well as with representatives of Swiss and US companies investing in clean technologies and climate-friendly mobility solutions. In addition to the discussions, Ms Sommaruga will have an opportunity to see several production facilities, for example the factory of Swiss train manufacturer Stadler in Salt Lake City, Utah. She will also meet with experts to discuss climate change and its impact on biodiversity and agriculture.

Address for enquiries

Communication DETEC, +41 58 462 55 11


General Secretariat of the Federal Department of Environment, Transport, Energy and Communications; General Secretariat DETEC

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