German Court rules cities can impose driving bans on polluting vehicles

Roman Danaev

A German court has ruled cities can impose driving bans onthe oldest and most polluting diesel cars,reported The Independent newspaper on27thFebruaryin a landmark ruling hailedby Greenpeace as“a victory for clean air”.

On days when harmful emissions are particularly high, the rulingcould lead to around 15 million motorists inGermanyhaving to switch to cleaner cars, or usealternative forms of transport.

Germany has persistently flouted EU rules on levels of air pollution,with Barbara Hendricks, the country’s environment minister,called to Brussels in January this yearto answer questions.

Emissions of nitrogen dioxide (NO2), which is linked to lung problems, are several times higherin diesel than in petrol vehicles. And with public awareness over air quality and the Volkswagen emissions scandalthree years ago, it is perhaps no surprise that environmental campaigners have alsosued dozens of German cities, citing they have a duty to cut excessiveair pollutionto protect people’s health.

The ban

Cars in road

The cities of Dusseldorf and Stuttgart had earlier ruled that aban on diesel cars would be effective with judges saying the two cities can include diesel bans in their clean air plans, but must make surethat any measures are proportionate to the goal of reducing emissions to the legal limit.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said thatthe decision only concerned “individual cities”adding that: “it’s really not about the entire country and all car owners.”

A spokesman from Greenpeace Germany said theruling wasa “victory for clean air, and shows what’s possible whenpublic healthis the priority”.

He added: “AcrossEurope, decisions like these are making it clear that diesel cars are on the way out.

“It makes no sense to invest in a new diesel now, because it’s only a matter of time before even the newest diesels are either banned or priced out of cities.

“Instead, dirty diesel cars will be replaced by cleaner, greener electric cars, improved cycling infrastructure and sustainable transport that’s good for health and theenvironment.”

In the UK

Blue Audi

In the UK, where major cities also regularly breach EU limits, all sales of new petrol and diesel cars will end by 2040.

In April 2019, London’s new ultra-low emissions zone (ULEZ) will also come into force,combining with the congestion charge and existing low emissions zone to impose an additionalcharge on drivers of the most polluting vehicles.

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