German court empowers cities to ban old diesel cars

Environmentalists with posters stand in front of the court building at the start of a hearing at the Federal Administrative Court prior to the judges' decision on banning diesel engine powered vehicles from German cities when air pollution exceeds the permissible limits, in Leipzig, Germany, 27 February 2018. [EPA-EFE/ MATTHIAS RIETSCHEL]

One of Germany’s top courts has ruled that heavily polluting vehicles can be banned from the urban centres of Stuttgart and Düsseldorf, a landmark ruling which could cause traffic chaos on the country’s roads and dramatically hit the value of diesel cars. EURACTIV’s partner The Guardian reports.

Environmental campaigners had sued dozens of German cities, arguing that they have a duty to cut air pollution to protect people’s health.

Stuttgart and Düsseldorf, two of Germany’s most polluted cities, can now legally ban older, more polluting vehicles, but the ruling will have an impact on the whole country, paving the way for other cities to introduce bans.

About 70 German cities including Munich and Cologne recorded average nitrogen dioxide levels above EU thresholds in 2017, according to the Federal Environment Agency (UBA).

The car industry has yet to respond to the ruling, details of which have yet to be released by the Federal Administrative Court in Leipzig.

Germany mulls free public transport to quash air pollution menace

“Car nation” Germany has surprised its European neighbours with a radical proposal to reduce road traffic by making public transport free, as Berlin scrambles to meet EU air pollution targets and avoid big fines.

The industry has been vocal about its opposition toa ban, as has the German government, fearing it would hugely disrupt the lives of diesel car owners, who will not only find themselves unable to drive their cars but also in possession of vehicles that will plummet in value.

Instead ministers led by the chancellor, Angela Merkel, have offered €1bn fund, partly paid for by the industry, to improve public transport and upgrade fleets to electric buses.

Meanwhile, carmakers such as Volkswagen, BMW and Daimler have struck a cooperative toneafter VW’s “dieselgate” scandal, which saw it manipulate the systems on 11m vehicles worldwide to fool regulators’ emissions tests.

The companies have so far only offered updates to engine control software to reduce emissions, but the decision in favour of diesel bans could up the pressure on them to provide hardware fixes to heavily polluting cars.

A refit to the more than nine million cars built before September 2015, when the latest Euro 6 emissions standards came into force, would cost at least €7.6bn (£6.7bn), a study by analysts at Evercore bank found last week.

Car companies have already seen the market share for diesel vehicles in Germany fall from 48% in 2015 to about 39% last year.

Brussels air pollution to trigger free public transport

Brussels’ regional government has approved emergency rules that will allow commuters to use public transport free of charge during periods of high air pollution, Belgian media reported on Friday (23 February).

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