Because of air pollution—and the understandable desire to combat it—cities in Germany will now be allowed to ban diesel cars. This is due to a groundbreaking court ruling on Tuesday the 27th of February.
Judges from Leipzig’s Federal Administrative Court decided local authorities possess the right to ban “older, dirty” diesels from the centers of their cities, which has created a certain amount of uncertainty for millions of German drivers.
To be clear, the aforementioned court did not actually impose the bans itself; the decision to do so or not is up to the municipal authorities of the cities.
The case revolved around the cities of Stuttgart as well as Dusseldorf, which are considered smog-clogged; however, the ruling could actually impact the entire nation.
The decision is considered a true victory for an environmentalist group known as Deutsche Umwelthilfe, or DUH.
The group sued the cities of Dusseldorf and Stuttgart in order to force the cities to take action against fine particles and toxic nitrogen oxides produced by cars with older diesel engines.
Lower-level judges were already backing the group’s demand for driving bans; however, the states of North Rhine-Westphalia and Baden-Wuerttemberg made the decision to appeal the rulings, stating that such measures needed to be decided at a Federal level.
However, that appeal has failed—judges from the country’s top administrative court chose to side with the environmental group.
Juergen Resch, DUH chief, said it is a “great day” for clean air in the country.
In the ruling, judges stated than any diesel ban will be imposed in a gradual fashion; also, exceptions will be granted to certain vehicles. It will not be until—at the earliest—September that the diesel ban could be enforced in the city of Stuttgart.
Critics of a ban on diesel vehicles have argued that the ban could cause confusion for drivers and also be quite difficult to enforce.
Diesel cars produce nitrogen oxide, which is believed to cause respiratory illnesses—leading to thousands of premature deaths every year.
If you expect cities or the country itself to compensate drivers who have to give up their vehicles, you are wrong. Andreas Korbmacher, the presiding judge, said that cities will not have to do so.
Diesel vehicles have already lost value as a result of a finding three years ago; it was found that the car maker Volkswagen used software in the cars to cheat on emission tests in the United States. That finding resulted in heavy fines as well as expensive buybacks in the US.
So far, the government of Germany has not made car makers pay extra for selling cars with emissions that are higher than average. However, in an effort to prevent driving bans, the German government recently suggested numerous measures in order to reduce emissions; those measures included subsidizing public transportation and also upgrading vehicles—millions of them.
One of the oldest and largest environmental organizations in Germany—known as the Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union—was pleased with the decision, saying that there is now increased pressure on manufacturers and politicians to reduce pollution.
Also known in Germany as NABU, the organization stated that the verdict illustrates how the federal government has failed to bring the county’s air quality in line with European Union standards.
The organization is urging Germany’s incoming government to focus its efforts on reducing the emission of nitrogen oxide in the nation’s cities via stricter controls and also retrofitting affected vehicles—at the expense of manufacturers.
As a result of the landmark ruling, shares in Germany’s car firms are down. For example, at one point, Volkswagen AG actually fell 1.8 percent.
Air pollution isn’t just a problem in Germany. According to the European Environment Agency, while the emission of pollutants has decreased in a significant way in recent decades—resulting in improved air quality in the region—the concentration of air pollutants is still too high. Therefore, air quality issues still exist and need to be addressed.
According to the European Environment Agency, a significant number of Europeans live in areas—typically cities—where air quality standards are less-than desirable.
In addition to vehicles, other sources of air pollution include agriculture, waste treatment, and electricity generation.