German court rules cities can ban diesel cars in a move to improve air quality levels

Federal Administrative Court of Germany: Germany’s highest administrative court in Leipzig ruled in favour of upholding bans that were introduced by lower courts in the cities of Stuttgart and Düsseldorf, two of the most polluted German cities, after appeals were lodged by the states of Baden-Württemberg and North Rhine-Westphalia. Millions of heavily polluting vehicles could eventually disappear from roads across Germany after this landmark ruling. The ruling clearly states that cities have the right to ban diesel motors in an effort to improve deadly air quality levels. This, significant ruling could cause traffic chaos and dramatically hit the value of diesel vehicles.

The case was originally brought by the environmental groups Deutsche Umwelthilfe (German environmental aid or DUH) and ClientEarth, which now paves the way for cities across Germany to follow suit. The Court said it would be up to “the city” and municipal authorities to apply the bans, but advised them to “exercise proportionality” in enforcing them, and to impose them gradually, granting exemptions for certain vehicles [such as ambulances, rubbish collection lorries and police cars]. The historic decision is an incredible result for people’s health, and could have an impact in foreign courts. This long waited ruling gives legal clarity, that diesel restrictions are legally permissible and will necessarily trigger a domino effect across the country.

The Court also placed reliance on the experts, who estimated that excessive amounts of nitrogen oxides or NOx in the air kill between 6,000 and 13,000 people in Germany every year, causing a range of health conditions, from strokes to asthma. Eager to reassure anxious car owners, the government insisted nothing would change immediately and stressed that bans were not inevitable. The Court has not issued any driving bans but created clarity about the law. Precisely how many vehicles might be potentially affected by the ban remains unclear until further details. Of the 15 million diesel cars registered in Germany, around 6 million are of a “Euro 6” emissions standard that would probably escape a ban. Industry representatives have expressed their concern that they in particular might be disadvantaged in carrying out their daily business, and have called for special exemptions to avoid potentially devastating effects on the economy.

[Source: The Guardian]


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