German court rules cities can impose diesel bans
German cities can ban diesel cars as a means of reducing air pollution, the federal administrative court in Leipzig ruled Tuesday.
Cities are under rising pressure from environmental campaigners and courts to conform to EU clean air standards by getting the dirtiest cars off city streets.
The court ruled on two specific cases — Düsseldorf and Stuttgart, but Tuesday’s decision puts local authorities across Germany on the spot. It’s up to them to decide how to introduce driving restrictions, including setting exemptions for certain cars. The federal government has so far shown little enthusiasm for such steps.
“This ruling gives long-awaited legal clarity that diesel restrictions are legally permissible and will unavoidably start a domino effect across the country,” Ugo Taddei, a lawyer with ClientEarth, one of the groups that filed the legal cases against cities violating clean air standards, said in a statement.
German politicians have been trying hard to avoid bans on diesel-powered vehicles, worried about the economic hit to the car industry and car owners across the country. Diesel cars make up roughly a third of the 45 million cars in Germany, according to the car lobby VDA.
Germany has been in breach of EU air quality standards for years and now faces the threat of being sent to the European Court of Justice by the European Commission. Brussels says there are 28 urban areas in Germany persistently breaching limits for nitrogen dioxide — a pollutant largely caused by diesel engines and the main ingredient of smog.
Other European cities including Paris and Madrid have already announced plans to ban some diesel cars from city centers.