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ClientEarth and DUH launch 11 more court cases over Germany’s dirty air

Environmental lawyers are taking legal action against authorities in 11 German cities over illegal air pollution, following February’s resounding victory in Germany’s highest court. The cases were launched today by consumer protection organisation Deutsche Umwelthilfe (DUH) and environmental lawyers ClientEarth.

The lawyers have targeted cities with levels of illegal pollution so high that they are unlikely to be brought below legal limits without restrictions on the most polluting diesel vehicles. The number of German cities facing legal action by the organisations now stands at 28.

ClientEarth chief executive James Thornton said: “The Federal Administrative Court’s ruling was unambiguous – German authorities have the power and the duty to restrict diesel to comply with air pollution law. Prolonging the inevitable is a breach of authorities’ legal duty to protect the people of Germany against harmful air pollution.

“Politicians must put people’s health first. Germany’s highest court has cleared the way for diesel restrictions. It’s time to stop pandering to industry, and start fighting for people instead.”

DUH CEO Jürgen Resch said: “How can it be that politicians at regional and national level are still failing to help the hundreds of thousands of people who are still breathing dirty air? Legal limits have been exceeded since 2010, but protests, complaints from citizens, EU legal action against Germany and the judgment from Germany’s own highest court, are all being ignored to cushion the diesel industry – at the cost of the health of countless people.

“We call on all those responsible for air quality in these 28 towns with illegal pollution to adopt all possible measures to ensure air quality complies with legal limits by Autumn 2018. If not, further legal action will follow this year.”

The lawyers originally wrote to all cities across Germany that were breaching legal limits, recommending they update their air quality plans in light of the Leipzig court decision on diesel bans.

If nothing changes, ClientEarth and DUH will consider further legal action.

The legal cases so far

Cases launched today are against:

Baden-Württemberg: Backnang, Esslingen, Heilbronn, Ludwigsburg, Marbach, Reutlingen

Hessen: Offenbach

North Rhine-Westphalia: Bochum, Dortmund, Düren, Paderborn

Six of the cities facing legal action are in Baden-Württemberg, which this week is facing an enforcement action by DUH over its lack of commitment to following the Federal Administrative Court’s ruling to tackle air pollution in Stuttgart.

Cases already launched are in:

Berlin, Bonn, Darmstadt, Düsseldorf, Essen, Frankfurt, Gelsenkirchen, Halle, Hannover, Kiel, Köln, Limburg, Mainz, Munich, Stuttgart and Wiesbaden.

New research from Germany’s environment agency has shown that even levels of pollution significantly below legal limits contribute to serious health impacts.

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Dirk Vorderstraße