The German Federal court has published its landmark ruling about diesel bans, confirming these are legally possible and, in areas where it is the fastest route to reducing pollution, legally required.
The ruling allows immediate citywide bans of diesel vehicles up to and including Euro 4, and restrictions on Euro 5 diesel vehicles on specific streets. Citywide Euro 5 bans can come in as of September 2019.
It comes as Germany is referred to the EU’s highest court over its failure to tackle illegal pollution according to limits that came in to force in 2010.
Environmental lawyers from ClientEarth and Deutsche Umwelthilfe (DUH), who worked together to bring the cases against Stuttgart and Duesseldorf, say there is no time to be lost.
ClientEarth clean air lawyer Ugo Taddei said: “Hot on the heels of Germany’s referral to the top EU court for its air pollution failures yesterday, this morning Germany’s own federal court has condemned the government’s flawed national policies.
“This judgment makes it unavoidably clear – regional governments can and should put diesel restrictions in place where pollution is dangerously high. Authorities at all levels in Germany must urgently introduce the restrictions that will finally protect people from toxic pollution.
“Merkel and Scheuer have positioned themselves against these measures and in doing so are creating an obstacle to progress. Taking bold measures to reduce diesel pollution would start to move the economy past dirty diesel and onto cleaner technologies.”
DUH CEO Juergen Resch said: “This judgment is a real embarrassment for the government, which has sided exclusively with the motor industry and left the 10 million owners of manipulated diesel vehicles to fend for themselves. Through its refusal to force manufacturers to retrofit vehicles, it is they who are to blame for the drop in diesel cars’ values, and for these diesel bans.
“This ruling is a prompt for the clean vehicle transition. We need fewer cars on our roads, and therefore more and better public transport in our towns.”
Lawyer Remo Klinger, who acted for DUH and ClientEarth, said: “Every regional court in Germany that was due to hear an air quality case has been waiting on today’s ruling. We now expect many of these cases will start to be heard and reach their conclusions. By Autumn, we will have developments in Stuttgart, Munich, Frankfurt, Wiesbaden, Darmstadt and Aachen. Others will follow in the coming weeks.”
The groups said the question of whether Euro 6 vehicles fitted with defeat devices would be subject to restrictions would need to be answered in court.