In an unprecedented ruling, a court in Düsseldorf, Germany has ordered the state authority to ban diesel vehicles from the most polluted streets in the city by 1 January 2018.
International environmental law organisation ClientEarth has supported German partner DUH in bringing a series of cases in Germany to clean up the air in towns and cities across the country.
This latest ruling against the state of North-Rhine Westphalia is of huge significance, and comes just over a month before ClientEarth takes the UK government back to the High Court for its own failure to bring levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) down to within legal limits.
ClientEarth lawyer, Alan Andrews, said: “This ruling serves as a stark warning for the UK government and the car industry. The judge in this case has clearly said that people’s health must be the top priority. We are delighted that the court in Düsseldorf has ordered the authorities to take all necessary measures to curb illegal air pollution.
“The UK has its own air pollution crisis, which is why we’ll be taking the government back to court on 18 October. We need a national network of clean air zones which keep diesel vehicles out of our most polluted towns and cities, unless manufacturers can prove that they meet the most stringent emissions standards on the road, not just in flawed laboratory tests.”
An estimated 40,000 early deaths are caused by air pollution every year in the UK. Studies have linked it to stunted lung growth in children and chronic lung and heart conditions.
The German court made it clear to the state authorities that they should not wait for the federal government to introduce a “blue sticker” scheme, which would certify which diesel cars met the strictest emissions standards under real driving conditions. This would allow them to enter polluted city centres where more polluting vehicles would be banned.
Andrews added: “The UK government’s own investigation confirmed that even the latest diesel cars emit on average six times the legal pollution limits when driving on Britain’s roads. We need our own “blue sticker” scheme to ensure that only the cleanest cars can drive in pollution hotspots and give motorists the information they need to avoid being duped into buying dirty diesels.”