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ClientEarth Communications

5th September 2018

Air pollution

Frankfurt to become fifth German city to instate diesel ban: fresh court ruling

The Administrative Court in Wiesbaden has just ruled that the city of Frankfurt must put restrictions on diesel vehicles by February 2019, as it is the only way to bring air pollution down to legal levels in the shortest possible time.

The ruling is another victory for ClientEarth and Deutsche Umwelthilfe (DUH), who are working together to bring legal action to protect people’s health across Germany – bringing cases in 28 towns and cities in total.

A landmark ruling by Germany’s top court in February made clear that diesel bans are legally possible – and necessary where it is the quickest, most effective way to reduce harmful air pollution in urban areas. The ruling resolved the legal question for all ongoing clean air cases in Germany, and has triggered a domino effect of diesel restrictions.

On 29 August 2018, Frankfurt released a conspicuously short air quality plan that did not consider diesel bans, nor reference the February ruling at all. The Wiesbaden court has today ordered the introduction of diesel bans across the whole Frankfurt area – not just the inner city – as the only effective tool to bring pollution levels down below legal limits.

Wide-ranging measures to tackle pollution

According to the ruling, authorities must place restrictions on diesel vehicles up to and including Euro 4 by February 2019, adding restrictions on Euro 5 diesel vehicles by September 2019.

Exemptions from the ban will not be easy to come by, encouraging retrofitting or replacement of older private vehicles. But the judge also stipulated that bans must be paired with other measures, including fewer and more expensive parking spaces in the inner city, and enforced retrofitting or renewal of public bus fleets.

ClientEarth lawyer Ugo Taddei said: “Germany’s top court set the direction in February and we are now seeing the domino effect kick in. Courts have now ordered diesel bans in Frankfurt, Düsseldorf, Munich, Stuttgart and Aachen.

“The trend is unmistakeable but the Federal government is still failing to take the lead. It needs to implement a national system to make diesel restrictions work from region to region and order car manufacturers to fix dirty diesel vehicles.

“While Federal ministers are digging in their heels on diesel bans and mooting partial and ineffective solutions to combat dangerous air pollution, people are still being forced to breathe dirty air that will affect them for the rest of their lives. Germany needs to stop playing for time and get on top of its pollution problem. Every delay comes at the expense of people’s health.”

DUH CEO Jürgen Resch said: “This is a one hundred percent victory in an extremely important case. The judge agreed with us completely and committed Hessen’s authorities to introduce a very intelligent and wide-ranging mixture of measures to bring air pollution down.

“This sets an example for the rest of the country. We need to see fewer private cars, more and cleaner public transport and most importantly, clean air for the people of Germany. Politicians need to decide on their priority: answering to the car industry or protecting people’s health.”

German president Angela Merkel is expected to make an announcement on a possible nationwide hardware retrofit programme to try to combat illegal pollution across the country.

Meanwhile, further clean air hearings are set to follow in the coming weeks, including in Berlin, Bonn, Köln and Mainz. Updated air quality plans, which incorporate diesel bans, are due to be published by authorities in Stuttgart and Düsseldorf imminently.