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ClientEarth Communications

8th November 2018

Air pollution

Germany clocks up further diesel bans as government tries to thwart courts

Bonn and Cologne today became Germany’s latest cities to receive a court order requiring them to introduce diesel bans from April 2019.

A judge in the Administrative Court of Cologne ruled this afternoon that Cologne must introduce a diesel ban on vehicles of Euro 4 emissions standard and below by April 2019, expanding to include Euro 5 vehicles in September.

Meanwhile, Bonn has been ordered to introduce diesel bans on two major roads and retrofit its main bus fleet to clean up emissions. One of the roads will be required to exclude cars up to and including Euro 5 emissions standard from April.

The challenge was brought by environmental protection organisations ClientEarth and Deutsche Umwelthilfe (DUH) who have between them taken action over illegally dirty air in 34 cities across Germany.

Head of ClientEarth’s Germany office Hermann Ott said: “The courts are continuing to rule in favour of people’s health as they are required to by EU law. This fresh ruling shows that recent proposals to water down laws that protect people will not fly.

“Courts have ruled for diesel bans in every single case that’s been heard since the February ruling in Leipzig. This trend is not set to stop. We need the German government to stop denying the problem and start acting.

“A patchwork of regional measures will just not do – we need to see a comprehensive programme of hardware retrofits on affected vehicles, funded by industry.”

DUH CEO Jürgen Resch said: “The court has dealt another resounding blow to the federal government, which is still being led by the nose by the motor industry. The government is now more or less acting as auto heavyweights’ marketing team by encouraging the sale of new, supposedly cleaner vehicles.

“We are relying completely on the courts to protect the nation’s health.

“Our Chancellor must impose a penalty of €5,000 per over-polluting diesel vehicle, implement a mass retrofitting scheme of the 11 million affected cars, and stop promoting the sale of Euro 6 diesel vehicles.”

Germany trying to bend EU law?

The ruling comes as action by the government to try to prevent courts ordering diesel bans has provoked outrage in Germany.

Chancellor Angela Merkel announced last week an intention to raise the pollution threshold for court-ordered diesel bans above the EU legal limit. The public consultation sped through with a one-day window for reply – on a public holiday. But discussions at Cabinet level have been put aside for the time being after a state-level controversy.

The judge in today’s hearing made explicit reference to the problematic nature of the proposal in the face of EU law.

Clean air hearings in Essen, Gelsenkirchen and Darmstadt are expected in the coming weeks.