Press release: April 2019

Hearing on air pollution health risks puts Germany’s diesel debate in spotlight

Germany’s Higher Administrative Court of Münster has ordered an unprecedented ‘science hearing’, where scientists and health experts will present evidence on the health impacts of air pollution.

The two-day hearing, which starts tomorrow (Thursday), aims to clear up the ongoing debate about air quality rules, science and diesel restrictions in Germany.

Speaking ahead of the hearing, ClientEarth clean air lawyer Ugo Taddei said: “This first-of-its-kind hearing offers a chance to finally end the debate sparked by Professor Köhler and Germany’s transport minister Andreas Scheuer. Rather than complying with court orders to restrict diesel vehicles, German authorities are trying to dodge their legal obligations by filing appeals and casting doubt on the health impacts of air pollution.

“The overwhelming consensus among health professionals and scientists globally is that pollutants from diesel vehicles pose significant risk to human health. The European Commission agrees. It is clear that air pollution limits are therefore necessary to ensure clean air for all.

“We welcome the hearing as an opportunity to move the discussion onto the adoption of measures that must be implemented to establish once and for all what must be done to protect people from breathing dirty air.”


Notes to editors:

Restrictions on diesel vehicles have been ordered by first instance courts in 14 German cities, including Aachen, Bonn and Cologne. The North Rhine-Westphalia government appealed the latter orders before the Higher Administrative Court of Münster.

Hearings on the merit of these cases are scheduled later this summer on 31 July (Aachen), 1 August (Bonn) and 12 September (Cologne).

The scientific evidence presented during the ‘science hearing’ will help the court adjudicate these appeals and other legal actions pending before the Higher Administrative Court of Münster concerning air pollution in a total of 14 cities in North Rhine-Westphalia.

ClientEarth has been collaborating with Deutsche Umwelthilfe (DUH) to enforce air quality rules across all main German cities since 2015. Together, we have launched a wave of 10 cases over air pollution in Germany, including the cases against Aachen, Bonn and Cologne. In total, 35 clean air cases are currently pending in Germany.

About ClientEarth

ClientEarth is a charity that uses the power of the law to protect people and the planet. We are international lawyers finding practical solutions for the world’s biggest environmental challenges. We are fighting climate change, protecting oceans and wildlife, making forest governance stronger, greening energy, making business more responsible and pushing for government transparency. We believe the law is a tool for positive change. From our offices in London, Brussels, Warsaw, Berlin and Beijing, we work on laws throughout their lifetime, from the earliest stages to implementation. And when those laws are broken, we go to court to enforce them.