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Lawyers call for penalties as Stuttgart defies diesel ruling

Lawyers have called for a fine of €10,000 for the Baden-Württemberg government after Stuttgart’s most recent air quality plan failed once again to address the issue of dirty diesels – in defiance of a clear court order.

The plan, released on the official deadline of 31 August, failed to commit to a ban on polluting Euro 5 diesels from September 2019 – a measure ruled necessary by the Federal Administrative Court in February, and demanded explicitly by the Stuttgart court in July, following court action by ClientEarth and Deutsche Umwelthilfe (DUH).

ClientEarth lawyer Ugo Taddei said: “It is staggering to see regional authorities directly refusing to follow explicit court instructions and denying people the right to breathe clean air as a result. The regional government must recognise it cannot wriggle out of its legal duties to protect people from air pollution. The consequences will be severe.”

DUH CEO Jürgen Resch said: “We’re still seeing the clear influence of the diesel industry – this is clearly an unlawful plan. A year ago, the Baden-Württemberg authorities agreed tougher diesel restrictions were necessary to bring air pollution down, but after protests from the car manufacturers, they are rowing back on their commitments.

“We hope that the regional government recognises that further failure to put these court-ordered diesel bans in place may lead to serious consequences for those politically responsible – and that they will quickly amend this inadequate plan as a result.”

Tougher measures to ensure authorities enforce clean air law

Lawyers at ClientEarth and DUH have warned that the penalties for ignoring court rulings could become much more serious than increasingly steep fines.

As part of another of their cases, the Bavarian administrative court of appeal has stated it will ask the European court to clarify whether ministers in Germany can be sent to prison for ignoring EU air quality legislation and related court orders. A ruling is expected within three months from the referral and would be legally binding on all ongoing clean air cases in Germany – and would therefore have clear impacts for Stuttgart as well.

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Loïc Fürhoff