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Lawyers press for clean air enforcement as region snubs Germany’s highest court

Environmental lawyers have been forced to pile on further legal pressure as North Rhine-Westphalia’s authorities fail to update Dusseldorf’s air quality plan, leaving thousands of people breathing illegally dirty air. This is despite a ruling from Germany’s top court confirming they must put a diesel ban in place in the city.

The Federal Administrative Court confirmed in February that regional authorities – and specifically Dusseldorf and Stuttgart – must restrict diesel vehicles where air pollution is illegally high. But the North Rhine-Westphalia authorities have failed to update Dusseldorf’s air quality plan, as legally required to.

Deutsche Umwelthilfe (DUH), with support from ClientEarth, has filed an enforcement action to push the authorities to act.

ClientEarth clean air lawyer Ugo Taddei said: “The Federal Administrative Court has had the final word on this, but it seems that North Rhine-Westphalia’s authorities are, extraordinarily, still refusing to act as they are legally required to. This failure looks like a serious affront to the rule of law.

“As further clean air rulings roll in across Germany, and across Europe, regional and national authorities should take note: they will be subject to repeat and increasing legal action until they fulfil their legal duty to protect people from harmful air pollution.”

DUH CEO Jürgen Resch said: “Instead of continuing to support the misdeeds of the car industry, North Rhine-Westphalia’s government must finally help the millions of people affected daily by toxic diesel emissions in the towns they live in.

“Unfortunately politicians at both a regional and federal level seem too weak to stand up to the car industry. We must therefore add further legal pressure to ensure clean air in the state capital, Dusseldorf.”

Aachen’s regional court delivered a resounding ruling two weeks ago demanding North Rhine-Westphalia’s authorities implement a diesel ban in Aachen to comply with legal air pollution limits. That ban will be in place by January 2019.

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