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Merkel’s new diesel tactic “impossible under EU law”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s latest attempt to keep diesel vehicles on the roads is both morally and legally unthinkable, environmental lawyers have said.

The policy, laid out by Merkel in a news conference, would weaken national air quality laws, seeking to prevent courts from ordering a diesel ban unless nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels were above 50µ/m3.

The EU legal limit, which must be respected throughout the EU, is an annual average of 40µ/m3.

But ClientEarth lawyers, who have taken legal action across Germany alongside Deutsche Umwelthilfe (DUH) over the country’s illegal air quality, say the proposed measures fall flat.

ClientEarth clean air lawyer Ugo Taddei said: “Weakening national air pollution limits is impossible under EU law. It defies core principles of the EU system and undermines directives that are there to protect people.

“Moving the goalposts is transparently not the way to clean up the air. Should these ‘new limits’ find their way into German policy, they will not be upheld in court.

“The Chancellor’s suggestion is yet another clear kowtow to the car industry and a betrayal of people’s rights. None of the policies we’ve seen from her government so far are adequate and Germany’s leaders are still stubbornly opposing what courts are ordering.

“We will keep enforcing EU air quality law in the courts until people’s health is put first.”

The measures proposed would attempt to stop courts from ordering diesel restrictions unless annual average NO2 levels in the area were over 50µ/m3. The EU legal limit is 40µ/m3. Meanwhile, the European Environment Agency has reported that negative health impacts are already detectable at 20µ/m3.

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