leipziger strasse sign berlin

“Time’s up” – diesel bans must take effect in Berlin, rules German judge

Berlin’s administrative court has ruled that the German capital must restrict the movement of diesel vehicles in the city to bring dangerous air pollution down and protect residents’ health.

Bans on diesel vehicles up to and including the Euro 5 standard must be active in Berlin by the end of March 2019.

The case was brought by German environment and consumer protection organisation Deutsche Umwelthilfe (DUH). Between DUH and environmental lawyers, ClientEarth, legal action for clean air has been brought in a total of 34 cities across Germany.

Diesel bans have so far been mandated by courts in Stuttgart, Munich, Düsseldorf, Aachen, Frankfurt – and now the capital, Berlin.

ClientEarth clean air lawyer Ugo Taddei said: “The Berlin judgment proves that the Merkel government’s lacklustre attempts to protect the damaged diesel industry will not be enough to prevent court-mandated bans. We expect to see several more German courts order bans before the year is out.

“The current legal limits to protect people’s health from pollution have been in place for eight years; promising a smattering of retrofits in a handful of German cities a decade down the line is a feeble response. We need governments and car manufacturers to finally take responsibility and fix the millions of dirty diesel vehicles that are polluting cities all across Europe.”

DUH CEO Jürgen Resch said: “The judge has delivered an unambiguous ruling, confirming that diesel bans are necessary in Germany’s capital. The court has also condemned the government’s diesel deal as ineffective. It should have included all 115 German towns and cities affected by illegal levels of air pollution, and required hardware retrofits for all Euro 5 and Euro 6a-c vehicles.

“Instead, we’re likely to see yet another summit to sort the situation out. And in this one, perhaps DUH will be allowed to participate, not just the car companies.”

An easy ride for industry?

German politicians have been seeking to placate auto manufacturers, most recently coming up with a diesel deal that failed to convince the public. Meanwhile, recent data submitted by the German government to the European Commission showed that pollution across Germany remains far above legal limits.

According to lawyer Peter Kremer, who represented DUH in the proceedings, the judge confirmed that beyond just meeting a regional average, the air in every part of a town must be safe to breathe. The court also said that if Berlin failed to implement street-by-street bans, a citywide ban would become unavoidable.

Diesel bans for vehicles below Euro 6 must come into force on Leipziger Straße, Reinhardtstraße, Brückenstraße, Friedrichstraße, Kapweg, Alt-Moabit, Stromstraße and Leonorenstraße.

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