German cities get legal go-ahead for diesel ban
German cities will be allowed to ban older diesel vehicles from some areas following a landmark court ruling.
The Federal Administrative Court in Leipzig said the cities of Stuttgart and Duesseldorf could legally ban older, more polluting diesel cars from zones worst affected by pollution.
The ruling sets a precedent for other cities and analysts said it could lead to similar action across Europe. The government, which had opposed the bans, said they could still be avoided.
The ruling by a top federal court came after German states had appealed against bans imposed by local courts in Stuttgart and Duesseldorf.
The environmental group DUH brought the cases after about 70 German cities exceeded European Union limits for nitrogen oxides (NOx) in 2017.
DUH said it hoped the bans in German cities would end the industry’s “resistance” to refitting older, more-polluting cars to meet the latest EU standards.
The impact on German drivers could be marked, with millions being forced to leave their cars at home on days when harmful emissions are particularly high.
Of the 15 million diesel cars on Germany’s roads, only 2.7 million meet the latest Euro-6 standards, according to data from Germany’s automotive watchdog. Car companies could also incur huge costs to refit vehicles at a time when consumer interest in diesel is falling.
Seeking to reassure car owners, the government insisted that nothing would change right away and stressed that bans were not inevitable.
Seeking to avert bans, German car makers have pledged software improvements for millions of diesel cars and offered trade-in incentives for older models.
The German government meanwhile has floated alternatives, such as making public transport free in cities suffering from poor air quality.
Paris, Madrid, Mexico City and Athens have all pledged to ban diesel vehicles from city centres by 2025, while the mayor of Copenhagen wants to ban new diesel cars from entering the city as soon as next year.
Carmakers including VW-owned Porsche and Toyota have also signalled they will move away from diesel technology.