German Court Orders Diesel Ban in Bid Tackle Air Pollution

Photo-illustration: Pixabay

A judge in the German city of Stuttgart has ordered the most polluting diesel cars be banned from entering the city from January 2018 in a bid to curb illegal levels of air pollution.

The judge ruled on Friday that the government of Stuttgart must re-write its Air Quality Plan to include a ban on the most polluting diesels in the city from next year, after he deemed the current plan inadequate for bringing air pollution back within legal limits.

Stuttgart has some of the worst air pollution in Germany, with levels of nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter regularly breaching legal limits.

In response to the issue the Stuttgart government drew up a draft Air Quality Plan, but environmental lawyers ClientEarth took the government to court arguing that although it contained some positive measures it did not go far enough to restrict pollution.

The judge agreed, adding that restricting access to the city from the most polluting cars was unavoidable if the area was to meaningfully cut pollution in as short a time as possible.

The move follows similar rulings in Dusseldorf and Munich, and represents the latest in a series of victories for clean air campaigners across Europe.

“The judge has clarified that a diesel ban is unavoidable,” ClientEarth lawyer Ugo Taddei said in a statement. “Stuttgart’s authorities must now find rapid and effective ways to solve the region’s air quality issues. This should include a more structured approach that acknowledges the emissions issues with diesel vehicles – it must also not put undue confidence in what retrofitting can achieve.”

However, a wider court case later this year will determine whether cities have the power to ban diesels from their streets, or whether it must be up to the federal government to decide whether such restrictions can be enforced.

The move came just days after the UK government unveiled a new air quality plan, pledging to ban the sale of internal combustion engine cars by 2040 and instruct local authorities to take fresh steps to improve air pollution in urban areas.

The plan raises the prospect of local authorities charging some diesel vehicles if they enter polluted areas, but stressed that alterative measures need to be attempted first.

The movce was widely criticised by green groups, including ClientEarth, who argued the government should act more urgently to tackle current air pollution and bring forward wider plans for charging zones.