Germany to rule on heavily polluting diesel vehicles ban

Heavily polluting diesel vehicles banned in Stuttgart © Cristian Bortes
© Cristian Bortes

Germany’s federal administrative court will rule today on whether the cities of Stuttgart and Düsseldorf can ban heavily polluting diesel vehicles.

Around 70 German cities reached emissions levels beyond EU thresholds for particulate matter including nitrogen dioxide, which is known to cause respiratory problems if inhaled in large quantities. Some 72.5% of the most harmful levels of pollution are thought to have come from heavily polluting diesel vehicles.

In recognition of this, Stuttgart and Düsseldorf announced bans on diesel cars in city centres last year. However, German car manufacturers – several of which are based in Stuttgart – challenged the ruling for fear that a ban could cause a drop in sales, and consequently a drop in the value of their diesel products.

Environmental group Deutsche Umwelthilfe, meanwhile, sued nine cities earlier this year to allow them to ban heavily polluting diesel vehicles from city centres and thereby attempt to meet clean air regulations.

This afternoon, the federal administrative court in Leipzig will rule on whether the ban is legal and can proceed. If it is approved, the legislation is expected to have wide-ranging implications for other German cities considering a similar ban.

Why do cities want to ban diesel vehicles?

Diesel vehicles came under scrutiny when Volkswagen admitted in 2015 that it had cheated diesel exhaust emissions tests. Subsequent studies investigating the impact of particulate matter found in diesel emissions has found that it can be seriously damaging to health and the environment.

Copenhagen, Denmark, has announced a plan to ban heavily polluting diesel vehicles from city centres as early as next year, while other cities including Paris, France, Madrid, Spain and Athens, Greece, have made plans to phase out diesel vehicles from city centres in 2025.

The UK and France have also declared their intention to ban sales of new petrol and diesel vehicles by 2040, and the UK will also phase out diesel-powered trains as part of this process.

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