16 Feb 2021, 14:10
Benjamin Wehrmann

Air pollution in German cities within EU limits - but ten years too late

Clean Energy Wire

Air pollution with nitrogen dioxide has fallen below legal limit values in most cities across Germany, preliminary data analysed by Germany's Federal Environment Agency (UBA) has shown. While pollution with the exhaust gas that has been a major factor in Germany's emissions fraud scandal had still been above limit values in 25 cities in 2019, fewer than ten cities recorded levels in excess of EU air pollution limits in 2020. It means that Germany as a whole abided by the European standard for the second year in a row. "It's good news that the positive trend we've seen in the last years persists," said UBA head Dirk Messner, adding that the low emissions levels should have already been reached in 2010. "The fact that newly registered diesel vehicles have only been meeting limit values on the road since a short time is the main reason for the ten years of misery behind us." Diesel cars are the main source of nitrogen oxide (NOx) pollutants in Germany's inner cities and only vehicles equipped with the latest Euro 6d technology are meeting limit values on the road.

The "dieselgate" emissions fraud scandal had shown that many carmakers had manipulated diesel engines to only meet limit values on the test stand and run above them under real-life driving conditions, ultimately leading to diesel driving bans in several German cities and a collapse of diesel car sales. "If all cars had met emissions limit values also in real operation, there would have been no limit infractions at all in 2020," Messner said, adding that it was "regrettable" that many carmakers had taken a very long time to install software updates on their cars to bring down emissions and largely refuted hardware replacements. Besides improvements in the car fleet, speed limits, modern busses "and to a small extent also measures to contain the coronavirus pandemic" had contributed to lower nitrogen dioxide levels, the UBA added.

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