17 Jun 2019, 12:48
Benjamin Wehrmann

Air pollution remains too high in nearly 60 German cities – environment agency

Clean Energy Wire

The level of air pollution, mostly due to nitrogen dioxide (NO2) emissions from traffic, has exceeded European limit values in 57 German cities in 2018, the Federal Environment Agency (UBA) has found. However, the number of cities with emissions levels above the threshold of 40 microgrammes per cubic metre has fallen from 65 in the year before, the UBA says. “The air quality in our cities is improving and trends are pointing in the right direction,” said UBA president Maria Krautzberger. “But you can also see that the measures agreed on so far are insufficient to abide by the EU-limit value for NO2 in the annual average to protect public health,” Krautzberger added. She said there not only had to be more software updates for manipulated diesel cars, a major source of NO2, but also mechanical retrofits of older diesel cars with catalysers. She called on carmakers to “support customers financially” in doing so. While NO2 emissions in the annual average sunk below the EU limit in 13 cities, they were climbing back up again in others, including bigger cities like Leipzig or Ulm. The UBA warned that other sources of pollution also had to be taken into account more, for instance wood burning in private households, agriculture, and tyre wear particles from cars.

Several German cities had to introduce diesel bans on certain roads after a court ruled that this was necessary to bring down pollution levels. The German government has tried to avoid bans by implementing several measures aimed at reducing emissions levels. Scientists remain sceptical about the effectiveness of driving bans to bring down pollution levels, with many advocating for a city toll instead to reduce traffic volumes across the board. Already in January, the UBA stated that nitrogen dioxide emissions in the country had been in decline in 2018, citing local measures such as speed limits, traffic restrictions, renewal of vehicle fleets and the weather as reasons.

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