Court says Germany’s efforts to limit diesel bans are in breach of European law
Clean Energy Wire
The highest administrative court of the state of Baden-Württemberg has ruled that state governments must retain diesel driving bans in their clean air plans if pollution limits exceed the European standard. Faced with the possibility of diesel driving bans in more than 50 German cities, Angela Merkel’s government had adopted an amendment to the federal emissions law that would allow a more lenient response in locations that only slightly exceed the EU’s nitrogen oxide limits, set at 40 micrograms per cubic metre air (40 μg/m3). Under the amended legislation, which was passed by German parliament this spring, driving bans would only be considered in cities where nitrogen oxide levels exceed 50 μg/m3. The court in Mannheim, which looked in particular at the case of the city of Reutlingen, ruled that “massive transgressions of the thresholds by up to 25 percent” should not be tolerated — and if other means aren’t successful, driving bans must be used. The court said the recent changes to the federal emissions law could be used to “de facto soften or undermine limits” which are binding under EU law.
The case against the city of Reutlingen was brought up by NGO DUH who was a key player in the enforcement of driving bans for highly polluting diesel cars in German cities, by sueing local administrations. Following lawsuits filed by the NGO, Germany’s highest federal administrative court ruled in 2018 that cities with air pollution levels above the admissible EU limit have to introduce driving bans if other measures to bring down nitrogen oxide (NOx) levels bear no satisfying results.