News
03 Jun 2021, 12:13
Julian Wettengel

EU top court’s clean air ruling “slap in the face” for German govt

Clean Energy Wire

A ruling by the EU’s top court that Germany failed to clean up the air in several cities for years is a “slap in the face” for the government, said NGO Environmental Action Germany (DUH). The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) ruled that Germany had infringed the EU Air Quality Directive by “systematically and persistently” exceeding the annual limit value for nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and failing to adopt appropriate measures in good time. In similar cases, the court also decided that France and the U.K. had both “systematically and persistently” exceeded annual nitrogen oxide limits, mostly through cars, according to reports by Bloomberg.

“Today's decision by the CJEU is a resounding slap in the face for a government policy that unilaterally serves the economic interests of fraudulent car companies and doesn't give a damn about the health of citizens,” said DUH managing director Jürgen Resch. He called on the next government after the September election to ensure that “the ten million fraudulent diesel cars” are taken off the streets or retrofitted by carmakers. DUH added that the ruling came too late, as limits have been exceeded since 2010. Greenpeace Germany called on the government to set an end date for the combustion engine car to avoid exceeding limits in the future. There are no direct penalties or sanctions associated with the ruling.

The vast majority of German cities are now within NO2 air quality limits, according to final 2020 data published by the Federal Environment Agency (UBA) earlier this week. Road traffic is the main source of NO2 emissions and diesel cars are the most common culprits, so NO2 limit values are exceeded exclusively along busy roads in urban areas and cities. The "dieselgate" emissions fraud scandal revealed 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.

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