Fewer German cities breaking diesel pollution limit
Clean Energy Wire
The number of German cities exceeding the EU limit on nitrogen dioxide pollution more than halved in 2019. A total of 25 cities recorded average annual NO2 levels above 40 micrograms per cubic metre (µg/m³) of air compared to 57 cities in 2018, according to figures from the Federal Environment Agency and the Federal Environment Ministry. Among the top five worst offenders were Munich (63 µg/m³), Stuttgart (53 µg/m³) and Frankfurt (51 µg/m³). However, the 24 cities with comparable data all had lower NO2 levels than in 2018.
The main source of NO2 is diesel engines, and the 25 measuring stations that recorded NO2 levels above 40 µg/m³ are located close to busy roads. Environment minister Svenja Schulze said that while air quality in German cities is improving, more needs to be done to address vehicle emissions. “The solution lies in cleaner vehicles and a fundamental change in mobility,” she added.
Separate figures report a fall of up to 40 percent in NO2 levels in German cities in March and April 2020, the result of coronavirus restrictions on air quality. But the Federal Environment Agency says it is not yet clear what the overall yearly effect will be.
European NO2 limits aimed at protecting health have been in place since 2010. But German drivers’ love of diesel cars has meant the country has struggled to meet them. In the past few years, several cities have been forced by court rulings to introduce diesel bans, something the government is keen to avoid. It claims it has achieved lower NO2 levels through local and national measures, such as lower speed limits, greener buses, engine software updates and encouraging a shift towards cleaner mobility types. Many scientists and economists are also skeptical about diesel bans, arguing instead for city-tolls.