Reactions to Germany's court ruling on diesel driving bans

Germany's Federal Administrative Court has ruled that cities can ban dirty diesel cars to improve local air quality. The Clean Energy Wire presents reactions to the landmark ruling from NGOs, politicians and industry associations. [Update adds reactions from Stuttgart, Düsseldorf, dena]

Angela Merkel, Chancellor:

“We feel that the measures that we have taken in our clean air plan for 2017-2020 have been confirmed. We know that several of the concerned cities are not exceeding the [air pollution] thresholds significantly. The principle of proportionality plays a major role in the ruling [by the Federal Administrative Court]. This means we can very quickly reduce emissions to comply with standards in most cities. What’s also important is that this is an issue in individual cities where more has to be done, but it really doesn’t concern the whole country and all car owners in Germany.”

Barbara Hendricks (SPD), environment minister:

“The court has confirmed the right of the population to clean air in cities. […] This doesn’t mean there will be driving bans in cities tomorrow. My goal is not to have any driving bans at all. […] If we manage to turn this crisis into an opportunity, this will improve the quality of life in our cities. Retrofits of diesel cars could contribute to this, as long as they are technically feasible and economically sensible. […] I would consider it deeply unfair if car owners who recently bought a diesel car in good faith should now have to buy a new car. […] The carmakers are the perpetrators, and they mustn’t be relieved of their responsibility.”

Thomas Strobl, interior minister, State of Baden-Württemberg:

“The decision brings legal clarity. Now it’s about updating the clean air plans based on the reasoning behind the ruling, always paying particular attention to the principle of proportionality. Driving bans are not proportional, as long as there are other measures.”

“We bet on clean air by using high technology, not by introducing bans. We are nowhere near to having exploited all possibilities – we can continue to improve the quality of air without driving bans.”

“We will closely coordinate with the other federal states and municipalities. The looming patchwork of measures is in some way unreasonable for the citizens. So we have to do everything we can to prevent such bans.”

Thomas Geisel, mayor of Düsseldorf:

“Regarding the question of whether or not there will be driving bans, the ball is now in the court of the regional governments. They must weigh – within the framework of updating the clean air plan – whether a diesel driving ban is the right measure to reduce nitrogen oxide levels below limits, while considering effectiveness, speed, and proportionality.”

“Unfortunately, it does not seem to matter in the court’s ruling that driving bans would present the affected municipalities with a practically unsolvable task, because such bans could only be implemented with extreme efforts, and can practically not be enforced.” [press release from 27.02]

Fritz Kuhn, mayor of Stuttgart:

“I welcome the fact that the Federal Administrative Court has come to a nuanced decision and found a balance between the fundamental questions and proportionality. As the highest [judicial] body, it has set the framework for driving bans and created clarity.”

“The state of Baden-Württemberg will now update the clean air plan and apply the principles of the decision. In the new version of the plan it will be determined, for which vehicles the driving bans will be effective and when they must be implemented.”

“It will be difficult to implement the bans in this form in Stuttgart, because we have many jobs and trade in our inner city. It’s too bad that the federal government did not spare us all of this. By introducing a blue badge, the federal government could have long established legal and planning security. […] A disgrace for federal lawmakers.” [press release from 27.02.]

Volker Kauder, leader of the CDU/CSU parliamentary group in the Bundestag:

“Since there will not be a blanket diesel ban, the introduction of a blue badge is not necessary.” [Tagesspiegel, 27.02.]

Joachim Pfeiffer, energy spokesperson of the CDU/CSU parliamentary group in the Bundestag: 

“I’m not in favour of diesel driving bans and a sweeping condemnation of combustion engines, because driving bans alone don’t make the air in cities cleaner. We now have to prevent hasty reactions […] and stay focused on a factual debate. […] 
Germany is a global market leader in the automobile industry. In order to hold on to this strong competitive position and strengthen it in the future, we need to set the appropriate framework conditions.”

Jürgen Resch, head of NGO Environmental Action Germany (DUH), which initiated the legal case against the cities:

 “Today is a great day for clean air in Germany. The highest German administrative court has given the federal government a huge slap in the face. Angela Merkel must finally fight off the stranglehold of the car industry and govern in favour of the people suffering from poisonous diesel fumes, and the nine million betrayed buyers of Euro 5 and 6 diesel cars.”

Germany’s General German Automobile Club (ADAC):

“We do not expect general driving bans for diesel drivers after the Federal Administrative Court’s decision in Leipzig. Technical hardware retrofits are now urgently needed. Air quality can only be improved with an all-encompassing package of solutions.” - ADAC
“The decision of the Federal Administrative Court is the last chance for health and mobility. The judges in Leipzig decided that drivers will have to expect driving bans in especially polluted cities. To avoid this, Euro 5 diesels need to be retrofit as fast as possible, all forms of transport must be connected in a smart way, and public transport must be made more dependable.” – ADAC Vice President Ulrich Klaus Becker said. [press release from 27.02.]

Markus Lewe, president of the Association of German Cities:

“With this decision, the pressure is mounting on the auto industry to make diesel passenger cars cleaner. The cities do not want driving bans. They are doing everything to prevent these. However, it’s above all the carmakers that need to solve the issue of excessive nitrogen oxide pollution, so that driving bans can be prevented. They are the main perpetrators, and they must finally deliver. We need to know the effectiveness of software updates. If that’s not enough, the auto industry must be obligated to perform hardware retrofits, and pay for these.”
“After the court’s ruling, we do not expect decisions in favour of short-term driving bans in cities, also because these can only be introduced step-by-step. What’s clear: under the Road Traffic Act, diesel driving bans are admissible. Now, it’s up to the federal states to earnestly examine, weigh, and adapt their clean air plans.”
“Selective driving bans could not be feasibly monitored. You cannot tell whether a car adheres to limits just by looking at it. We need a blue badge for this, to label cars with lower emissions. With a blue badge, it would be easier for cities to regulate exemptions, for example for delivery services and craftspeople.” [press release from 27.02.]

Leif Miller, head of NGO Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union (NABU)

“The car industry has lost its game. The opinion many carmakers seem to have that government support and half-hearted software updates would suffice to drag themselves out of this affair has been crushed by the judges today.”

Daniel Rieger, NABU transport expert

“The judgement illustrates the government’s failure, and especially that of the CSU-led transport ministry, to bring air quality in line with EU regulations and to prevent driving bans. Instead of saving the diesel by pretending that all will be fine, this [ruling] has merely increased the car owners’ uncertainty.”

Joachim Lang, Federation of German Industries (BDI)

“Simple solutions are only appear to be solutions (…) Nobody wants to stymie health protection efforts in our country, but we also have to respect the property of millions of diesel car owners. Diesel cars are widely used in the fleets of companies, and they need legal and planning security. This situation could strike smaller companies at their core. Our point of view is that additional measures decided at the diesel summit should be implemented before driving bans actually take effect.” [press release from 27.02.]

Andreas Kuhlmann and Kristina Haverkamp, management of German Energy Agency (dena):

“The court decision has shifted the focus on short-term measures to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions. […] However important the current debate is, we should not lose track of the long-term and bigger challenge: reaching [the country’s] climate targets in all sectors. Forty to 42 percent less CO₂ emissions in transport by 2030 is a very ambitious goal. If we want to move forward, we now have to make the guiding decisions – in a broad dialogue with all relevant stakeholders. For this, the conservative CDU/CSU alliance and the SPD have envisioned a transport commission in their coalition agreement, which is to find solutions by early 2019. Let’s hope that with its help the government will manage to take the political initiative for the protection of the environment and the climate in transport.” [press release, 27.02.]

 

 

Find background on the ruling in thearticle Court ruling opens door for diesel bans in German cities and the factsheet Diesel driving bans in Germany – The Q&A.

The factsheet "Dieselgate" - a timeline of Germany's car emissions fraud scandal traces the developments surrounding the manipulation of car emission data.

The CLEW article Why the German diesel summit matters for climate and energy explains why the issue matters for Germany's energy transition.

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