31 May 2021, 13:39
Julian Wettengel

Six German cities still exceed EU NO2 air pollution limits ahead of EU court ruling

Clean Energy Wire

Ahead of a European court ruling, the vast majority of German cities are within nitrogen dioxide (NO2) air quality limits, show final 2020 data published by the Federal Environment Agency (UBA). Six cities – among them Munich, Stuttgart and Hamburg – are still above limits, compared to 25 in 2019 and 57 in 2018. Road traffic is the main source of nitrogen oxide (NO2) emissions, and diesel cars are the most important culprits. NO2 limit values are therefore exceeded exclusively along busy roads in urban areas and cities. In addition to software updates for vehicles and the regular renewal of the vehicle fleet, local measures such as speed limits, driving bans or the use of lower-emission buses improved the situation in 2020, the UBA said. To a lesser extent, measures to contain the coronavirus pandemic also contributed to this decrease. “The air in the cities is getting cleaner, the development is going in the right direction and that is good news,” said UBA head Dirk Messner. However, he cautioned that Germany should have complied with the limits already from 1999, when they were introduced.

The Court of Justice of the European Union is set to present its ruling on 3 June in the case of the European Commission vs. Germany on the latter breaching limits since 2010 by “systematically and continuously” exceeding the annual limit value for NO2 in 26 air quality assessment and management zones – among them in Stuttgart, Berlin and Munich – and by having failed to introduce appropriate measures.

The "dieselgate" emissions fraud scandal had shown 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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