At least one major German city is preparing to place limits on diesel vehicles at the end of April, after a court ruled yesterday that municipalities should consider banning the most heavily-polluting diesels from their streets.
While the northern city of Hamburg may be the first to move in that direction, “the court said Stuttgart, which styles itself the birthplace of the modern automobile and is home to Mercedes-maker Daimler, should consider gradually imposing a year-round ban for older diesel models, while Duesseldorf should also think about curbs,” Reuters reports. The court ordered both municipal governments “to amend their anti-pollution plans, saying city bans could be implemented even without nation-wide rules.”
The decision could have wider implications, since “many other German cities exceed European Union limits on nitrogen oxide (NOx), known to cause respiratory disease,” the news agency adds.
Stuttgart mayor Fritz Kuhn said the regional government would probably finalize a new plan within six months, even though “it will not be easy to implement.” Germany’s police union “warned it did not have capacity to enforce any bans,” Reuters states.
The news dispatch links the court decision to a global backlash against diesel cars that has helped drive the shift to electric vehicles in the wake of the Volkswagen emissions cheating scandal. “Paris, Madrid, Mexico City, and Athens have said they plan to ban diesel vehicles from city centres by 2025, while the mayor of Copenhagen wants to ban new diesel cars from entering the city as soon as next year. France and Britain will ban new petrol and diesel cars by 2040.”
Environmental groups welcomed the ruling. “This is a great day for clean air in Germany,” said Juergen Resch, managing director of Environmental Action Germany (DUH), and “a debacle for the policies of the grand coalition, which has sided with the auto industry.”
With that connection in mind, Reuters cast the court decision as an embarrassment for Chancellor Angela Merkel and her government. “We must do everything possible to prevent the loss of personal freedom and the reduction in value of cars,” Transport Minister Christian Schmidt told media.
Business groups “said millions of drivers might end up unable to use or sell vehicles they bought in good faith,” Reuters notes. “Driving bans have a massive impact on our ownership rights, on mobility, and on our profession,” said Hans Peter Wollseifer, president of the association of German trades. “The carmakers are to blame for the diesel problem, not us tradesmen.”
The VDA auto industry lobby framed the court ruling as “a rejection of general driving bans,” with spokesperson Matthias Wissmann maintaining that diesel bans “must be proportional and only considered as a last resort.”