Three German cities ban smoky cars

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Three German cities imposed bans on smoky older cars, requiring motorists to display windscreen stickers certifying that the cars have normal emissions of particulates.

1 January 2008

Berlin (dpa) - Three German cities imposed bans Tuesday on smoky older cars, requiring motorists to display windscreen stickers certifying that the cars have normal emissions of particulates.

Berlin, Cologne and Hanover were ringed by road signs declaring their downtown areas "environmental zones."

The stickers, graded green, yellow and red, are issued for a small fee by private firms or vehicle testing authorities after they have checked in a catalogue of auto models that the car was made with anti-pollution features.

Fines of 40 euros ($58) will be imposed on motorists, including foreigners, each time they drive through the cities without any sticker. But police will turn a blind eye to breaches until the end of January.

One enterprising company is offering the stickers abroad, taking orders online and charging 30 euros.

The new-year scheme is aimed at reducing particulates, the very fine dust that comes from engines. The European Union already requires cars to have catalytic converters to scrub toxic gases from exhaust fumes.

Germany's biggest motoring club, the ADAC, said it was gathering legal arguments to challenge the scheme in court. An ADAC spokesman told the newspaper Euro am Sonntag it would defend motorists in a specimen case.

City officials said 1 million Berlin motorists had already bought the stickers.

Stuttgart and seven other cities in Baden-Wuerttemberg state aim to follow suit by the start of March, but many other big German cities are ignoring the scheme.

Andreas Troge, the president of the Federal Environmental Agency, said the impact of the zones would "not be all that much" because only a few thousand cars would be refused stickers in each big city.

The agency, the government's main scientific adviser, believed it might ultimately reduce particulate pollution by 5 to 10 per cent, but other action was needed too.

"We need less traffic, more people on foot, on bikes and in public transport," he said.

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