German diesel bans ‘avoidable’ despite court ruling: Berlin
German cities could reduce air pollution without banning older diesel vehicles, despite a top court's finding that barring them from certain zones would be legal, Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks said on Tuesday.
“The court has not issued any driving bans but created clarity about the law. Driving bans can be avoided, and my goal is and will remain that they do not come into force,” Hendricks said after the decision from the Federal Administrative Court in Leipzig.
Judges found that cities could legally add driving bans in parts of city centres to their arsenal for cleaning up their air, but local authorities are free to bring levels of fine particle and nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions down by other means if they are effective.
Deciding on how to do that without imposing bans will likely see a brawl between city, state and federal governments, as well as the European Commission in Brussels, carmakers, drivers and environmentalists.
If members of the centre-left Social Democratic Party approve renewing a coalition with Angela Merkel’s conservatives in a ballot that closes Sunday, the issue could overshadow the longstanding chancellor’s fourth term from day one.
High levels of diesel emissions in city air have been a hot topic in Germany since the world’s largest carmaker Volkswagen admitted in 2015 to manipulating 11 million vehicles worldwide to fool regulatory tests.
The country — along with a slew of others — has also failed to hit a Brussels deadline to bring air pollution in 70 cities into line with EU standards.