The top administrative court in Germany has issued a ruling that empowers municipalities to ban older diesel vehicles, effective immediately, in pursuit of cleaner air. This decision comes only one day after the European Commission filed a complaint with the European Court of Justice, the highest court in the European Union (EU), that cited Germany for its cities’ continued failure to meet EU standards on nitrogen dioxide (NO₂) levels. “Such restrictions, in their intensity, do not go beyond other passage and stopping bans as justified by road law requirements, which motorists always have to reckon with and which they principally have to accept,” the court said in a 30-page statement.

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The recent ruling and how cities respond will have significant consequences for European automakers such as Volkswagen, which have invested heavily in diesel vehicles. Diesel is known to create less greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change while emitting greater amounts of other pollutants that can cause respiratory disease. In Germany, a more dramatic diesel ban may undermine the government of Chancellor Angela Merkel, which has been criticized for its closeness to the industry. “This ruling is a disaster for the government which one-sidedly stands in for the greed for profit by the carmakers while leaving 10 million owners of manipulated diesel cars alone,” Juergen Resch, managing director of Germany’s DUH environmental lobby, told Eco News.

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Once imposed, diesel bans could remove millions of vehicles from the road almost immediately. Only 2.7 million of the 15 million active diesel vehicles in Germany meet the EU emissions standards. The court recommended gradual implementation of bans, starting with the removal of the most polluting vehicles. The court’s decision is the most recent policy change following the 2015 Volkswagen diesel emissions cheating scandal.

Via Eco News

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