Stuttgart’s regional administrative court ruled on Friday that authorities must step up their efforts to cut down on nitrogen dioxide levels in the air, with residents in the southern German city having been exposed to high levels of the poisonous substance for years.
The court found that a ban on diesel cars in the city center would not violate EU legislation and was to be enacted as of January 1, 2018. Judge Wolfgang Klein said such a ban would not violate EU legislation, pointing out that residents’ health concerns always had to take precedence.
The Stuttgart judges acted on a complaint by German environmental pressure group DUH, which maintained the southern German state of Baden-Württemberg had not done enough to reduce poisonous nitrogen dioxide in the air in Stuttgart.
The European Union had defined limit values for several harmful substances in the air, including nitrogen dioxide, which is also produced by diesel cars. If those limits are exceeded as has been the case in Stuttgart authorities are obliged to come up with air quality improvement plans containing specific measures aimed at rectifying the situation. Insufficient steps
The municipal authorities did in fact present such a plan which includes such measures as introducing speed limits in selected downtown areas, and extension of the public transport system and as well as steps to make more public servants drive electric cars. Stuttgart’s new air quality improvement plan also left open the option of banning diesel cars with an exhaust emission standard below the low-pollution Euro-6 category.
This type of ban had been considered an unpopular measure that regional authorities had been keen to avoid, hoping that refitting diesel engines as promised by carmakers with a view to reducing emissions would suffice to improve air quality.
The ruling had been followed closely by authorities in many other big German cities which had also had to grapple with poor air quality and had been faced with growing demands by environmentalists and residents to ban at least older diesel cars in city centers.
It’s expected though that the Stuttgart ruling will be questioned by opponents who are likely to take the matter to the Federal Administrative Court later this year.
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