German cities to ban older diesel cars following legal ruling.
German cities will be allowed to ban older diesel vehicles from some areas following a landmark court ruling in Leipzig which said that Stuttgart and Düsseldorf could legally ban older, more polluting diesel cars from zones worst affected by pollution.
The Federal Administrative Court ruling sets a precedent for other cities and analysts said it could lead to similar action across Europe. The German government, which had opposed the bans, said they could still be avoided.
The ruling by a top federal court came after German states had appealed against bans imposed by local courts in Stuttgart and Düsseldorf.
The environmental group DUH brought the cases after about 70 German cities exceeded European Union limits for nitrogen oxides (NOx) last year. Diesel emissions containing nitrogen oxides can cause respiratory disease.
The likelihood now is that the German government will rush to introduce some sort of national policy, to ensure at least some level of consistency across the country.
Other cities across Europe, including London and Paris, are struggling to meet EU air quality standards, and the German ruling may well be seen as setting a precedent.
New diesel cars won’t be affected as the latest technology means they meet emissions standards, but many new car buyers are already moving away from the technology.
However, while diesels produce high levels of nitrogen oxide, they emit relatively low levels of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas. So moves to control one environmental problem may end up undermining efforts to combat another.
To underline the point, the UK has just announced that CO2 emissions levels have increased for the first time in 20 years because of the fall in diesel sales.
The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders confirmed that the fleet average CO2 of newly registered cars rose for the first time on record in 2017 – despite vehicles becoming ever more efficient.
The SMMT “New Car CO2 Report 2018: Driving the transition to a low carbon future” reveals that carbon tailpipe emissions rose for the first time in two decades last year, by 0.8% to 121.0g/km. This is despite cars being ever more efficient, with new and updated models in 2017 emitting, on average, 12.6% less CO2 than those they replaced.
However, this was not enough to offset a 17.1% decline in new diesel registrations as confusion over Government policy caused buyers to hold back, said the SMMT.
Because diesel cars typically consume less fuel than petrol equivalents. they emit, on average, 15-20% less CO2. About half last year’s overall CO2 rise was attributable to this decline in diesel demand and an uptake in petrol.
Diesel vehicles have faced greater global scrutiny since Volkswagen’s „dieselgate” scandal in 2015, in which illegal software was used to beat US emissions tests. Some 11 million cars worldwide ended up being affected.
Environmental group DUH said it hoped the bans in German cities would end the industry’s „resistance” to refitting older, more-polluting cars to meet the latest EU standards.
The impact on German drivers could be marked, with millions being forced to leave their cars at home on days when harmful emissions are particularly high. And it could also depress the value of diesel cars affected by the ban.
Of the 15 million diesel cars currently on Germany’s roads, less than three million meet the latest Euro-6 standards, according to data from Germany’s automotive authorities.
Car companies could also incur huge costs to refit vehicles at a time when consumer interest in diesel is falling. The market share for diesel vehicles in Germany fell from 48% in 2015 to around 39% last year.
Meanwhile, the German government has insisted that nothing would change right away and stressed that bans were not inevitable.
„The court has not issued any driving bans but created clarity about the law,” said Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks. „Driving bans can be avoided, and my goal is and will remain that they do not come into force,” she added.
At the same time, German car makers have pledged software improvements for millions of diesel cars and offered trade-in incentives for older models.
Paris, Madrid, Mexico City and Athens have all pledged to ban diesel vehicles from city centres by 2025, while Copenhagen is considering banning new diesel cars from entering the city as soon as next year.
Many carmakers have already signalled they will move away from diesel technology with most now offering alternative power trains, such as hybrid or battery electric vehicles, in their model line-ups.
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