After the historic ruling of the European Court of Justice, Germany must now quickly do something about excessive air pollution. For years, the state had not taken European law seriously and endangered its citizens. Diesel driving bans could be an option.
Last week, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in Luxembourg ruled that Germany had disregarded the European Directive on air pollution and had done far too little to combat excessive nitrogen oxide pollution in the years from 2010 to 2016. According to the ruling, the limit values were "systematically and persistently exceeded". Now the state must act immediately to change this.
It is true that air pollution has already dropped significantly in many places - while in 2016 90 cities were still above the nitrogen oxide limit, in 2019 there were only 25 and in 2020 only 6 cities. According to the German Environmental Aid (DUH), this was partly due to the renewal of the vehicle fleet, but also to diesel driving bans and environmental lanes. However, according to the ruling, Germany should have taken more measures already at the end of the 2000s. Instead, it failed to introduce the blue sticker and thus exclude old diesel vehicles from cities. Even after the diesel scandal, the government stood idly by while the vehicles polluted the air in the cities. Partly until today!
In Stuttgart and Munich, there is still a need for action regarding nitrogen oxide pollution. So if Germany does not act immediately to reduce air pollution, it will be expensive. The EU could then impose fines of up to 10 million euros - per day!! on Germany.
But only recently, Bavarian Prime Minister Markus Söder (CSU) reiterated that he does not want to introduce diesel driving bans. Instead, he wants to tackle the mobility turnaround in Munich with a long-term improvement of public transport and the cycle path network. But there is unlikely to be much time for such measures, because they are unlikely to have an immediate effect.
Although the issue of air pollution is actually a state matter and the clean air plans are drawn up by the cities themselves, the federal government could now take action to prevent worse. Too often, cities have been reluctant to take unpopular measures such as diesel driving bans, thus scaring off voters. A law introducing nationwide diesel driving bans at the federal level, or a mandatory hardware update, could immediately reduce emissions on German roads. But the CDU and FDP are clearly opposed to driving bans even now.
So what lies ahead for motorists in Germany remains to be seen. That the government must act, however, is certain! After all, the government has now had 11 years to do something about air pollution. Nevertheless, it has not managed to protect the citizens of some cities from the harmful exhaust fumes.