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Driving bans: Relaxations in Berlin, possible extensions for many other cities

The Federal Administrative Court in Leipzig ruled in the last week of May on air quality rulings against the cities of Hamburg, Ludwigsburg and Kiel. Further diesel driving bans are not ruled out.

The Deutsche Umwelthilfe (DUH) and the Bund für Umwelt und Naturschutz Deutschland (BUND) had sued the cities because measurements had shown that the permissible annual limit of 40 μg per cubic metre of air was exceeded. With success: The cities were ordered by various courts to improve the air, if necessary with diesel driving bans. The cities did not want to accept this and went to a higher instance, the Federal Administrative Court. Now the BVG has ruled.

For Hamburg, the ruling of the OVG Hamburg was upheld. It had criticised that Hamburg had taken the pollutants four metres above the ground as decisive and not those measured at a height of one and a half metres. In addition, the city would have to impose diesel bans if the current forecasts on the amount of nitrogen oxides made this necessary. Since the city did not adequately take commuter traffic into account when calculating nitrogen oxides, the people of Hamburg will soon be facing further diesel driving bans. The only success for the Hanseatic city: it does not have to develop a concept for the case that even higher values are measured than assumed.

For Ludwigsburg, the Baden-Württemberg Administrative Court in Mannheim had criticised the air pollution forecast, which was made on the basis of faulty measurements, especially on Ludwigsburg's Friedrichstraße. This ruling has now also been confirmed by the Federal Administrative Court. Nevertheless, the court considers diesel driving bans disproportionate as long as the limit value is met next year.

What happens next in Kiel again depends on the Higher Administrative Court of Schleswig -Holstein. The BVG has referred the case back there because an expert opinion on new air filters, which the city had brought into use, had not been taken into account in the judgement.

In Berlin, too, there are innovations to the driving ban for diesel vehicles that do not meet the Euro 6 emissions standard, which has been in effect since 2019. Eight stretches of road in Berlin's inner city were affected. But at the end of May, the Berlin Senate lifted the ban on diesel again on four stretches, all of which are in the Mitte district: Reinhardtstraße, Friedrichstraße, Brückenstraße and Stromstraße. On these stretches, pollutant emissions even remained below 30 micrograms, a remarkable 10 micrograms below the permitted limit. This is good news for the residents of these streets, but also for the capital's diesel drivers. To ensure that the measured values remain so low, however, the 30 km/h speed limit on the roads will be maintained. Future measurements will show whether the diesel ban will remain in place on the other four roads in the city.