Germany’s emissions fiasco – time to get priorities straight

(EurActiv, 27 Nov 2018) As courts continue to order diesel bans in major cities, the German government needs to stop bending over backwards to protect industry, argue Hermann Ott and Jürgen Resch.

Hermann Ott is director of ClientEarth Germany.  Jürgen Resch is CEO of Deutsche Umwelthilfe.

It’s been a tough few years for the German government – and particularly for its successive transport ministers. Politicians have had a rocky path to reckon with since September 2015 when the diesel emissions scandal initially broke. Revelations about affected brands continue to emerge even today and class action suits are still rolling in – the latest just launched in Germany, prompted by new rules.

The emissions scandal wasn’t the start of Germany’s air pollution saga – it just brought it to national and international attention. But how is it that, three years after it came to light, and under international scrutiny, Germany’s politicians are still doggedly defending diesel?

Under fire for dirty air

Cities across Germany have been struggling with illegal levels of air pollution since EU limits came into force. Nitrogen dioxide (NO2), known for the lasting respiratory issues it causes – with potentially lifelong consequences for children exposed to it – is still at unacceptable limits throughout major cities all over the country.

This well-documented public health risk is the subject of legal cases brought by our two organisations against regional authorities all across Germany – by the end of 2018, DUH will have taken action in 34 cities, in defence of people’s health. And we are winning.

The issue famously ended up in the Germany’s highest court in February this year. Its judges confirmed that diesel bans are the right step for regional authorities, where they are the swiftest and most efficient route to complying with EU air pollution laws.

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EurActiv, 27 Nov 2018: Germany’s emissions fiasco – time to get priorities straight