Diesel exhaust fumes : German Environmental Aid (DUH) has launch e d the largest flood of lawsuits for “ Clean Air in Germany “ so far
The end is near for d iesel stinker s : the DUH has been achieving driving bans for diesel vehicles in legal ac tion s in eleven major cities – special focus is placed on develop ing “ clean ” public transport – polluting public transport diesel busses must be replaced or retrofitted right away – the DUH has initiate d compulsory enforcement proceedings in M unich, Darmstadt a nd Wiesbaden.
The EU limit values for nitrogen dioxide are still exceeded in many German cities. The Environment al A ction Germany (DUH) , supported by British NGO ClientEarth has therefore filed a lawsuit today (19 November 2015 ) against several German Federal States who need to do more in the area of clean air planning. The affected cities are Cologne, Bonn, Aachen, Dusseldorf, Essen, Gelsenkirchen, Frankfurt /Main and Stuttgart. With this measure, the DUH intends to commit the F ederal States in question to change their clean air plans. The aim is to include all appropriate measures in the plan s so that the limit values , which have been valid for many years , are complied with as soon as possible .
The DUH has also applied for comp ulsory enforcement measures to be taken against the Bavarian and the Hessian Ministr ies of the Environment due to limit exce e dances in Munich, Darmstadt and Wiesbaden. F inal judg e ments have already been issued there, but they have not been complied with . T he DUH is now requesting th at penalty payments be paid by the two competent federal state ministries for failing to implement the judg e ments. The law provides for a maximum penalty of 10,000 euros; this penalty can be repeated and also fixed on a per day b asis .
Air pollution in Europe is still negatively affecting the health of citizens, the environment and the climate. Limit values for concentration s of nitrogen dioxide (NO 2 ) and particulate matters (PM 10 ) established for the whole of Europe have also been exceeded in many German cities and conurbations for many years. T he World Health Organisation (WHO) classifies this as “ carcinogenic for human beings“. The German Research Center for Environment al Health (GSF) found out in an investigation on behalf of th e Federal Environment Agency that there are around 10,000 to 19,000 “ premature“ deaths in Germany alone caused by partic ulate matter and nitrogen oxide emissions from diesel vehicles.
“We will use judicial mean s to achieve clean air. Extens iv e driving ban s on d iesel cars, diesel taxis and polluting public transport busses are an appropriate measure to quickly comply with limit values, even in cities like Stuttgart. After the Federal Government failed to im pos e the compliance with valid exhaust limit values for d iesel cars on automobile groups, these diesel vehicles gambled away their right to be on the road” , criticised Jürgen Resch , Managing Director of DUH .
Resch emphasises t hat it is urgent that Low Emission Z ones (LEZ) be developed further . In this con text , the DUH demands the introduction of a blue plaque to label vehicles with low exhaust values in real operation. For its implementation, t he Federal Ministry f or the Environment must submit plans to further develop the plaque regulation . In addition, a ll public transport busses must be fitted with particle and NOx reduction systems which function in real operation. There are m any thousands of modern busses that do not have eit her a particle filter on board or effective nitrogen exhaust gas cleaning under normal conditions . Last but not least, the DUH demands that the polluting d iesel taxis mainly in use at present be replaced with clean natural gas, LPG or gasoline hybrid taxies , and that it become binding to use particle filters in construction machines .
Another important aspect is to integrate local transport into mobility concepts. Citizens‘ tickets accompanie d by an extension of public transport can increase the uti l isation of local transport means by more than 30 percent. Reduced parking possibiliti es in city centres, smart traffic lights and speed limits might also reduce air pollution by vehicles considerably. Moreover, the reduced fuel tax rate for d iesel vehicles sends out the wrong signals . The EU Commission exp licitly referred to th is fact in i ts warning letter dated 1 8 June 2015 written because of the breach of contract resulting from a continuous exceedance of NO 2 limit values in Germany.
“Everyone has the right to breathe clean air but hundreds of thousands of people across Europe die early every year because of air pollution. These cases are the latest in a growing Europe – wide movement where people are going to court to demand action for clean air. ClientEarth will be bringing all of our expertise from our victory against the UK government t o bear to help DUH uphold the right to clean air in Germany ” , s aid Alan Andrews , a lawye r at British NGO Client Earth .
In the year 2011 , Client Earth sued the United Kingdom because the limit value s for NO 2 had been exceeded in 16 B ritis h counties . The pr oceedings went through all instances up to the Europ ean Court of Justice ( ECJ ) before returning to the UK Supreme Court in April this year, which ordered the UK government to take “immediate action” to bring air pollution within legal limits as soon as pos sible.
The s ituation in Germany is just as bad , criticises Remo Klinger , lawyer fro m the law office Geulen & Klinger (Berlin), who h a ve been represent ing the DUH in proceedings for clean air for ten years. “ Although the legal situation has been clear i n G ermany for years, the competent authorities try to simply wait things out ” , s ays Klinger. “ This is despite the fact that air pollution has not just been a problem since the d iesel scandal bec a me public. EU limit values have been exceeded for years, without the authorities taking any effective counter measures .”
Links: You can find a background paper under http://l.duh.de/t1s9t providing information about all legal actions, the affected cities and their air quality. Ple ase see http://l.duh.de/76fr3 for the legally binding judg e ments with respect to Munich, Darmstadt and Wiesbaden.