Bonn. A Cologne Court ruled on Thursday that the cities of Cologne and Bonn must impose a ban on older diesel vehicles in order to improve air quality. The state of North Rhine-Westphalia said it would appeal the decision.
A Cologne Administrative Court decided on Thursday that driving bans would have to be introduced in Cologne and Bonn by April of 2019. In Cologne, the ban affects the entire low emission zone, while in Bonn it affects two heavily congested roads. Deutsche Umwelthilfe (DUH), an environmental organization, has already won court cases for diesel driving bans in several other German cities because the nitrogen dioxide levels in the air violate the legal limit. The driving bans come into effect when the limit is exceeded.
The state government of North Rhine-Westphalia wants to appeal against the decision of the Cologne Administrative Court. On Thursday, Environmental Minister Ursula Heinen-Esser (CDU) declared that driving bans had "very considerable consequences for residents, commuters and the entire business sector of Cologne". The court had not addressed the question of the proportionality of such a far-reaching decision. "For this reason we will obviously appeal.”
Belderberg and Reuterstraße affected
In Cologne, the ban applies to the entire environmental zone. In Bonn, the diesel driving ban affects Belderberg Straße, and specifically vehicles with Euro 4 engines and older as well as petrol engines with classes Euro 1 to 3. On Reuterstraße, the driving ban includes diesel vehicles with engines up to Euro 5 and petrol engines with classes Euro 1 and 2. The municipal bus fleet is also affected.
In the ruling, the court explained that the current clean air plan from June of 2012 was no longer sufficient to ensure air quality compliance and a draft update from October 15 of 2018 was also not enough. An appeal against the court ruling was permitted.
Bonn's Mayor Sridharan criticizes car manufacturers
Bonn's Lord Mayor Ashok Sridharan was unhappy about the ruling, saying it dealt a "serious blow to the population and business sector". The City of Bonn had spoken out against driving bans and argued that a driving ban on Reuterstraße, for example, was not reasonable because of its significance as one of the city's most important traffic arteries. It is unclear how the driving bans can now be enforced. "Now we have the worst case," says Sridharan. "If the carmakers' hardware upgrades had been done in time, we wouldn't have this problem." Sridharan said that the city administration would enter into dialogue with employers, traffic, environmental and business associations on how to deal with the situation.
Cologne's Lord Mayor Henriette Reker emphasized that it’s not only car traffic which contributes to air pollution, but also "especially shipping traffic and the surrounding industry". Reker also stressed that driving bans should not bring the city and the local economy to a standstill. At the same time, however, she said that efforts must continue towards cleaner air.
Another win for Deutsche Umwelthilfe
The ruling is a further victory for the DUH, which demands compliance with the EU limits in force since 2010 and considers driving bans to be the only effective way to achieve this. Several courts have responded to environmentalists' concerns by imposing driving bans in cities such as Hamburg, Berlin and Frankfurt.
(Orig. text: Rüdiger Franz, with material from dpa; Translation: Carol Kloeppel)