Germany's Hamburg to ban diesel cars from certain roads
An employee of German car maker Volkswagen (VW) works on a Golf VII car at an assembly line at VW's plant in Wolfsburg, central Germany. [Photo/Agencies]
BERLIN - The first ever diesel driving bans in Germany will be imposed in the city of Hamburg from May 31 onwards, the federal environmental agency (UBA) announced on Wednesday.
Diesel vehicles with a motor type older than the latest "Euro6" standard will be barred from accessing two roads in the Altona-Nord district of town. The city of Hamburg is hereby making use of new powers granted by a recent landmark court ruling of the Federal Administrative Court which enabled municipal legislators to impose diesel driving bans unilaterally as a means to lower urban nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions.
The decision was delayed initially as Hamburg authorities awaited receipt of a written justification of the Federal Administrative Court's verdict but was still widely seen in media as potentially heralding a sea-change in Germany's policy response to the ongoing diesel emissions scandal.
So far, the federal government in Berlin has been reluctant to take an aggressive stance against the economically-significant automotive industry.
According to the UBA, there were 264,406 registered diesel passenger vehicles in Hamburg at the start of the year. Only 96,356 were of the newest Euro6 engine type, meaning that the bulk of privately-used diesel cars in the city would be subject to the ban.
While the ban applies to passenger vehicles and trucks alike on the "Max-Brauer Street" in Altona-Nord, only older diesel trucks will be prevented from accessing a second designated area on the "Streseman Street". However, ambulances, residents, garbage trucks, delivery vehicles and taxis collecting or delivering passengers on the streets in question are excluded from the measure regardless of their diesel motor type.
Speaking in the newspaper "Augsburger Allgemeine" on Wednesday, Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer (CSU) vowed that the government would take immediate measures to lower NOx emissions in cities to levels compatible with European Union (EU) regulations.
Berlin is currently being sued by the EU commission for repeatedly failing to comply with the binding clean air legislation.
The minister expressed optimism that the emergency program "clean air" launched by the government would reduce NOx pollutions in densely-populated rapidly and hence eliminate the risk of further driving bans being implemented. He noted that progress had already been made with the number of affected cities falling from 90 in 2016 to 66 in 2017.
Nevertheless, Scheuer reiterated his opposition to growing calls on carmakers to carry out costly hardware upgrades for diesel vehicles affected by emissions-cheating practices. "I have concerns about the legal, technical and financial plausibility of hardware upgrades," the CSU politician said.