A judge has ordered the air quality plan for the German city of Stuttgart to be redrawn, claiming that the current version of the plan will not protect residents’ health in the ‘shortest time possible’.
The ruling comes in response to legal action by environmental lawyers ClientEarth and German charity Deutsche Umwelthilfe (DUH), which had initially challenged proposals put forward by the Baden-Wuerttemberg government to tackle nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter pollution within the city.
Last week’s ruling also claimed that restricting access to the most polluting diesel vehicles is “unavoidableâ€? to protect the health of people living and working in Stuttgart.
Stuttgart’s authorities must now introduce restrictions on diesel vehicles from January 2018 to tackle the public health emergency facing the city, in order to comply with the ruling.
Commenting following the case, ClientEarth clean air lawyer Ugo Taddei said: “Hot on the heels of Dusseldorf and Munich, now Stuttgart too has been ordered by a court to introduce restrictions on the most polluting diesel vehicles. In striking contrast to reluctant governments and a discredited car industry, courts across Europe are stepping in to protect people’s right to clean air and to impose effective measures that will put a definitive end to this public health crisis.
“The judge has clarified that a diesel ban is unavoidable. Stuttgart’s authorities must now find rapid and effective ways to solve the region’s air quality issues. This should include a more structured approach that acknowledges the emissions issues with diesel vehicles – it must also not put undue confidence in what retrofitting can achieve.â€?
Lawyer Remo Klinger, who represented the NGOs in the case, said: “We have won on every level. The court saw through the bluster of the Stuttgart authorities’ plan, posing critical questions and dismissing the arguments. We now have a reinforced decision that says diesel bans are the way forward and actionable as of today. This goes even further than the progressive decision by Düsseldorf in September – diesel bans are not just permitted in certain streets: they can be implemented for the whole low emission zone.â€?
During the case, DUH and ClientEarth had claimed that proposals in the plan, including a ‘reactive peak pollution diesel ban’ were not adequate to tackle Stuttgart’s air pollution.
The state government had argued that retrofitting any diesel vehicles below the Euro 5 standard with pollution abatement technology would be sufficient to improve air quality in the city, after having ruled out introducing a ban on vehicles.
Commenting following the case, the state government’s minister of transport, Winfried Hermann, said: “The government has been pursuing the strategy of protecting the population from harmful substances for years. The aim of the regional government was and still is to protect the health of persons affected by air pollution. This is also made clear by the fact that the pollutant values have continuously declined in recent years. Further steps to air pollution are necessary. This includes above all a rapid, effective, verifiable retrofitting of the diesel vehicles to be financed by the car industry.â€?