Legal victory for German particle campaign

A court in Stuttgart has sided with two citizens who claimed the city authority had failed in its legal obligations by not taking action to improve air quality.

Sketch of some documents (default image for news

[mailchimp_signup][/mailchimp_signup]To the surprise of many observers, the administrative court agreed with the complaint that by failing to create an action plan to deal with excessive levels of fine particles caused by, among other sources, diesel cars, the city government and the state of Baden Württemberg had acted illegally.

Although the city and state governments have been given permission to appeal, and therefore the ruling is not yet legally binding, it is the first time a court has taken such a decision.

Deutsche Umwelthilfe, the environmental group who supported the legal challenge, says cities across Germany must now set out what they plan to do to ensure that new EU air quality limits for fine particles are not exceeded.

The limits allow cities no more than 35 days a year on which airborne particles can exceed 50 micrograms, but figures from Germany’s National Environment Agency show the number of German cities exceeding the 35 days is increasing by the day. (www.env-it.de/luftdaten/trsyear.fwd)

T&E policy officer Karsten Krause said: “Too many cities waited until the legislation came into force before thinking about solutions. Authorities must start making their plans well in advance, and right across Europe this is not happening. It also shows the need for adequate enforcement of new legislation.”

London also exceeded the 35-day limit in May according to the National Society for Clean Air. The UK, whose presidency of the EU begins next month, could now also face legal action.

Tax-incentive setback

Meanwhile, Germany’s upper house of parliament looks likely to reject a draft law introducing tax incentives for diesel cars equipped with particle filters.

Last month the Bundesrat adopted a resolution calling on the government to produce an alternative plan that was fiscally neutral. The German cabinet approved the law, but the Bundesrat represents state governments who fear the proposal will cause a €1.2bn tax shortfall in their budgets.

T&E member VCD says the delays in approving the legislation are causing consumers to “wait and see” before investing in filters. It also fears the relatively low incentives for retrofitting filters on old cars (up to €250) compared with buying a new car (up to €350) will deter many existing owners from investing in a filter. A VCD spokesperson said: “It’s possible to reduce particles from existing cars by 99%, and we want to see incentives of up to €600 to encourage owners to invest in this technology.”

This news story is taken from the June 2005 edition of T&E Bulletin.