SHARE
COPY LINK

POLLUTION

‘Infringement on air quality’: EU court slams Germany for pollution in cities

The EU's top court ruled on Thursday that Germany continually violated upper limits for nitrogen dioxide, a polluting gas from diesel motors that causes major health problems, over several years.

'Infringement on air quality': EU court slams Germany for pollution in cities
Cars sit in traffic in Stuttgart's Hauptstätter Straße in July 2020. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Sebastian Gollnow

Germany infringed air quality rules “by systematically and persistently exceeding” the annual nitrogen dioxide limit in 26 out of 89 areas from 2010 to 2016, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) said in its ruling.

The European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, referred the matter to the ECJ in 2018 after almost a decade of warnings that went unaddressed.

The decision against Europe’s top economy echoes a ruling targeting France in October 2019 after the commission stepped up its anti-pollution fight in the wake of the so-called “Dieselgate” scandal that erupted in 2015 with revelations about Germany’s Volkswagen.

The motors caught up in the scandal — in which automakers installed
special emission-cheating devices into their car engines — are the main emitters of nitrogen oxides that the European Environment Agency says are responsible for 68,000 premature deaths per year in the EU.

READ ALSO: Five things to know about Germany’s dieselgate scandal

Nitrogen dioxide is toxic and can cause significant respiratory problems as one of the main constituents of traffic-jam smog.

Under EU rules, member countries are required to keep the gas to under 40 micrograms per cubic metre — but that level is often exceeded in many traffic-clogged European cities.

The judgement opens the way to possible sanctions at a later stage. However the air quality throughout much of Germany has improved in the last five years, particularly during the shutdowns in the pandemic.

The environment ministry said that 90 cities exceeded national pollution limits in 2016 — the final year covered by the court ruling. By 2019, the number had fallen to 25 and last year, during the coronavirus outbreak, it was just six.

The case involved 26 areas in Germany, including Berlin, Hamburg, Munich and Stuttgart as well as urban and rural areas in North Rhine-Westphalia, Mainz, Worms/Frankenthal/Ludwigshafen and Koblenz/Neuwied.

“Furthermore, Germany infringed the directive by systematically and
persistently exceeding, during that period, the hourly limit value for NO2 in two of those zones” — the Stuttgart area and the Rhine-Main region.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.

ENVIRONMENT

Sweden Democrat slammed for denying climate crisis in parliament

The new Sweden Democrat MP Elsa Widding has been attacked as "shameful" and "deplorable", for denying the climate crisis in her maiden speech in the country's parliament.

Sweden Democrat slammed for denying climate crisis in parliament

In her speech, Widding, a civil engineer educated at Chalmers University of Technology, said that a warming planet would have advantages as well as disadvantages, and that there was no clear scientific backing for the climate crisis. 

“I believe that there is a lack of scientific evidence for saying that we find ourselves in a climate crisis,” she said. “The last time that was the case was in the 1960s when summers either stopped or became so short that we couldn’t produce a harvest.” 

She claimed that every piece of action Sweden is taking to combat climate change is simply “gesture politics”, and that even if Sweden cut its greenhouse gas emissions to zero, it would only shave 0.0027˚C from global temperatures. She called for an end to the “religion” of climate policy and campaigning. 

Markus Selin, an MP for the Social Democrats called Widding’s statement “deplorable” and said he was “ashamed” to hear it. 

“Just 24 hours ago we stood and listened to Ulf Kristersson here in the parliament’s chamber talk far and wide about climate efforts and the Paris Agreement, and now we are hear 24 hours later listening to the biggest party backing his government chirping up and saying we should drop all the work to get our planet out of the dirt.” 

Annie Lööf, leader of the Centre Party, called Widding’s statement “embarrassing”. 

“That the Sweden Democrats are climate change deniers is nothing new,” she said, saying that it was the Moderates, Christian Democrats, and Liberals who were really to blame for giving the party real political power. 

“Moderates, Christian Democrats and Liberals – how could you let the party of climate deniers get all the way into the government offices?”

SHOW COMMENTS