An early morning picture taken at Matla Power Station in Mpumalanga Province. German cities are entitled to ban older diesel vehicles from streets with immediate effect to bring air pollution levels in line with EU rules. Picture: Dumisani Sibeko
INTERNATIONAL - German cities are entitled to ban older diesel vehicles from streets with immediate effect to bring air pollution levels in line with EU rules, Germany’s top administrative court confirmed on Friday.

A day after the European Commission lodged a complaint with Europe’s top court against Germany for its repeated failure to protect air quality in its cities, the details of the German ruling will add to pressure on Volks- wagen and its German peers to provide hardware fixes for polluting diesel models. Research firm Evercore has said this could cost the industry 14.5billion (R217.4bn).

Germany opened the door to diesel bans in February when it allowed environmental groups to sue cities which fail to enforce Europe’s clean air rules, despite fierce lobbying to oppose bans from carmakers.

Dozens of German cities, including Hamburg, Munich and Stuttgart, exceed EU limits on nitrogen oxide (NOx), known to cause respiratory disease. In a 30-page statement on the ruling, which was published on Friday, Germany’s administrative court in Leipzig said there should be no grace periods for driving bans. “Such restrictions, in their intensity, do not go beyond other passage and stopping bans as justified by road law requirements, which motorists always have to reckon with and which they principally have to accept,” the court said.

European carmakers have invested heavily in diesel engines, which produce less of the carbon that causes global warming than petrol, but more of other pollutants blamed for causing disease.

- REUTERS