Germany's highest court, the Federal Administrative Court ruled today that cities can ban older diesel vehicles to help cut pollution.
According to Reuters, the case was brought to the Federal Administrative Court after local courts ordered the Düsseldorf and Stuttgart governments to ban older diesel vehicles. The states disagreed with this decision and appealed it to the highest court. Originally, the Federal Administrative Court was expected to rule on the case last week, but it was pushed back.
In the ruling, the court said the two cities should introduce the bans gradually and exemptions can be made for certain types of vehicles like ambulances.
“It will not be easy to implement,” said Fritz Kuhn, mayor of Stuttgart during a press conference.
Kuhn added that it would likely take six months for the regional government to agree on a plan.
The decision was welcomed by environmental groups.
“It’s a great day for clean air in Germany,” said Jürgen Resch of the environmental group DUH.
But a number of politicians and business lobbies disagree with the decision, saying it could deprive a number of drivers across the country, many who might not be able to replace them.
“The court has not issued any driving bans but created clarity about the law. Driving bans can be avoided, and my goal is and will remain that they do not come into force,” said Germany's environment minister, Barbara Hendricks.
Hendricks told Reuters that she hopes cities are able to find other ways to improve air quality. One example she brought up is to retrofit exhaust treatment systems to older diesel vehicles. As to who would pay for it, Hendricks said it should be the automakers since they sold the vehicles in the first place.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel stressed the bans were localized and wouldn't affect most drivers in the country.
The ban could cause German automakers a number of headaches as it would likely cause sales of diesel vehicles to drop even further, along with decreasing the resale value of them.