Talks about diesel bans in major European cities are spreading like wildfire, necessitating the government and law to step in. And sometimes, the two don’t see eye to eye.
The Environment, The Law, & Its Representatives
Ouch — what happens when your very own government leaders don’t comply with federal government directives? That must be the question running around in high political spheres in Germany after North Rhine-Westphalia Minister-President Armin Laschet publicly stated he wouldn’t allow the implementation of driving bans in cities in his state. But those driving bans are permitted by federal law due to a February 27 judgment of the highest German administrative court, which is located in Leipzig.
The court explicitly stated that driving bans are legal and within the power of states and cities — and don’t need permission by the federal government — as a means of reducing air pollution to levels required by law. Essentially, however, the Minister-President of North Rhine-Westphalia promised that the clean air directive of the city of Dusseldorf wouldn’t include driving bans.
Dusseldorf is the seat of the state government, and the 2nd largest city in North Rhine-Westphalia, which is the largest state in Germany with a population of 18 million. Driving bans in Dusseldorf would have a severe impact on diesel car resale values, but would of course cut air pollution, which is why Dusseldorf is aiming to be one of the first cities to give diesel the boot.
The environmental organization DUH (Deutsche Umwelthilfe) has now announced it will bring Armin Laschet to court. DUH is an NGO that was instrumental in achieving the landmark Leipzig court ruling on this topic, and happens to come with a serendipitous acronym in English. According to Jürgen Resch, DUH’s Managing Director, “It is a bizarre situation that we, as an environmental and consumer protection association, must force the head of government to comply with the law by using the means of judicial enforcement. Annual asthma and diabetes diseases due to the diesel exhaust poison nitrogen dioxide are a severe problem — and Mr Laschek still protects diesel cars.”
“The judgment of the Federal Administrative Court is clear and binding. Diesel driving bans are inevitable in Dusseldorf. This is the only way to ensure compliance with air quality values in the short term. Following Polish Prime Minister Morawiecki and Bavarian colleague Horst Seehofer, Armin Laschet now joins the ranks of politicians who, in the interest of international corporations, are ignoring final judgments of the highest courts.” Proof that the grass isn’t always greener elsewhere, it does show that lobbyists and blood-sucking capitalistic bad habits have unfortunate influence across the globe.
Germany Braces For Local & State Interpretation Conflicts
Despite the judgment of the Federal Administrative Court in Leipzig being clear and binding, the state government around Mr Laschek would like to avoid following this decision. And he is not the only one. Polish Prime Minister Morawiecki and Bavarian colleague Horst Seehofer have already gone against the wishes of their respective countries. Now, Armin Laschet adds his weight backed by a shadowy interest of international corporations. Yet, all of this ultimately means these people and places are standing against the law and the consequences will be interesting to see.
DUH attorney Remo Klinger said: “Normally one would not start bringing Mr Laschek to court just two weeks after the verdict was pronounced, but he stated his intention to refuse driving bans as unlawful and disproportionate. He didn’t name other measures with which the air pollution crisis could be addressed in the time required by the court ruling.”
It’s not unlikely that Mr Laschek would lose in court — which would force his government to enact driving bans. Or he’d be put into jail (to our knowledge). Many other politicians are going to avoid the embarrassment of court and comply with the law.
An epic war rages as many city and state officials try to review the law in their own ways and join or fight the ever-growing diesel car ban throughout Europe. In Germany, 70 cities have air pollution above the legal limits and the courts are traditionally not on the side of corporate interests. Our prediction is that driving bans are inevitable — probably this year. Stay tuned as we keep on top of this development.