Reuters. Diesel-powered cars without particle filters could face occasional bans in many German city centers next year under new EU air quality rules about to take effect, officials and activists say.
“We assume that there will be driving bans in all the big (German) cities in built-up areas and indeed several times a year depending on weather and traffic conditions,” said Juergen Resch, head of the Deutsche Umwelthilfe environmentalist group.
At issue are European Union limits on particulate matter that communities have to uphold from 2005 under clean-air guidelines adopted in 1996. They also cover levels of other pollutants such as nitrous oxide, lead and carbon monoxide.
Despite the long transition period, dozens of cities seem unprepared to meet the new standards, officials say.
One study found that five times as many people die from inhaling microscopic particulate matter—much of which comes from diesel smoke—than die in vehicle accidents.
The Council of German Cities estimates that the first violations of air-quality rules should begin in late February, when weather conditions tend to trap particulate matter.
It sees driving bans as a measure of last resort and would prefer alternate steps such as detours. Driving bans are hardly enforceable when filters for diesel cars are not required as standard equipment, the association says.
Other European cities have used banned to good effect. Stockholm has banned old, heavy trucks from the city center since 1996, and PM levels in London sank 12 percent since the city started charging tolls for motorists to enter the central area. Innsbruck and Salzburg in Austria, and Merano and Bolzano in Italy also ban unfiltered diesels.