German city bans diesel cars to combat air pollution

2018-05-31 10:21:29 | From:

  In this May 15, 2018 file photo a sign banning trucks and cars with old diesel engines from a street is installed in Hamburg, northern Germany. [Photo: AP]

  Hamburg has become the first city in Germany to impose a partial ban on some older diesel vehicles.

  The move comes as a blow to the federal government as well as the country's automotive industry.

  TRT World's Ira Spitzer reports.

  Diesel engines were invented in Germany and about half the country's drivers still use them today. But health concerns over harmful pollutants and the fallout from Volkswagen's emissions-rigging scandal have led to somewhat of a national reckoning... and the country's first partial ban on diesel vehicles.

  Dorothee Saar of the environmental group Deutsche Umwelthelfe explains.

  SOT, Dorothee Saar, Deutsche Umwelthilfe:

  "The highest court in Germany decided in February that driving bans are an instrument that has to be used when there is no other alternative. Hamburg is now doing that.

  The ban in Germany's second-largest city comes as a result of dangerously high levels of nitrogen oxide in the air, which has been linked to respiratory diseases.

  The ban - on portions of just two streets - applies to many diesel vehicles bought before twenty fifteen and could impact more than one hundred thousand cars in the city. The ban on passenger vehicles applies to a stretch of only about 580 meters, but it's still got locals arguing about the benefits"

  Vera von Reinersdorff, Hamburg resident:

  "First you have to think about the people and only after that about the convenience for the drivers. I live around the corner from here with my little children and the pollution here is really severe"

  Jela Pulic, Hamburg resident:

  "You thought with diesel that you used less fuel, and you save money and that's why we bought them. Now we can't drive them on certain streets in Hamburg? I think it's a big problem."

  VO#3 Germany's federal government has long resisted calls for diesel ban but the February court ruling essentially forced the issue. The threat of bans has led to calls on car companies to make costly hardware retrofits to bring older vehicles into compliance, instead of leaving customers to fend for themselves.

  Here's Christian Hieff, from the country's national automobile owner's association.

  Christian Hieff, ADAC:

  "The automakers carried out this fraud for years with their customers, telling them that they had bought an environmentally friendly vehicle. Now they find out that that's actually not the case."

  Sales of diesel vehicles have dropped sharply in Germany so far this year, and make up about a third of new car sales.

  Hamburg may be the first city to enforce a ban on older diesels, but it likely won't be the last. The air in more than sixty German cities has been found to exceed acceptable levels of nitrogen oxide.

  For China Radio International, I'm Ira Spitzer in Berlin.

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