Germany condemned for high nitrogen oxide concentrations

Germany condemned for high nitrogen oxide concentrations

For years, Germany has done too little to combat excessive nitrogen oxide levels – and thus violated EU legislation. Now new requirements for diesel vehicles and fines from Brussels are looming.

According to a ruling by the European Court of Justice (ECJ), Germany has not done enough for years to combat the high levels of nitrogen oxides (NOx) in its cities and has thus violated European law. The judges in Luxembourg have upheld a corresponding infringement procedure by the EU Commission against the Federal Republic of Germany. The limit values were exceeded “systematically and continuously” in 26 cities from 2010 to 2016.

The ruling does not imply any direct penalties or sanctions in the first instance. However, the ruling does not exclude new requirements, for example for diesel vehicles in certain locations. Furthermore, the EU Commission could impose fines if the Court of Justice finds a violation of the Treaty and Germany continues to exceed the limit values for nitrogen oxides. However, this would require a second trial.

Better air due to Corona pandemic

The EU Commission had filed a lawsuit in 2018 alleging that Germany had systematically violated the Air Quality Directive. However, EU law requires such violations to end as soon as possible, the Commission said. Germany had had “sufficient ‘last chances'” for several years, the Commission said.

However, air quality in German cities has improved recently. The Federal Environment Agency reported in February that by 2020 the limit values for nitrogen dioxide had been exceeded in considerably fewer than 10 German cities. Munich and Hamburg were among the cities affected. In the previous year, there were 25 cities.