BERLIN, June 8 (Xinhua) -- German city of Aachen located in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia was ordered by a local administrative court on Friday to prepare for the imposition of diesel driving bans.
The court ruled that a municipal ban would have to be enacted automatically from Jan. 1, 2019, unless the city and the state of North Rhine-Westphalia produced a plausible alternative plan for lowering Nitrogen Oxide (NOx) emissions levels in accordance with European Union clean air legislation by the end of the current year.
The ruling marked the first time that a regional court has followed up on a landmark verdict reached by the Federal Administrative Court in the wake of the "dieselgate" scandal which granted municipal governments in Germany the right to unilaterally impose driving bans on vehicles as means to reduce urban pollution.
NOx levels currently exceed binding EU limits in several German cities, prompting the Brussels-based Commission to sue the federal government in Berlin for its repeated non-compliance.
The German Federal Environmental Agency (UBA) estimates that diesel cars are responsible for more than 50 percent of harmful nitrogen oxide emissions in Germany. Hamburg has recently become the first city in Germany to impose an at least partial driving ban on older diesel vehicles on two centrally-located district of Altona.
So far, the city of Aachen and the state of North Rhine-Westphalia have merely committed to a package of measures intended to ensure the necessary reduction of emissions by 2025.
The Aachen administrative court ruled on Friday, however, that the attempts to address the issue by less effective means than driving bans were too little, too late.
According to the UBA, driving bans in German cities could only realistically be averted if older diesel vehicles undergo comprehensive technical retro-fitting efforts resisted as too costly by carmakers and the minister for transport Andreas Scheuer.
For lack of a plausible alternative solution in sight, the presiding judge at the Aachen administrative court consequently predicted that diesel driving bans would ultimately have to be enacted in the city from 2019 onwards. It is unclear whether municipal policymakers will seek to appeal the ruling.