Germany sued over failure to control harmful air pollutants

In absolute numbers, Germany ranks among the worst in Europe on all but particulate matter pollution. PHOTO: AFP

BERLIN (BLOOMBERG) - The German government has been sued by environmental activists over its failure to tackle harmful air pollutants.

Lawyers ClientEarth and environmental charity Deutsche Umwelthlife said that the government's environmental polices will mean that it'll miss 2030 targets to reduce pollutants, putting lives at risk. The suit has been filed at a Berlin court.

In 2016, the European Commission updated the National Emission Ceilings directives to bring air pollution under control and cut premature deaths by more than 50 per cent.

The German government is on track to miss the legal targets for four out of the five pollutants by the start of the next decade, according to ClientEarth and DUH.

Air pollution kills more than 400,000 Europeans each year and about 60,000 Germans, according to the European Environment Agency.

"These are huge numbers," said Mr Ugo Taddei, a lawyer at ClientEarth. "The breaches in Germany are very serious."

The pollutants targeted are ammonia, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, particulate matter, and volatile organic compounds.

In absolute numbers, Germany ranks among the worst in Europe on all but particulate matter pollution.

"Germany is on track to comply with the emission reduction obligations," said a spokesperson for the German Ministry of Environment.

Mr Taddei says that the government plans to achieve those obligations by relying on "vague, non-binding measures and without a clear implementation deadline".

DUH sued municipalities across Germany to make them enforce European Union air pollution limits they've exceeded for years.

The country's top regulatory court backed the possible ban of diesel cars from city centres to improve air quality in 2018.

The ruling has seen new rules around driving diesel cars in Munich, Berlin and Frankfurt.

Even if pollution emerges from Germany, it isn't contained within the borders and harms population across the continent.

"A box-ticking exercise does not constitute ambitious national action to protect our lungs," said Mr Taddei.

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