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Leonid Bershidsky

The End of Diesel Is Here. Germany Isn't Ready.

A court decision has made it risky to buy or own a diesel car -- before businesses have had time to prepare.
Nein, say Germans.

Nein, say Germans.

Photographer: Classen Rafael/EyeEm

A top German court in Leipzig ruled on Tuesday that cities have the right to ban diesel cars. Though the incoming coalition government has vowed to avoid such bans, the ruling is a deadly blow for diesel engines in Germany, an event on a par with the country's 2011 decision to phase out nuclear power plants. From now on, buying a diesel car is an act of unnecessary courage.

The Federal Administrative Court affirmed the legality of bans imposed by courts in Duesseldorf in 2016 and Stuttgart in 2017. These cities, prodded by an environmentalist group, Deutsche Umwelthilfe, wanted the right to keep out older diesel cars because of higher than normal pollution levels. State authorities appealed the bans, but Tuesday's decision ended that legal avenue. In practical terms, this means only the newest diesel cars, conforming to the Euro 6 standard, are safe from bans that could be imposed anywhere -- and especially where pollution is consistently high. Unsurprisingly, Germany's most populous areas are on this list. Locations in Berlin, Gelsenkirchen, Leipzig, Munich, Nuremberg, Dortmund and Hamburg are among those where fine particle pollution regularly exceeds the norm. All big German cities now overshoot the European nitrogen oxide (NOx) limit, with Munich, Stuttgart and Cologne the worst.