Three cities still above nitrogen oxide limits

Thu 2nd Jun, 2022

Image by Michael KauerOne year after the European Court of Justice's nitrogen dioxide ruling against Germany, the Environment Ministry and Deutsche Umwelthilfe (DUH) are drawing very different conclusions. The DUH, for example, criticizes the measures for clean air as still insufficient, while the ministry speaks of a "gratifying" decline in pollution with the air pollutant.

On June 3, 2021, the ECJ had found that Germany had done too little in the past to protect citizens from nitrogen dioxide.

The Federal Environment Ministry points out that last year only the three cities of Munich, Ludwigsburg and Essen failed to comply with the limit values at one measuring point each. In 2019, there were still 25 cities.

DUH national director Jürgen Resch believes the improvements are mainly positive side effects of the Corona crisis. "This is not a permanent solution," he said. There is a lot of suffering associated with air pollution, he added. In addition, he stressed, "Just barely meeting the limits doesn't mean all is well." This is all the more true, he said, because he considers the current limit of 40 micrograms per cubic meter of air as an annual average to be too high.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has also lowered its recommendation to 10 micrograms in the meantime.

The Environment Ministry, on the other hand, sees the renewal of vehicle fleets - especially in the case of diesel passenger cars - as a major cause of the improvement. Cars with the Euro 6d and Euro 6d-temp emission standards also emit fewer nitrogen oxides in real-world operation on the road.

According to current data from the Federal Motor Transport Authority, there were 14.7 million diesel cars in Germany at the beginning of the year. That was a good 400,000 fewer than at the peak in 2018. In addition, 2.3 million of them now have the Euro 6d or 6d-temp emission classes, which first hit the road in 2019.

In addition to the annual limit value for nitrogen dioxide of 40 micrograms per cubic meter of air as an annual average, there is also a one-hour limit value of 200 micrograms, which may not be exceeded more than 18 times a year. According to data from the Federal Environment Agency, however, this limit was not reached by a wide margin last year. Nitrogen dioxides are produced primarily in combustion processes both in engines and in furnaces for coal, oil, gas, wood and waste. They are considered harmful to asthmatics, among others.

Image by Michael Kauer


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