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The complete Air Quality Directive 2008/50/EC

Environmental Action Germany fight for clean air in Hessen

The Environmental Action Germany (Deutsche Umwelthilfe, DUH) won two lawsuits against the Federal State of Hessen due persistent non-compliance with the EU Air Quality Directive. The environmental and consumer protection organization sued for ongoing breach of limit values for NO2 in the cities of Limburg and Offenbach. Measures implemented to date haven’t improved the air quality enough to achieve compliance and thus to protect both the health of the citizens and the environment. Both cities exceed the annual average limit value for nitrogen dioxide of 40 µg/m³ since introduction of the binding limit value in 2010. A time extension until January 2015 was rejected by the EU Commission.

The Administrative Court Wiesbaden decided on 30 June 2015 that the air quality plans for both cities have to be updated with appropriate measures in order to keep the exceedance period as short as possible. The court decided the declaration by the competent authorities that compliance at the relevant measuring stations won’t achieved before 2020 is unlawful. The Hessian Ministry of the Environment has to develop an extensive air quality concept with a detailed timeframe showing  when limits will be met. The court makes clear that financial or economic aspects cannot lead to refraining from measures to comply with air quality limits. The concept must include all conceivable measures to reduce NO2 levels. In 2013 the Federal Environment Agency (Umweltbundesamt, UBA) analyses 242 air quality plans and action plans published in Germany and registered 110 standardized measures as suitable for NO2 reduction ( All these measures have to be considered.

In June 2015 the EU Commission took action against Germany for breaching NO2 limits, sending a letter of formal notice. The main source for NO2 emissions in urban areas is the transport sector, namely diesel engines. The EU Commission reaffirms that measures such as the ban of diesel vehicles in urban areas and the promotion of hybrid or electric cars or other vehicles that can operate without emitting pollutants could make a significant contribution to solving problems. In addition it criticizes the long lasting fiscal promotion of diesel fuels in Germany.

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