A court’s threat to ban diesel cars from Stuttgart’s inner city has sent German politicians, carmakers and labor leaders scrambling to clean up toxic emissions.
The auto industry, which has focused its lobbying efforts on influencing emissions standards being crafted by lawmakers in Berlin and Brussels, has been caught off guard by efforts to enforce pollution standards at a regional level.
Now lawmakers and the auto industry are preparing to negotiate a comprehensive solution to improve air quality at a summit in Berlin on Aug. 2, in hopes of averting complete bans of diesel cars.
Following are some of the approaches being considered.
Shortly after Volkswagen admitted to cheating pollution tests in Sept. 2015, German environmental group Deutsche Umwelthilfe (DUH) started a legal campaign to enforce clean air standards in cities.
Germany’s powerful auto industry association VDA has come out against a total ban and proposed a package of measures including investments in intelligent traffic flow management and software tweaks to bring down nitrogen oxide emissions.
Mercedes-Benz parent Daimler and Stuttgart-based rival Porsche have joined Volkswagen to agree updates to engine management software so that emissions filtering systems can be programed to operate more effectively.
Other carmakers are expected to back such a solution at the diesel summit on Wednesday, but lobby group DUH and a Stuttgart regional court dismissed software updates as being inadequate solutions for tackling pollution.
Environment minister Barbara Hendricks, from the center-left SPD, said voluntary software updates can only be a first step, with a more thorough technical update of cars needed to avoid bans in the longer run.
Germany’s trade union IG Metall and Stephan Weil, premier of Volkswagen’s home state of Lower Saxony have backed an “Oeko Praemie” or financial incentive to help municipalities and taxi operators fund an upgrading of their fleets of older diesel cars to less polluting variants.
Germany’s environment ministry has however rejected the idea of tax breaks to buy new cars.
German Transport minister Alexander Dobrindt has proposed creating a fund of up to 500 million euros ($587 million) to help cities come up with new “mobility concepts” and to study more efficient traffic flows.