The air inside Stuttgart’s administrative court was stifling, which seemed appropriate for a trial revolving around air pollution.
The court’s 100 seats were all occupied by people interested in the city’s decision about whether to ban diesel vehicles from its streets. Stuttgart, after all, is home to Mercedes-maker Daimler and VW subsidiary Porsche, and is set to become one of the first major German cities to ban diesels. Outside the court, protesters, some wearing gas masks, waved banners with slogans like “Driving bans save lives!”
The proceedings, which started on Wednesday, will ultimately decide whether the state of Baden-Württemberg, where Stuttgart lies, is doing enough to protect its citizens from harmful nitrogen oxide, a key component of diesel emissions. German environmental group Deutsche Umwelthilfe (DUH) sued the state, demanding it implements diesel bans to reduce air pollution.
During the hearing, judge Wolfgang Kern suggested that EU guidelines were still not being met. He also questioned whether a proposal to retrofit older cars – aimed at reducing air pollution – would be enough to avoid a diesel ban. One of the state’s representatives said the proposed engine software update would cut nitrogen oxide emissions by 9 percent. “That’s not much,” the judge replied.