German gov’t backs plan to ease diesel bans in cities

October 25, 2018 12:06 CET

BERLIN — Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cabinet backed plans to tackle Germany’s diesel-car crisis, including steps to ease driving bans in particularly polluted cities.

Announced ahead of a state election on Sunday in a region that includes Frankfurt, the blueprint would create leeway in cities where nitrogen-oxide emissions are just slightly above the legal limit. Any diesel bans for emissions that exceed the European Union threshold of 40 micrograms per cubic meter — but remain under 50 micrograms — would be considered “disproportionate.”

Merkel’s government has struggled to stay ahead of court-ordered bans on diesel vehicles spreading across Germany. Polls suggest voters are overwhelmingly dissatisfied with her administration’s handling of the crisis, which began with revelations of Volkswagen Group’s emissions cheating in 2015.

Wednesday’s cabinet decision, announced by a government spokesman, was spurred by a state vote looming Sunday in Hesse, a state governed by Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union that’s home to Frankfurt. The financial capital faces a looming court-imposed ban on some gasoline and diesel vehicles in 2019.

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