German automakers have a moral obligation to refit heavily polluting diesel vehicles on the nation’s roads, environment minister Svenja Schulze stated, but conceded that the government had no legal means to make them do so.
In an interview published in Die Welt newspaper on Monday, Schulze stated refits could first be carried out on vehicles on the road in particularly contaminated cities. By targeting areas most affected, the expenses of such refits need only be “in the low single-digit billions”, she stated.
Revelations following the Volkswagen emissions scandal that nitrogen oxide emissions of diesel vehicles were more higher than earlier thought have weighed on Germany’s big automakers for over a year, with some hit by heavy fines from regulators worldwide.
Diesel emissions have also resulted in several German cities exceeding European Union air pollution limits, which has caused enforcement action by the European Commission.
“As far as I’m concerned it’s not about immediately refitting all diesels in Germany,” Schulze stated. “I advocate a step-wise plan to refit diesels where the air is particularly bad… The total costs would then be in the low single-digit billions.”
While she conceded the government had no legal means to force automakers to follow her plan, she stated they were under a moral obligation to do so.
“Without refits, consumer confidence will fall even further,” she stated. “Neither drivers nor taxpayers should be asked to pay. Automakers are under an obligation!”
Germany’s second largest city, Hamburg, is thinking of banning the most polluting diesel vehicles from two major streets from May 31, a move that could spur others to follow suit and increase pressure on automakers to consider vehicle refits.