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German cities can ban diesel cars, court rules

The country's environment minister hopes to avoid widespread bans, though.

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A German court has ruled that cities in Germany are allowed to enact bans on diesel vehicles, Reuters reports. It's unlikely that bans will magically appear across the country overnight, but not everyone in the country is happy about this decision.

Environmentalists might be happy about the possibility of banning some of the road's dirtiest cars, but owners and right-leaning groups are not. Reuters reports that some politicians believe this decision could disenfranchise a large swath of car owners across the country, many of whom likely can't afford to immediately replace a vehicle.

Federal Court To Rule On Diesel Bans For Certain Cities

I can't imagine automakers are happy about paying to retrofit cars that were perfectly legal when they first went on sale.

Andreas Gebert/Getty Images

The German government isn't really feeling the idea of bans, either. Barbara Hendricks, Germany's environment minister, told Reuters that she hopes cities will find other ways to clean up the air, including retrofitting exhaust treatment systems to older diesel vehicles. As for who would pay the bills on these upgrades, Hendricks says that it should be the responsibility of automakers, since they sold the vehicles to begin with.

Potentially banning diesel vehicles isn't limited to Germany. Countries around the world have expressed concern about diesel-related air pollution and are mulling the idea of banning not just diesels, but internal combustion engine sales in general -- French and British lawmakers have discussed implementing such changes by 2040.

A ban would obviously affect automakers in a big way, whether or not they're forced to foot the bill for retrofitting new cleaning systems to older models. Daimler and Audi voluntarily recalled millions of diesels in 2017 to update emissions software in the hopes of avoiding outright bans on diesels.