The German government will double a fund meant to help cities cut air pollution to €1 billion, Chancellor Angela Merkel said Monday after a meeting with city officials.
It’s part of an effort to clean up air in German cities without resorting to bans of diesel-powered cars, which could wreak havoc on the country’s important and politically powerful car industry.
“The government has agreed to increase the fund, which is financed half by the car industry and half by the government, to €1 billion,” Merkel said, adding that the extra €500 million will be drawn from the government’s current budget. Merkel added that she’ll raise possible further contributions with the industry.
Cities failing to meet pollution standards are under growing pressure from courts and environmental campaigners. With the German election on September 24, the issue has become deeply political.
The mayors and state premiers met with both Merkel, who heads the ruling Christian Democrats, and Deputy Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel from the Social Democrats.
“How do we avoid driving bans? How do we avoid that courts will force them on us — that is the big challenge,” said Winfried Kretschmann, the Green premier of Baden-Württemberg.
The car industry has agreed to update car software to reduce their emissions, but that isn’t seen as enough to deal with the pollution problem.
Gabriel said that any solution can’t rely just on tackling pollution from public transport like buses, but also has to include passenger vehicles. He also warned against placing too much hope on electric cars, and “ignoring the potential of the internal combustion engine of the future.”
Another meeting is planned for the end of October or early November to work out concrete measures, Merkel said.