Some 800 protesters gathered in the German city of Stuttgart at the weekend to voice their anger at the city’s recent ban on older diesel vehicles, around half of them donning the yellow vests of the French protest movement.
Stuttgart began banning Euro-4 diesels from parts of the city center in January, a ban which effects an estimated 190,000 car owners. The home town of Porsche and Daimler has some of the highest levels of air pollution in Germany. According to data from the Federal Environment Agency last month, the city suffered from dangerous levels of nitrogen oxide in 2018.
Ioannis Sakkaros, a 26-year-old Porsche employee, began organising the German yellow vest rallies in Stuttgart in January and has seen turnout grow from a few hundred to around 1,000. He has become somewhat of a mini-celebrity in the past few weeks, appearing on a television talk show with the federal transport minister Andreas Scheuer and head of the German Automotive Industry Association Bernhard Mattes. Sakkaros said that he plans to keep on staging demos until April.
The protesters in Stuttgart are angry at what they say is the unfairness of the ban, which means they are now stuck with cars that they can’t sell or drive into the city. “What’s happening to people is unjust,” one of the rally organisers Vasilos Topalis told AFP. “Tens of thousands of people are affected and can’t afford to buy a new car.”
Diesel bans are just one aspect of the heated debate in Germany on what measures need to be taken to tackle C02 emissions from the transport sector. A proposal to impose a speed limit on German motorways by a special government committee last month provoked a major outcry. The debate is still raging, despite the German government’s statement last week that it would not approve an autobahn speed limit.