German ministers presented a plan Tuesday to reduce levels of harmful diesel emissions in the country's most polluted cities, but were immediately slammed by environmentalists for failing to do enough to protect public health."We've agreed a very big step to create clarity on things that are important to us: avoiding driving bans, preventing limitations to mobility, no additional or unjustified costs for diesel drivers, and responsibility from the car industry," Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer told reporters in Berlin.
The federal government will cover 80 percent of the costs to most-polluted local authorities for refitting heavy vehicles like rubbish trucks with upgraded exhaust treatment systems.
And it will also foot 80 percent of the bill for similar upgrades to tradesmen's vehicles and delivery vans and trucks in the worst affected areas.
Those two measures alone were "sufficient to avoid exceeding thresholds without driving restrictions" in cities where harmful nitrogen oxide (NOx) does not already exceed 50 milligrams per cubic meter, Scheuer and Environment Minister Svenja Schulze said in a joint paper.
Meanwhile the government will define an emissions limit for older vehicles that should allow them to continue driving in the 14 most polluted cities even if exclusion zones are enacted.
However, it will be up to drivers living or working in those towns whether they take up offers from car manufacturers for a bonus worth thousands of euros when they trade in their old diesel for newer models.
BMW, Daimler and Volkswagen are offering between 4,000 and 8,000 euros ($4,630 to $9,260) to owners looking to trade in their vehicles for the latest models.
And the industry continues to drag its feet on fitting more effective exhaust systems on cars belonging to people who decline or can't afford to trade in.
So far only Volkswagen has made a concrete offer on refits, leaving drivers of BMW and Daimler's Mercedes cars in the dark over their options.