Merkel meets local leaders as diesel emissions emerges as poll issue


Chancellor Angela Merkel meets regional German leaders on Monday to consider urgent steps to curb air pollution, with the exhaust emissions scandal having emerged as a thorny campaign issue for her conservative-led government in this month's election.

Two years after Volkswagen admitted cheating on emissions tests around the world, the diesel affair has now taken on a new dimension, amid the threat of bans on diesel vehicles travelling into urban centres so as to cut air pollution levels.

A Stuttgart court ruled in July that diesel cars failing to meet emissions standards could be banned from the southern German city on certain days, raising the prospect of other cities following suit ahead of the September 24 election.

Apart from casting a shadow over a major export sector, the bans could place at risk a large number of jobs among the nation's carmakers, which employ about 828,000 workers, 14 per cent of the country's manufacturing-industry workforce.

In addition to commuters, taxi operators and companies have large fleets of diesel-fuelled cars, risking urban transport chaos if the bans are introduced.

Local authorities also believe that the bans would result in a massive state investment in new publicly operated buses and rubbish collection lorries that are powered by alternative fuels.

With this in mind, several local authorities attending Monday's meeting in the chancellor's office have called on Berlin to help them finance the revamp of local business and transport sectors.

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